Mark Roques is the author of the excellent new book The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails (see my review here and Psalter Mark's review here). I caught up with him to quiz him on his work for RealityBites and about the new book.
Hi Mark, could you tell us something about yourself?
I grew up on the border of Middlesex and Hertfordshire near Watford. My parents did not bring me up in the Christian faith and so when I went to university I was rabidly anti-Christian. I was reading Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade and I enjoyed mocking and tormenting Christian believers.
In 1977 I had a series of dramatic and miraculous experiences of God and the Holy Spirit which turned my life around. In 1978 I met Richard and Janice Russell and they told me about Dooyewerd and reformational philosophy. After finishing my BA in Philosophy, I completed a PGCE at Bristol University and then I spent 3 years in Toronto at the Institute for Christian Studies. I then became an RE and Philosophy teacher and worked at Prior Park College in Bath for eleven years. In 2005 my wife Anne and I moved from Bristol to Leeds to work for WYSOCS and from this RealityBites emerged.
I am very happily married to Anne and I have a daughter, Hannah and son, Emile. We are also foster carers and currently caring for a young 18-year-old Muslim lad who had to leave the Sudan.
You work for Reality Bites - how would you explain it to someone who has never heard of it?
RealityBites is all about helping Christians to communicate the Christian faith through winsome and engaging storytelling. When I spoke to 100 sixth formers in February of this year I told them lots of stories and got them thinking about worldviews. After my lecture, eight sixth formers stayed behind for twenty minutes to talk about Jesus.
What does a typical week look like for you?
I spend a lot of time thinking up new ways of communicating the Christian faith to cleaners, social workers, students, teenagers and committed heathens. I’m not a natural evangelist and I found a lot of the traditional ways of sharing faith rather awkward and cheesy. However, through my work on worldview I developed a number of faith-related and intriguing stories that captivated people and drew them into wanting to know more about the Christian faith. It was very exciting - as I shared these stories I found people ASKING ME to talk more about my faith.
Over the last five years I’ve been honing this approach in small group sessions, in schools and sixth form colleges, with the Muslim refugees I teach here in Leeds, on the streets with students, in pubs, even with homeless people at St George’s crypt Leeds. It’s always gone very well and I’ve been thrilled with its wide appeal.
I was also commissioned by a charity called TLG JourneyMakers to turn these stories into a curriculum to be used in primary schools, and the feedback I’ve got has been excellent - youth workers love this approach and the children are far more responsive and engaged.
Your most recent book, The Spy, the Rat and the Bed of Nails has just been published. Could you explain the purpose of the book?
Talking to many Christians I have discovered that many want to talk about Jesus with their friends and colleagues at work but they do not feel equipped to do this. They are given very little in church to actually share faith in a credible and engaging way. Over the years I have developed a way of doing evangelism that is sensitive to the creation affirming Theology of Tom Wright and the incisive thinking of missiologist Lesslie Newbigin. I reject the platonic way of understanding the gospel which can be very individualistic. My approach challenges secular and pagan worldviews that are often ignored. It also has a much more positive view of 'culture' than the traditional take on evangelism. In my view traditional approaches to evangelism sideline the cultural mandate, the good creation and the reality and power of contemporary worldviews. That is one reason why they fail to inspire both Christians and unbelievers!
Why should someone read it?
This book will revolutionise the way you do evangelism. It will delight you with faith-building, inspiring stories and vignettes. It will help you to understand secular, pagan and eastern worldviews which is vital in Christian communication. It will help you talk meaningfully and engagingly about King Jesus without it sounding like bible bashing.
What's been the reaction to the book so far?
Here are some of the endorsements we have garnered so far:
"Mark is one of the most brilliant gospel communicators I know. He challenges, provokes and inspires us to find creative ways to share with others. I loved this book and you will too!"
Mark Russell, CE, Church Army
"This is a brilliant book. Mark shows us how to communicate the Christian faith in a fresh, original and compelling way."
Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol
‘I love the style of this book. Stories spark imagination and open up life. Mark Roques gets this and helps us get it. Like Jesus he tells stories which light up what God’s like and about. He makes sharing faith a draw."
John Thomson, Bishop of Selby
"Storytelling is a vital part of communication - especially in evangelism. Mark’s book goes further and blends story with persuasion and insight. This will be a real resource for many."
Elaine Storkey, Sociologist, Author and Journalist
"This book is a great exemplar of the power of humour and story in sharing the gospel. It winsomely exposes the false worship in the worldviews of others and forces us to examine our own ‘sub-gospel’ ideas."
Ken Dickens, Principal, National Institute for Christian Education, Australia
‘This is a great little book that gives creative insight into how to go about sharing your faith. If you struggle to talk about your faith, then I totally commend it to you.’
Barry Woodward, Director of Proclaim Trust
“Mark is unique in his ability to equip people to ‘preach’ the gospel through real-life stories of folly and faithfulness—this is again demonstrated in this exceptionally helpful book.”
Chris Parker, National Institute for Christian Education, Australia
"Was Jesus' storytelling as zany as Mark Roques? I think maybe it was. Mark is so good at helping us to recapture the storytelling method. It might mean people will enjoy listening to us when we talk about Jesus."
Geoff King, Leader, South Parade Baptist Church, Leeds
How did you come across the reformational perspective?
In 1978 I was studying Philosophy at Bristol University and I hadn't a clue how to integrate my Christian faith with my studies. I was very blessed to meet Richard and Janice Russell who introduced me to Dooyeweerd, Calvin Seerveld and Bob Goudzwaard. I owe them a great deal!
Who are the people or books that have most influenced you and in what ways?
I have found the work of Bob Goudzwaard and Calvin Seerveld enormously helpful. They are, of course, indebted to both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven. Bob's incisive and brilliant analysis of idolatry and ideology is fantastic. Seerveld's book Rainbows for the Fallen World is incredibly insightful and moving. I am also very indebted to Albert Wolters and his brilliant book Creation Regained. I should also add that Richard Russell's writing has helped me enormously and inspired my book on education Curriculum Unmasked.
What do you do for fun?
I love football and I have written a book about the beautiful game. I also enjoy reading novels and biographies. I love the possibility of buying a Triumph Rocket III motorbike but this will never happen. It is very expensive!
If you were on a desert island what two luxuries would you take with you?
Shampoo and Dooyeweerd's magnum opus