Chris Moyles And Church

Radio 1’s loud-mouth breakfast DJ Chris Moyles is not the sort of person you would expect to be extolling the virtues of the church. But, this YouTube clip is doing the rounds of Christian blogs, and understandably so:

(HT David Keenand Phil Ritchie)

I nerver thought I’d type these words: you can only applaud Moyles for his honesty.

But it’s true. He’s frank about how his Catholic upbringing led him to expect that church would be boring. He’s honest about how blown away he was by the service from Kingsgate Community Church in Peterborough.

I’ve only seen the YouTube clip, not the rest of the broadcast. I know nothing about the church, apart from a quick surf around their website. One thing that struck me – and didn’t surprise me from the TV clip – was that they clearly have megachurch aspirations. They speak

of building a church that impacts the city, region and beyond

– sounds megachurch to me. And interesting for an outfit that calls itself a community church.

But my point is this. Many of us in the missional church movement are nervous about some expressions of megachurch. (In saying that, I’m not assuming insincerity or anything like that: I know good people in megachurches, including godly leaders.) But for those of us who have certain reservations, we have to listen carefully to why Chris Moyles found the experience so attractive. What came over to me time and time again in his comments was how much the sheer joy right across the congregation impressed him.

We are right to say there is more to biblical worship than celebration – it also includes lament. But I hear what Moyles says about the faces on some Songs of Praise worshippers and I hear a kind of longing. I’m good at the misery stuff due to my temperament and personality. But however serious we are about a rounded, compassionate Christianity that empathises with the suffering, let’s not throw out the baby of joy with the bathwater of hype.


  1. Dave,
    Having spent years in mega-churches, I can say I saw lots of up tempo services filled with apparent joy. I also spoke with more people than I care to remember who never had a meal in another church member’s home – and felt profoundly alone in the big box version of “church”.

    I loved the early Ichthus model of cell, congregation, celebration – where you could experience the intimacy of church relationships and the full on enthusiastic praise of a large celebration. My problem with the big box store version of church is too many folk stay disconnected – in spite of how how happy they look on camera.

    Kingsgate reminds me of too many other Hillsong-like clones.

    And from a consumer church perspective, Moyles et al sound like they could be talking about a great Sting concert – their focus is on themselves. (I confess I’m rather jaded – but you new that already.)


    1. Thanks, Bill, I simply don’t know what’s behind Kingsgate at all and felt I should be reserved in my estimation. Had I had longer to find out about them, who knows? Certainly, I’m with you on the Ichthus model of church. Any approach to church that misses out the need to build deep relationships is seriously askew.

      Having said that, in addition to the brief quote above, there were a couple of stylistic things I noticed on their website that made me wonder about them, but they weren’t of sufficient substance on their own to form a judgment. One was the picture of the couple who are the senior leaders – it reminded me of the poses struck by American megachurch leaders. The other was that their DVD was called ‘Days of Destiny’, and that phrase is one I associate with ‘certain churches’. However, I didn’t have the time to watch the streamed version they offer on the site.

      Yes, I suppose Moyles does sound selfish in a way, but for those of us who know his reputation in radio and TV broadcasting in the UK, some of what he said here was quite a revelation, because it was distinctly different from his usual semi-outrageous style. I would hazard a guess that some of the British Christian blogs that have posted this YouTube clip have done so, not because it is any evidence of conversion, but because it is a sign that he has seen something that has made him potentially begin to re-evaluate church and faith. It was certainly quite something for him to mention religion positively on the normally religion-free zone of Radio 1.


  2. I have been attending Kingsgate since August last year.

    There is a big focus on commiting to a cell group to get the intimatacy side as well as the celebration side.
    Kingsgate also does a lot of life skills courses which I have found helpful both in learning useful skills (e.g. money management) and in connecting in to the Church.
    There is also a strong focus on discipleship – not being content with were you are at but developing and growing in your relationship with God. I have read more of my bible, prayed more, studied more, given more and received more, loved more and been loved and accepted more, been physically healed more and delivered more from past hang-ups and hurts in the last 10 months at this Church then any time in my life.

    There is also a big emphasis on serving and many opporunities to do this either within the Church or within the community outreach work they do.

    I have made more life long friends and deeper relationships at Kingsgate since August than in my 10 years at a 100 strong smaller Church.

    I may be a little biased but I love Kingsgate!!!


      1. No, Vicky, I know you didn’t pick that avatar! They are automatically generated if people don’t have an ID on one of the relevant web services that WordPress or Gravatar recognises. Apologies if it looks gruesome!


  3. Wow, a truely great response from an unchurched person to a fantastic presentation of the love and grace of Jesus Christ and all you guys can come up with is some cynical response about ‘mega’ churches. it sounds like the only selfish ones round here are the people speaking negatively, not Chris Moyles. Of course he is going to be looking at it from a selfish perspective, he hasn’t received the love of Christ that takes us further than point. no wonder we are not seeing people returning in their droves to churches when our response to such a great comment as Chris gave, are generally skeptical. I reckon the heart of God would have been jumping!


    1. Hi Mark,

      Welcome here and thanks for your comment. In defence of Bill, he has had some bad experiences of megachurches, and that explains to a large extent what he calls his ‘jaded’ response. In my case, I’ve had some dodgy experiences from outside without having been a member or minister at one, but the thrust of my post was that Chris Moyles’ experience was making me appreciate some good I might otherwise not have seen. Hope that clarifies.


  4. I too am a member of Kingsgate and can just say altho we are a big church and growing we are not just a church without getting to know each other. We have cell groups as already stated giving us a chance to make more intimate relationships with others in our locality.
    I actually live in a small town outside Peterborough and it is like havibg another family to be in contact with. We are able to meet and make so many new friends. As well as this I can back up Vicky by agreeing we have courses to help us in everyday life ( ie the money management course) and indeed we serve in different areas ie childrens work or in the community, or helping with various activities at church again widening our contact with others making us a big family.

    I too may be biased but I too love Kingsgate!!


    1. Thanks, Carol, it’s great to hear of a church balancing the large and the small in this way. God bless you.


  5. “these people, they were really taking part – all of them” (not like mumbling in songs of praise!) that says it all

    you see, we have to make the transition from going TO church to BEING church – and that’s part ofwhat impacted Chris M – these people believed! They particpated! They were not just spectators.

    You wrote that they have aspirations “of building a church that impacts the city, region and beyond” .. isn’t that what being missional is all about. It’s not a megachurch phenomena – it’s our Christian DNA – to impact those around us. It can happen in small groups too … but there is something very very encouraging about getting together with a huge group and worshipping God with all we are. Megachurches (or Christian events) provide that … if we stay in only that we miss the point -but if we leave encouraged, more in love withJesus than when we arrived, more determined to be led by His spirit in order to impact those around us … yes I want that too 🙂

    I read too what Vicky wrote in the comments “There is also a strong focus on discipleship – not being content with were you are at but developing and growing in your relationship with God.” and I love it – it makes me so glad. Discipleship -and not being content with where you are but pressing in for more of God, being willing to let Him change us – is so important. That’s what Wesley found out – that’s what the bands were all about in the early days – to disciple, to challenge and to send out the members to impact their environment – meet the needs of the poor etc … and I long for the MC internationally to rediscover its DNA!

    thanksfor posting this!


    1. Hi Lorna,

      Good to hear from you again. I have found it refreshing to receive the testimonies of the Kingsgate people on this post, and to know that their church is not just about the big event that can leave some Christians passive. Clearly they encourage their members to get their hands dirty, and that has to be good news. Oh that more would.


  6. yeah, we need discipleship in churches in order not to produce passive, nominal Christians … and I loved what Phil Meadows said (in the LRM 2 week) about our need to ensure that fresh expressions /emergent is not just about perpetuating nominal Christianity.

    God wants us to use everything at our disposal- including megachurches and small groups – in order to start fulfilling the Great commision (not to produce more passive and /or nominalChristians) After all that\’s what the God of mision is all about 🙂


    1. Yes, I think I go back to what Bill Kinnon said about how he respected the Ichthus model of cell, congregation and celebration. I think each has a part to play. Much as I see the importance of small groups in addition to the big celebrations, I have also seen them used as an avoidance strategy. They need to be focussed too, in order to foster discipleship.


  7. Can I just say we may be in danger of missing the point here. As the author of the Youtube clip being discussed I have to say when I posted this on Youtube I didn’t expect it to go to 32,000 hits in just 14 days – possibly testimony to Chris’ popularity. But I also think there is a shared interest and genuine surprise that there are a growing number of substantial, contemporary and lively 21st century churches in the UK.

    This is because of their relevant and contextualised message of Jesus Christ – a person who just will not be stereotyped and who’s teaching still cuts through the rubbish and hopelessness in today’s society. The message is the same but the relevancy of it comes through crystal clear to a new generation searching for hope when the “wrapper” is right.

    I was not intending to promote MEGA-Church in the UK but to simply highlight that God is on the move in his country and that this does not have to be viewed as “un-cool” any longer. Mega church or not!

    The apostle Paul did this all the time when he went to a new place. He contextualised the message. Our responsibility is to GET THE WRAPPER RIGHT! Both inside the four walls of our buildings in our corporate church lives and in our lives. The result: “joy in the city!!” Acts 8


    1. Steve,

      Thanks for your comment and welcome here! A couple of quick responses (sorry about that, but I’m typing this in between appointments):

      1. It’s just one of those curiosities about the blogosphere that conversations go off in unexpected directions. In literary circles they’d call it reader-response, probably! You had honourable intentions, but it triggered off other thoughts that you couldn’t possibly have anticipated.

      2. I’d be intrigued to hear you more on your metaphor of the ‘wrapper’. Is church about the packaging or what’s inside it? But I could have misread you there. You’d be very welcome to say more about what you mean.


  8. I’d like to attempt to answer you question; “is church about the packaging or what’s inside it?”.

    Of course, church is about what’s inside. It’s about the love of Jesus Christ, and the salvation he offers us. I’m sure no Christian would dispute this. However, look at the way Jesus taught. He always taught in a way that was relevant to his audience. I would call this “the packaging”. I am of course not wanting church to sound like just another commericial product, but the comparison with the way products are sold is still valid. Very few people continue to buy a product because they liked the packaging but hated what was inside; but it is often the packaging that drew them to the product in the first place. I think this is how church should be; because it doesn’t matter how good what’s inside is if you can’t get people to come in the first place.


    1. Stephen,

      Thank you for your comment and welcome here. We may be coming from different places and experiences on this. My nervousness about words like ‘wrapper’ and ‘packaging’ is that some churches have explicitly used commercial tactics in attracting people. Some have even taken to referring to people as ‘customers’.

      On the other hand, simply couching the Gospel in a way that is understandable within a particular culture is absolutely fine, and there is biblical precedent: ‘kingdom of God’ from Jewish thought, ‘Jesus is Lord’ in contrast to ‘Caesar is Lord’, ‘justification’ (a Roman legal term), and so on. We have the permanent problem that faces the church of – to adapt the words of Jesus – being ‘in the culture but not of the culture’.


    2. PS – the other thing worth teasing out in your comment, Stephen, is your final words about ‘get[ting] people to come in the first place’. The so-called ‘missional’ approach to church and mission would have a debate with those words. If you mean that new Christians need to be incorporated into a body of disciples, then yes. However, there are serious questions about getting ‘them’ to come to ‘us’ as a missionary strategy. Jesus said in John 20, ‘As the Father sent me, so I send you,’ which means we have to ask, how was Jesus sent? For that we go back to John 1: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ The first move in Christlike mission, then, is about our witness in the world, in the midst of unbelief. A book that takes this to radical conclusions, including starting new churches in the homes of new converts, is Neil Cole‘s Organic Church: Growing faith where life happens.


  9. I can certainly say I was impressed with Chris Boyle’s reactions to what he saw, and I do think it shows that, at least to some extent, he was “attracted” to what he saw. (p.s. Dave, if you could please throw me a link that describes the “Icthus model”…I’m unfamiliar with that one…)
    I’m rather inclined to agree, with Bill – I’ve experienced a couple of different mega-churches, and personally didn’t really find that “community” or “family” was really something that was actively sought after. Given the posts by Vicky and Carol, I’m in no way ready to declare mega-churches as unproductive, but it still seems to me that it’s more difficult in that setting.

    I guess my main reason for this is simply that it’s a whole lot easier to get lost in such a large group, and that for anyone who is not naturally outgoing, large settings make it a lot harder to find your “small group”. In contrast, when my wife and I first came to our church, (the very first service), we were practically “accosted” with loving and caring people, wanting to meet the “new family”….we had invitations to dinner, playdates for our kids, etc….there was a huge sense of welcome from the entire group.

    While I enjoy the atmosphere of the large church in the video, I can’t help feeling that it is more like a great Christian music concert….yes, I realize that’s an oversimplification. While I don’t deny that God can and does use this also, I’m just saying that, while it’s attractive at first, the meat and substance of relationships seems harder to get to than in a smaller setting.

    Just my humble opinion.


    1. Owen,

      I’m assuming that by Ichthus Bill is referring to the Ichthus Christian Fellowship group of churches in the UK, many of them in London. The link I just gave you is their own site; this is the Wikipedia article. I hope you find something in one or other of these links. However, the basic theory is that everyone meets weekly in a cell (small group) midweek, and in a congregation on Sunday. At regular intervals, the congregations gather together for a large event called a celebration. Hence cell-congregation-celebration, balancing different group dynamics and strengths and weaknesses.


  10. Hi All,

    I also attend KingsGate Community Church, and have done for several years. The church building is in Peterborough and we have 2 services every sunday (9.15am & 11.30am). We’re really easy to find and I suggest a visit would be an enjoyable experience for anyone reading this. For a little example of community action taking place search on youtube for – KingsGate Hope Garden Project.
    If you do choose to visit then ask for me, “tall” James, in our Welcome Area – I’d love to show you around.

    Many Blessings.



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