I became a Christian in 1992, a time when British evangelicalism was at a confident, swaggering high. There were Christian bookshops in every high street and powerhouse churches on every corner. Those in the church, and those who joined it at that time, found ourselves swimming in a completely separate subculture to the rest of humanity. Here are just a few examples which, if you recognise them, suggest you too were a card-carrying, bracelet-wearing, 90s evangelical...
1. You were involved in at least one evangelistic street drama:
This is me. Yes, genuinely, the chubby little guy in the coat and glasses who looks like a young ET. Our church got a ministry visit in the mid-90s from an American evangelist who specialised in humiliating street dramas, and who took our youth group into various public locations to make a show of ourselves. This performance, given outside the New Malden branch of McDonald's, was formative in my own sense of self-loathing, and resulted in several 'encouraging conversations', and quite a lot of verbal abuse.
2. True responsibility was being asked to run the OHP during worship:
90s churches were overflowing with volunteer rotas. But the one with real power was the rota for operating the overhead projector during worship. There were various styles, from the classic 'straighten-up and leave it' to the advanced 'cover up and reveal' approach. Whatever your method, you made a mistake at your peril. OHP operators who presented songwords upside down or – unthinkably – back-to-front were instantly relegated to the welcome team.
3. You were certain this song was going to get to no.1:
Delirious (or Delirou5, or Delirious?, depending on which graphic designer was working that day) were the British Christian band of the 1990s, and the thrill of being able to buy a copy of 'King of Fools' at your local branch of HMV sent joyous shockwaves around the church. There was one weekend in 1997 when a rumour circulated among youth groups everywhere that somehow the single 'Deeper' had made it to no.1 in the UK charts. Then it popped up at no.20 on David Jensen's Network Chart show, and we all felt terribly disappointed.
4. You got up really early one Saturday morning to go on a March for Jesus:
Graham Kendrick's March for Jesus initiative was so successful that it mobilised an estimated 60 million Christians in 180 nations during the 1990s, including 10 million in a single day in 1994. I was one of them, walking through London in a baseball cap with a fish on it, and waving a banner made by Beryl from my church's sewing group. This highlight of my rebellious teenage years remains hugely memorable, if only because of the looks of total bemusement from passers by as they tried to decipher Beryl's felt lettering.
5. You wore one of these without a hint of irony:
6. This guy was an actual celebrity:
No, not the guy on the right (who was the 'surprise' guest at every Christian gig of the 90s) but Steve Chalke, now better known as an educationalist, abolitionist and pantomime villain. Back in the 90s, Chalke was the darling of the evangelical scene, wowing people with his no-nonsense teaching on sexual purity and his frequent appearances on the GMTV sofa. If you stood behind him in a queue at a Christian conference, you'd begin whispering excitedly to your friends, as if you'd suddenly spotted Tom Cruise. He went a bit nuts in the following decade, making some odd career choices and following a controversial religious path. But enough about Tom Cruise.
7. You went to Spring Harvest and bought armfuls of talk tapes you never listened to again:
We all did it. Before the Internet, we were terrified by the idea that the brilliant talk we'd just heard on 'Hedges of protection' would be lost to us forever. That's why we spent hours (and a fortune) on cassettes which, by some unknown and wondrous magical power, could appear for sale within hours of the talk. I bought almost every available talk from Spring Harvest 1993, with the earnest intention of listening through them in my newly-resurrected 'quiet times.' It would be fair to say that they're still in Mint Condition.
8. Your parents made you watch McGee and me on VHS instead of normal kids' programmes:
You know how everyone watched Saved by the Bell and Clarissa Explains it All? Not in your house. You had to watch grainy imported videos of this bizarre mix of live action and animation, about a moralising children's cartoon which came to life (and then you wish he hadn't). Of course, if you were in a really strict Christian home, you weren't allowed TV at all, so you had to suffer the Adventures in Odyssey radio show instead. Dark times.
9. You learned to play the guitar, and you had one of these:
All Christians in the 90s were to some degree 'learning the guitar.' For many of us, this journey never quite extended to picking up an actual guitar, but for those who did this was a necessary accessory. It was great for holding the guitar up, and had the added bonus application of ensuring that you didn't break your pre-marital chastity vow. Of course, wearing one of these today is seen as a signal of support for gay marriage. That's another thing they've ruined.
10. You helped fill* Wembley Stadium for a Noel Richards gig:
Noel Richards was a man with a vision. The pony-tailed worship-leading legend made a crazy plan to fill Wembley Stadium with Christian worshippers... and he very nearly did it. The final attendance of 45,000 might have been 25,000 short of capacity, but it was still one of the biggest Christian events the UK has ever seen. And with a line-up including Richards, Graham Kendrick, Sue Rinaldi and a young Matt Redman, who could blame Britain's evangelicals for turning out in such force. At the end of the day we genuinely believed revival was coming. Which is disappointing in hindsight.
11. You bought this album, and thought it was better than Michael Jackson's Thriller:
...and you were right. And it still stands up today.