The following is the transcript of Pastor Rob being interviewed by Becky Braveheart on the BBC’s North West This Evening magazine program which was recorded in April 2021.
Good evening this is Becky Braveheart bringing you another edition of North West this Evening. We have as our guest tonight local business entrepreneur and the Founder and Senior Pastor of the Hindley Green, Platt Bridge and Ince Family Churches… Pastor Robert Channings and we would like to to look back and get some insight into the remarkable changes that have taken place in the Wigan community over the last few years. Thank you Pastor Robert for granting us this interview, I am sure many of our viewers are already well acquainted with you and I know many have been personally touched by the work you and your group of churches have done.
Thank you for inviting me Becky It is a thrill to be here… and it has been a great pleasure to live and work in the Wigan area all these years so a big thank you to the people there too.
I would like to say a couple of important things right at the start if I may. Certainly from the church side of things my wife and I have done pretty much everything together, and she has played a much bigger hands on role than I have, and so many other people laid the foundations years before we even arrived so I am really not the founder…and many more have come alongside since and stood with us through hard times and good times… without them we could not have achieved even a fraction of what we have.
And one other important thing just to set the scene if thats OK?…you mentioned a group of churches…we believe there is only one church…Family Church is one part of that universal church, church is not a building it is the people who meet together…and we meet together in three main buildings right now for our weekend services but during the week we all try and meet together in smaller groups, some in each of the main buildings but mostly in peoples homes… we refer to them as connect groups and they soon become like big families. Much more intimate than the main church can ever be.
Ok, so if the church is people would you say you are a people person?… you refer to church as a family…so in your role as Pastor it must be a big job looking after all those people. I am sure they all have needs and problems from time to time, does that ever get on top of you?
Actually Becky it doesn’t get on top of me and I will tell you why not. Years ago when we first came to the church someone said to me “You’re not a pastor you are a manager.” They were not really being kind or polite because they were a little upset that I was doing things differently than the previous pastor. I wasn’t being awkward, but he was a much loved guy and unfortunately he had died quite young. There was a period without real leadership and then I was invited in… it is always difficult to try to step into someone else’s shoes. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.
However the lady was right…I was a manager and at that time I had relatively no parental or pastoral feeling for the congregation. I hardly knew most of them and I could see there were lots of things to be sorted out, some of them were not behaving very well themselves.
God always knows what He is doing and people are usually given the leaders they deserve. It needed a managerial attitude and I was bringing that in from my time with Yellow Pages. I ran the team that looked after the Wigan and Bolton Directory for over 10 years so I had an idea of what the local people were like.
In management mode I was able to detach myself from situations and soon worked out who were the best people to delegate to in certain situations: and what not to delegate… I soon worked out who I needed to get onside and to be honest who I had to allow, or even encourage to move on for their good and mine. I still try to handle very few problems personally…actually the Bible describes the church as a body where every part is important even though we all have different tasks within that body. The Bible also says the Pastor’s job, along with certain other ministries within the church, is to train the rest of the body to do the work of the ministry. That is to bring people into a personal experience of God through Jesus Christ and to help them grow up spiritually. I think we have done quite well at that.
I believe that the spiritual maturity of our people and their influence in society is a big part of the legacy that we will leave for the coming generations.
So to answer your original question nothing really gets on top of me because although I might have the overall responsibility I have some fantastic and very trustworthy people around me who are much better hands on than I am.
That’s interesting…I understand you had a pivotal birthday recently and there were a lot of those people there…I understand there were some pretty elaborate celebrations. What can you tell us about that?
They were not so elaborate. It was my 65th birthday and I wanted the chance to thank as many of those who have helped me as I could. I wanted to celebrate what we have achieved together, particularly over the last 5 years in both the church and the business, and I have long thought that both sides have something to contribute to each other. No one achieves anything significant on their own. We all need each other and gratitude is very important…and it is important to say thank you to people but it is even better to demonstrate your gratitude in practical ways. That’s what the week was about. All my adult children and grandchildren, were there and some close friends and associates. We went to the Costa Del Sol in Spain. I had small group meetings and shared at least one meal with everybody. They had plenty of free time to look around but we had a few business and planning meetings too. The main purpose was that everyone should have a clear idea of what the future will look like. What we are planning for the next 5 years and what would their role be.
The last thing I would want is for everything to be dependent on me. If I am proud of anything it is that I know everything could carry on without me if necessary and from a business perspective they wouldn’t even notice I was gone. Hopefully they might miss me personally but since I will be living in a mansion and walking on streets of gold so they shouldn’t be too upset.
That is not likely to happen for a while yet Pastor Rob…65 is relatively young these days.
Absolutely, when we get to talk about the business you will hear how important health has been to me. Not just my own health and not just physical health either. When I turned 60 I was nearly 4 stone overweight. My knees and hips were driving me mad and I was out of breath at the top of the stairs. I decided then that something had to be done but we can come back to that later if it’s OK with you.
Sure, I am really interested to know what you think the next few years might hold.
Well I am still Senior Pastor at the Church and that is a big responsibility but I don’t feel the call to lay that down just yet. We have 7 very competent full time people on staff and there is a small army of enthusiastic volunteers so like Jesus said, the burden is light. We have some wonderful teachers and preachers, all the New Testament ministries are evident in the church. The congregation will be well looked after in any event. That’s over 500 people now and still growing very fast by the way, we meet every Sunday in the community buildings and mid-week in smaller home groups. I think it is because everyone feels part of a family, as you indicated in your introduction we are a force that is changing Wigan in many positive ways. We regularly see physical and emotional healing, we see marriages enhanced and restored. We have seen so many people moving from a place of hopelessness and failure to one of personal power and success. People’s lives are radically changed when they realise that they are precious to God and important to the body: that their lives have significance. We have trained pastors visiting each connect group monthly to help and train the group leaders and they are available for individual home visits when needed. Of course when there is a really important matter then it is up to me and the elders to sort it out. The Bible is usually pretty clear on the important issues and it will always be our benchmark.
But the beauty of it is… all that infrastructure has really freed me and Steppy up to travel a bit more. We have been getting away for at least 8 weeks each year for the past 2 or 3 years now and I can only see that carrying on in the future. We have been able to trust the people back at base as it were while we have ministered in countries around the world, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, North America, and many more places… I preach but Steppy is often asked to speak and we pray for people together… we have been in schools and had children queuing up to talk to us and have us pray for them.
It’s not all the work of the ministry though, we need to rest and relax sometimes too and we love meeting new people and we are always very interested in the history and the culture as we visit new and exciting places.
You will pardon me asking the question Pastor but the cost of the party…and all that travelling sounds expensive and isn’t church supposed to be a frugal place…even poor?
Well actually Becky, it is a good question and I am glad you asked it. There is a popular misconception, admittedly among some Christians but more often among those on the outside looking in that wealth is somehow wrong for Christians (of course it is OK for non believers) and that poverty is holy.
Let me tell you poverty is most definitely not holy and our foundation gives many thousands of pounds each year to relieve suffering and poverty around the world.
But I don’t want to skirt round the real point of your question. You are asking how I can have a week long party with so many people present and go travelling all over the world for 8 weeks or more every year. Let me first of all make it very clear the church does not pay for any of that. The apostle Paul was a tentmaker…whilst he was quite rightly given offerings from the various churches he served he made it clear that he did not demand anything from them. Most of the churches finances have gone into the infrastructure and the salaries of the paid staff…don’t forget we completely rebuilt an ageing community centre one section at a time. The new facility is now a symbolic local landmark and is used by various sections of the community every day. The Bethel at Hindley Green now has an auditorium that seats over 200 and it is full of people and bursting with excitement twice every Sunday. We build a meter deep baptistry that doubles as a training pool to help toddlers learn to float if they accidentally fall into deep water; we think it may have saved children’s lives.
As the numbers in church attendance grew we thought long and hard about a bigger building, but instead, in order to keep the family atmosphere we cherish, we planted sister churches in Ince during 2018 and less than 2 years later in Platt Bridge. We have plans to expand further within a three mile radius but it would not be prudent of me to share any more details of that right now.
Pastor Robert have you avoided the question which I asked concerning extravagance?
Well you never really mentioned the word extravagance until now Becky… I am teasing… I knew you were hinting at it. Let me deal with it right away. A very important part of my personal legacy is my business, not the business itself but what it has been able to do for people. We are agents for an International Manufacturing Company called Melaleuca, they make the consumable products most people buy from the supermarkets but they pay a lot more attention to making them safer and healthier and they save a lot of money by sending them direct to the consumer.
Every business is looking for new customers and that’s our job, they don’t pay to advertise so they reward those customers who refer other customers to them to shop online.
The stuff we get from them has always been of a high quality, we really liked them from the beginning. They had over a million customers back when we started, it’s a lot more now of course, and they operate in over 20 countries so that gives me another excuse to travel and train our partners abroad, not that I need an excuse: but it all meant we felt very safe throwing our lot in with them. It was a good move, and a great choice of company because we have built our Melaleuca Organisation to be the largest in the UK. More than 5000 customers lead healthier lives using over 150 different products, things like great nutritional supplements and non-toxic, concentrated cleaning products and personal care items. We are proud to say they are safer in the home and they are much better for the environment too for two reasons, one, they only use natural ingredients and two, they drastically cut transportation exhaust emissions and have saved millions of gallons of fuel by shipping everything in concentrated form, you just add your own water. We always saw that as doing our bit in the battle against climate change.
Regarding physical health I set an example and I have taught others to follow it. For a man of 65 I am totally healthy in mind, body and spirit. I reduced my weight from the 230lbs I was on my 60th birthday to 185lbs before I was 62 and I have maintained that weight ever since. I am still very quick and strong, I still like to play table tennis with the young people on a Friday night at the Bethel and I have as much energy now as I had when I was 45 so that makes me feel happy, being healthy is very important, to put it bluntly I feel terrific and am very optimistic for the future!
So is the health business the source of your wealth then?
That’s one channel the money comes through Becky but God is our source and He has used the business, among other things to bless us and to help us bless thousands of others. We have been able to help hundreds of families develop their own businesses and attain their desired income levels, among them, I am proud to say, we have created dozens of millionaires who started from scratch with virtually no investment: just hope and desire and the willingness to learn and work. We have worked hard and we still do travelling all over the world to help people who demonstrate a strong desire to succeed.
We love to see lives change because Jesus promised an abundant life… It thrills us to see people reaching their goals so if we can teach the skills they need, and encourage them wherever we can why would we not celebrate their successes together. You used the word extravagance…I would prefer to use the word affluence…it means ‘to flow to” and Becky, that is what money is supposed to do. Flow. Too many people have a stingy philosophy of money, they try to get all they can, can all they get and then sit on the can. And actually too many others envy those who have it and thats just as bad, they never seem to stop and think that they may be stopping the flow that should be coming to them.
We like to give all we can because we know that we can’t possibly out-give God and He has prospered us every step of the way. I have been poor Becky and now I am rich in so many ways but can I tell you that money is just one of those ways and without the others it would be meaningless. Yes, we have plenty of money these days but we are not sitting on the can. We can afford to pay for our own trips anywhere we want to go and we are able to support the causes we believe in.
My personal income is above £40,000 most months and I guess that is affluence, but it flows in and we allow much of it flow out again, it has to flow, thats why they call it currency because like the current it is moving and generating power, bringing light…
I will be leaving a multi million pound business to my children someday and that is a legacy I am proud of, but what we have been able to do in peoples relationships, what we have seen happen in the physical and spiritual health of thousands of our associates and customers is the real reason we are here. And that’s what the business has done…it is not much different from the church really is it.
Same principles apply in both…I always said that Jesus was the original Networker…He went 12 wide pretty quickly…and now He is 2000 years deep and still growing.
And I am so grateful for all that He has done for me I have to give Him all the glory. He lets us use the money but all the Glory belongs to him.
Well thats’s all we have time for this evening but it has been most enlightening, Paster Robert thank you for coming in and perhaps you will come back in another 5 years and tell us whether all those plans you made worked out.
I am sure they will Becky and I will be glad to come and tell you about it.