The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Around 280 people attended the Christian Surfers International Gathering in France. Phil Williams: “At the heart of what we do is our relationship with God, and how we react in our community”.
Jesus, surf, and the ocean. These three elements shape the lifestyle of the around 280 people from 27 countries who attended the 2018 International Gathering of Christian Surfers in Hossegor (south western France).
#EverySurfer is the motto of this global movement, which aims to give every surfing community “the opportunity to know and follow Jesus”.
After one week (September 23-28) of training, sharing and celebrating Jesus together, the surfers returned “empowered to go back to our homes, cities, countryside, to our surfing communities, remembering that God loves surfers as much as anything else in this world”, said Phil Williams, Christian Surfers European Coordinator.
Phil spoke to Evangelical Focus about the outcomes of the conference and the vision of Christian Surfers.
Question. What was the smallest country represented in Hossegor?
Answer. I’m not sure, but for us it was especially exciting to get two people from Denmark for the first time. And also to see representatives from Taiwan and Sri Lanka.
Q. There was a very festive atmosphere at the conference. What are some things that make surfers different in their way of expressing their Christian faith?
A. The event we ran was all about family on a mission, and I have always felt that that the surf community is a very special and tight community. Whilst riding the wave is a very individual effort, the whole lifestyle behind it is very communal.
Q. What is the best way surfers are sharing Jesus with their non-Christian friends?
A. To many people, surfing is more than a sport, and at Christian Surfers we believe as it says in John 10:10 that is it all about living life to the full and sharing our stoke with all those that we come across.
There is nothing better than meeting up after a surf and sharing all your experiences. In the surfing community many people experience something of God’s creation, and tend to be spiritual people but many obviously do not share our own spiritual beliefs.
I’ve been involved with Christian Surfers now for around 27 years and at the heart of what we do is our individual relationships with God, and how we react in our community.
The best people to reach the surfers are the surfers and I believe our individual relationships coupled with our Christian Surfers family coming together to serve are two very significant parts of sharing our faith with non-Christians. We need to build respect, say what we do, and do it. Be humble and be willing to serve, having respect and being prepared to serve are two very powerful tools.
Q. How is Europe different from other parts of the world when it comes to mission?
A. Within the Christian Surfers community, Europe is regarded as one of the hardest group of countries to reach, because in some respects we believe we have everything we need (which is not always the case) and therefore, is there really space and do we need God?
We know there are some amazing examples of God at work in communities as well as community interest groups, and I think once people get older they are even harder to reach. I’m sure this is similar in many other places, but in Europe certainly in the surfing areas there tends to be quite a lot of affluence and, therefore, not the needs and space for God to naturally intervene.
Having said all that there are so many examples of God working in this tough community and changing lives.
Q. What would you highlight of the gathering?
A. We have been planning the gathering for over two years and during that time there have been some tough times where things haven’t gone quite right or we felt God was calling us to change direction, so by the time the gathering started we were excited and expectant about what God was doing as had always felt his hand guiding us.
For me one of the highlights was going back to the same venue that we went into 2004 and seeing as many people in the Europe team photo as there had been in the whole of the world team photo back then.
I believe God blessed the event with lots of examples of him stepping in and guiding us and I think one of the other very powerful images with the cross on the lake that we all formed.
Watch a video summary of the 2018 Christian Surfers International Gathering:
Learn more about Christian Surfers by visiting the movement’s website.