As 2021 dawns, Christian Today thought it would be helpful to have a look ahead at some of those who may shape the evangelical world over the next 12 months. P.s. all of the following characters are entirely fictional and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is entirely in your own mind. Honest...
Josh and Tash Pynnup
Josh and Tash are well known in the International New Vine Harvest Apostolic Network. Over the past 12 years, they have planted and successfully pastored 67 churches, all of which now have hundreds of members, and very loud guitars. Josh and Tash feel they have a particularly influential ministry to other extremely good-looking people – something they call 'discipleship modelled to models.' But if you're ugly or haven't yet had your teeth properly whitened, you're very welcome to help with the tech desk behind a screen. In his spare time, Josh runs marathons every Saturday and plays saxophone, bass guitar and the Mongolian horsehead fiddle. Tash has her own ministry among slim mums, is lead Worship Singer in the band Beautiful, and is author of the well-known Wholly Bible – a new paraphrase of Scripture with her own thoughts thrown in, and space for doodling as well.
Andrew is a well-known figure on the evangelical circuit, where he has been giving talks as a second tier speaker to fill in the gaps between more inspiring and important preachers for many years now. Also he comes cheap, which helps. He has frequented conferences such as Newsprings, Dayglow, Freshstones and the Liberal Democrat women's spirituality forum. His popular writings include Beard on the Bible, Begin your day with Beard, and Please read this: reflections on my life or something. Andrew lives in Somerset, but is pleased to travel as far afield as the Scilly Isles sometimes. He is married to Sue and they have a dog, probably.
An up and coming figure in the conservative evangelical scene, Glasses (known as 'Glassers' to all his friends) hails from a large suburban church and recently completed a two year placement in another large suburban church before attending a training course which he describes as 'very exciting'. Glasses looks forward to full-time ministry in the Church of England, and says he is 'encouraged by many encouragements' while also being depressed by the liberal trend in the denomination, something which recently led him to declare himself in a state of 'fractured fellowship' with his Archdeacon after she refused to sign the 41-point doctrinal statement he sent 'in good faith' as a pre-condition for them chatting over tea in the refreshment break at a recent diocesan event.
The Apostle Raymond is Chief Shepherd of the Exuberant Life Network of churches across London, and is wondering when any white church leaders will notice that his denomination now has more people in a single congregation than most of them do in the whole country. Apostle Raymond, who is married to Apostle Denise, and together they have two children – Apostle Junior (11) and Apostle Saint (9), both of whom have emerging ministries of their own.
Bishop Elizabeth Middle
The recently appointed Bishop of Netherfield, Elizabeth Middle, is tipped for great things in the Church of England. Hailing originally from an evangelical stable, Bishop Middle says she remains 'deeply evangelical in her soul' while 'recognising the welcome riches' that come from other traditions, which means she is happy to go full High Mass if needs be – no questions asked – or alternatively sway along very gently to a guitar with a polite smile, as occasion demands. On the vexed question of sexuality, Bishop Middle says she is 'open to all new perspectives' and stresses the importance of listening – especially to liberals – while at the same time 'wanting to safeguard all that is good in the traditional heart of the church's teaching'. She is a popular retreat speaker and also goes on numerous walking pilgrimages 'seeking to explore the gap between path and hedge, stile and field, pond and pillar box; it is in those spaces where we find God in unexpected places, of course,' she says, bafflingly.
So, there you have it – the movers and shakers tipped to be moving and shaking us all in 2021. Sadly space forbids any satirisation of self-appointed journalistic commentators; maybe next time...
David Baker is a Church of England minister, Contributing Editor at Christian Today, and Senior Editor of Evangelicals Now.