Nicky Gumbel on life, leadership and saying goodbye to the congregation he loves

Nicky Gumbel with his wife Pippa.(Photo: HTB)

Alpha pioneer Nicky Gumbel speaks to Christian Today about the upcoming Global Alpha Leadership Conference and how he feels about stepping down as vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, London, after 17 years.

CT: We're emerging from the pandemic. What lessons have you learned personally from the last few years?

NG: There are so many things, but one thing I think the Church has definitely learnt is the benefits of online. At HTB, there are now between 10,000 and 20,000 people joining us each Sunday for worship online.

With our online leadership conference, nearly 100,000 people have registered to take part and over a thousand churches in nearly 100 countries around the world have signed up to host the conference.

Before the pandemic, we held the physical conference at the Royal Albert Hall in London but we could never get 100,000 people in there! Yet, because churches will be hosting our online conference, it means that participants can still get an 'in-building' experience.

So with online, we can reach so many more people. The pandemic has accelerated our ability to reach people with the Gospel and I think it is the greatest opportunity of our lifetime.

CT: What do you hope that people will take away from the conference?

NG: There will be lots of great talks from people like John Mark Comer and Christine Caine but more than anything else, what I really want them to experience is hope, the ministry of the Spirit, and healing. Last year, there were a number of supernatural healings all around the world during the conference. So I hope that people will be healed and that we will see change and. Transformation is the theme of the conference and we want to see that in the church, in businesses, in all kinds of areas.

CT: The conference is premised on the idea that "everyone is a leader". What advice would you give to Christians who aren't necessarily pastors or in traditional leadership positions?

NG: Everyone is a leader and no one is a leader! No one apart from Jesus is the leader. But at the same time everyone is a leader because everyone has influence. People have influence in their family, in their workplace, in all sorts of places. People look to them and so in that sense, everyone's a leader. It was John Maxwell who said that leadership is about influence and according to sociologists, even the shyest person will influence 10,000 people in their lifetime. So a good question to ask ourselves is: how am I living my life?

CT: Given the fall of some very high profile leaders in recent years, do you feel that this transformation has to come to leaders in the Church as well?

NG: We are all fallen and all of us need to be transformed by Jesus because ultimately, as I said, there is only one leader and that is Jesus. One analogy I like to use is of my friend who went climbing and was attached to his fellow climber. Both of them thought that the other was attached to the rock but as it turns out, neither of them were and so when one fell, the other fell. They were both OK in the end but the point is that it's OK to be attached to someone else so long as you are both ultimately attached to the rock, Jesus. Because if you're not attached to the rock, then if one falls, the other falls. But if you are attached to the rock, then if one falls you can still support each other. So we all need to attach ourselves to the only leader who isn't going to fall and that's Jesus.

CT: You are stepping down as vicar of HTB. Will it feel strange after so many years?

NG: Well, before being vicar of HTB I was involved in Alpha for 19 years and then when I became vicar, I continued to be involved in Alpha for those 17 years. Now I'm going back to focusing more on Alpha and I will also be spending more of my time on our church plants around the country and raising up Peters and Calebs for the theological college. So not a huge amount is changing, really!

CT: What advice would you give to your successor?

NG: Don't follow anything I did! Learn from my mistakes!

CT: When you look back over your time as vicar at HTB, what are you most grateful for?

NG: I am so, so proud of our congregation. I absolutely love the people here, and that's the thing I will miss the most. That's the only thing I will grieve leaving here. I just love them so much. They are wonderful, generous, serving, praying, brilliant people, and I'll miss them hugely.