08 Nov, 2023 Roy Crowne – A voice for unity

Unity finding its voice in the CITY

A visit from Roy Crowne – and what we can learn

(HOPE Together UK – and the ‘Talking Jesus’ research)

In September 2023 Roy visited with 8 NZ pastors groups, including cities and towns, across four provinces.

Three things:
1. The UK context and ours
2. The effect of what they did
3. An interview with Roy

1. The UK context and ours

Church unity in the UK went to new levels across the past 15 years. For a difference – while having a similar land mass to NZ, the UK has 65 million citizens where we have 5. For a similarity – they have been facing the similar cultural challenges to ourselves, with a ‘religious secularising’ of the nation via public policy and media at the core if it.

In 2008 a year of outreach was planned called ‘HOPE Together UK’. It was so successful – spawning new activity in 1500 separate regions of the UK – that it turned into an ongoing movement, with various other unity networks later birthed in its wake. What was achieved? Churches succeeded in uniting in ways that have been noticed, gaining the favour of local councils and Government. This has opened doors, bringing churches back into public conversations, also including the release of funding to deliver community services – without any faith limitation.

As a wider movement they have strategically identified ‘gaps’ in the outreach or connection of churches within their communities – to help see that changed. This is similar to intentional work already going on in our nation. However, this was not the core of the movement. They instead challenged churches to unite in each area, to find ONE THING they could do together that met a recognised community need. No specific activity was prescribed. Churches came up with their own approaches in each area.

Roy Crowne has been a key player within this movement. With decades of ministry behind him including as national director of Youth For Christ UK – for this past 15 years he has headed up the HOPE Together movement. They helped to network literally thousands of churches in 1500 separate regions – to encourage them to innovate together, to meet local needs. This effort was catalytic.

(Tauranga church leaders gathering in picture)

Roy’s travel in NZ in September 2023 was to tell this above story – with reference to the below results.

2. The effect of what they did

Firstly, to summarise what they did – as above, they encouraged churches together in each place to find ONE thing they could do together, to meet a community need.


Concurrently (2008) they undertook their ‘Talking Jesus’ research, to measure the impact of these regional and national unity efforts.

Some of the initiatives by churches together quickly made local headlines – and then national headlines. The ‘HOPE’ brand then became nationally recognisable as one representing churches working together to serve in their communities.

An early surprise from the research was the discovery that the public were more positive toward the churches than expected – were public media to be our measure.

The longer-term outcome, however, has been what would seem to be a measurable change in the public view toward churches – as measured from 2008 through to today. The efforts of our churches to engage more intelligently and meaningfully in their cities, towns and nation has had an effect. Their research reveals a measurable increase in public ‘warmth’ toward the Christian faith and its message.


For the Talking Jesus Research – see talkingjesus.org/
To check out the ‘Talking Jesus Series’ they created following this – to encourage a more positive expectation in Christians re engaging conversations  – see ondemand/talkingjesus/ (US$25 to purchase full series)

Here in NZ: We are blessed to have the ‘Church Life Survey’, and also research undertaken via Wilberforce Foundation by McCrindle Research – producing a powerful and informative report. A new report about the Christian faith in NZ is just out.
A link to this will be included in an upcoming pastors’ group convenors update.

3. An interview with Roy Crowne

The purpose of this interview was to give Roy an opportunity to share any reflections or insights he might have after his visit with various NZ pastors’ groups, which included 8 cities and towns across 4 provinces – giving a reasonably overview.

The 40 minutes interview will help you hear Roy’s heart.

Two key of his observations I picked up out of this were as follows.

1. …Encouragements toward action.

As a pattern, Roy applauded the amazing relationships these pastors’ groups had. This exceeded patterns in the UK prior to 2008. He however noted a limited level of intentional united engagement with the needs of the city – in the way that has been so effective in the UK, with churches uniting in a remarkable 1500 regions of the nation. Certainly there are some doing just as well – but these were ‘highlights’ rather than the norm.


2. Encouragement to consider a change of approach – involving key church members at the core of unity endeavours

Roy didn’t observe this dynamic anywhere in NZ on his travels. From their experience in the UK, he’d suggest this necessary if unity efforts are to continue beyond the tenure of current pastors – or even get started in the first place, noting many pastors are very busy. He especially noted the entrepreneurial dynamic some church members have, which can deliver results in this space.


As an observation: As the dynamic of unity grows ‘everything unity floats’. With a ‘new start’ to unity things in the UK as a result of what happened in 2008, a new and context was created including an enlarged vision of what might be possible. New unity movements were then birthed within this environment. The caution is that these can then compete, as if like denominations, each with a desire for its own ‘brand’ to make a mark. The lessons is that we are wise to choose a view from the outset that we will only ever ‘belong‘ ‘the Church of our location and nation’  – as contrasted with any sense of belonging to any specific unity movement, even though we may concurrently associate with various ‘named’ networks in view of what might be gained for God’s united Church where we are.


Regarding Roy’s credentials and the weight we do or do not give to his comments:

I note that Roy is speaking from experience that includes observation of a turn-around in the unity dynamics of 1500 areas of the UK, with thousands of new initiatives coming about in the unity space in that picture – and spanning 2008 until the present, which importantly means he has also had opportunity to see initiatives rise and fall, and to consider why that is the case.


What if the pastors together in each place sought to do ONE THING together that would meet a community need?

This is one of three things proposed in a wider wero (challenge) to pastors groups – to help them engage more with the needs, and within the converations, or their cities and towns.

Plenty to think upon. For further reading – try that wider wero – here.


DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith and its significance to our nation’s history and values. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.

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