I first was introduced to Charles Price on a cold Monday night in October 1999, when my wife and I attended some night school classes at Capernwray Hall in Lancashire, England. We’d been stirred to read our Bibles more and were looking for some good bible teaching – something meaty!
Charles was teaching the first hour and the Word of God literally came alive for me.
I remember him telling a story about how he was walking down a street that had a glass shop next to a hardware store and next to that was a jewelers, when a gas line that ran underneath the shops exploded launching the contents of all three shops into the air. The result was that a perfectly formed watch landed on his wrist and began to tick!
Of course, he was talking about the absurdity of everything in this world coming about by chance alone – and it got my attention!
He was followed by Billy Strachan and at the end of the two hour session I couldn’t believe how excited and alert I was – compared to sitting in our local methodist church on a Sunday morning listening to a 20 minute message that seemed to go on for a thousand years!
Since then I’ve ‘bumped into’ Charles four times in four different countries:
At a conference in a large church in Wisconsin (USA), in the Air Canada lounge at Vancouver airport, back at Capernwray Hall in England for a staff conference, and most recently when he visited New Zealand in May for a two week speaking tour of both the North and South Islands.
So, I couldn’t miss the opportunity of interviewing him about his life of teaching, travel and discovering Truth!
What’s your connection with NZ and how far does it go back?
I first came to NZ in 1981, as a young man almost on our honeymoon (four months into marriage) and conducted six week long series of meetings in Auckland, Queenstown, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and then back in a different part of Auckland. Over the years, I have been back thirteen times now, and love the beauty of the country and the warmth of the people!
Tell us about how and when you came to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?
I was twelve years old when I came to assurance of salvation, after a youth event in my home town of Hereford in England. It was a Saturday night, and I knew something had happened next day, when I went to the church my parents had taken me to from infancy and for the first time the service was interesting and made sense! I realised I had an appetite I had not had before. This was my evidence I had received a new life.
What part did Capernwray play in growing your relationship with Jesus?
Major Ian Thomas, who founded Capernwray, came to Hereford less than a year after I became a Christian. I was mesmerized by his ministry, and that summer a group of us went to a teen week at Capernwray Hall. Later, in my school holidays I would go and work there, and it became like a second home to me, where learned so many truths, and gained so much experience that set me up for the rest of my life. In due course I attended the year long Bible School.
The significance of the ‘Christ in You’ message has been a big part of your teaching ministry. Can you briefly explain the significance of this truth? (And you cant just say “read my book”)
What makes a person a Christian, is that the Spirit of Jesus Christ lives in them, and he is the source of their ability to live. Often however we view Jesus as the teacher, the model, the example we try our best to imitate him, or see him merely the patron of our Christianity. But he is its Life. God has only one thing to give us – it is Himself, so that by the Holy Spirit, he might reproduce the character of Jesus in us. Disciples ceased to be ‘followers of Jesus’ after Pentecost, and instead became indwelt by Him, and the relationship is now one of union with Christ, that we are in Christ, and he is in us.
When did you know God was calling you to be a preacher?
At the age of 16 I sensed God was calling me to preach and began to do so. With three friends of the same age, we got permission to preach on the streets of our town, and one day were invited to go and speak in a little rural church which had no pastor and hardly any attendees. That opened a door and by the time I was 18 we were preaching most weekends in many of these small village churches.
You spent 15 years on staff at the People’s Church in Toronto. How different was it for you to be a pastor of such a large church having worked at Capernwray Hall with a much smaller group of staff, students and guests?
I had no desire to be a pastor, but God made it very evident it was the right thing to do, so with some fear and trepidation we arrived in Toronto in 2001, to a weary congregation, in an amazing cosmopolitan city. We saw people come to Christ and saw our numbers more than double to over four thousand each week and the average age drop by around 25 years (so I am told, I haven’t tried to measure it myself)! A key was working with a great team.
I know you saw the Lord work in some incredible ways during your time there. What are some of the most memorable moments that you experienced?
I learned a saying from Major Thomas, ‘A river cuts its own course’. You want to see natural developments like a flowing river, rather than a canal which needs maintaining. One significant area of spontaneous growth was in our media outreach across the world. We had a TV programme shown in Canada, but eventually it was seen in over 70 countries in several languages, Spanish across South and Central America, Arabic across the whole Middle East and North Africa, and with subtitles in India, Korea, Taiwan, and in Eastern Europe. We similarly started a daily 30 minute radio programme broadcast in Canada, USA, UK and New Zealand. We raised a significant amount of money for global missions, amounting to around 40 million dollars in total during those years, both from the congregation and our TV audience to whom we annually presented a large project we wanted to help fund.
So, what have you been doing since you stood down as senior pastor of the People’s Church?
The church wanted to keep a relationship with me, so they call me ‘Pastor at Large’, which sounds a bit like something that has escaped from the zoo! There are no formal obligations in this. If I am invited somewhere and feel it is appropriate and a valuable use of time, I go. In our first year after stepping down, my wife Hilary and I were on all six continents, but its not about geography, it’s about people! My greatest joy is in knowing people are meeting more deeply with the Lord Jesus Christ and experiencing him more fully.
Of all the countries have visited, which would be your favourite and why?
I love different countries for different reasons. For a sense of belonging I love visiting Africa, for at the age of 18 I went to work for two and a half years on a large farm in Zimbabwe and was bitten by the Africa bug! Only people who have lived in Africa understand that! For intrigue, I love China with all its mysteries. For beauty, I have to say that New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. But England still feels “home” even though we live in Canada.
You were here in NZ in May this year for a 2 week speaking tour. How did that go and what were the highlights?
I was in Cambridge, Christchurch, Timaru and Dunedin. It’s hard to identify highlights, for all were different with their own highlights. In Dunedin an annual “Resurrection service”, to affirm belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead, in response to the challenge of that truth some years ago, was attended by more than 1500 people in the Town Hall and was a wonderful demonstration of unity, as well as of hunger and receptivity to the truths I tried to share of the Risen Christ being our Life.
You’re coming back out to NZ in December for the Keswick convention in Rotorua. Can you tell us a little about Keswick and your history with the ministry?
In the town of Keswick in the English Lake District some 144 years ago, Christians were called together for the purpose of the ‘deepening of spiritual life’. Its focus was not on any subject, but on an object – the object of holiness of life, lived by repentance and faith in dependence on the Spirit of God. It sparked a movement across the world, and there are still today many ‘Keswick Conventions’ in different parts of the world, and I have preached at a number. In Rotorua it is a holiday, a camp, a celebration built around the central purpose of meeting with God.
Preaching and teaching as much as you do might seem quite daunting to many people, especially with all the travel it entails. How do you keep fresh and focused on each assignment?
In every situation I have learned to say of Christ, ‘I can’t, but He can’ and then to trust him. I am fortunate in being able to travel well without too many negative side effects, and though I may say something I have said a hundred times before, it needs to come fresh to my own heart. Gods truth always has to come “to us” before it can ever go “through us”. That is the challenge and privilege in ministry.
What do you do for rest and relaxation?
What encouragement can you give to NZ men seeking to live authentic lives?
Authenticity is related to honesty. Many of us live behind masks created by expectations of ourselves or others. Life is not driven by a series of ‘musts’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ but by an open honest relationship with God that gives us the freedom to live open, honest and unashamed relationships with others. We do not learn the Christian life as theory, but as experience, and that comes as we bring God into every situation of our lives.
You’ve been writing for Authentic magazine from the beginning. What do you think of the magazine?
I love its intent, its quality, and the fact so many are now reading it.
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By Dave Firth
About the author
Dave Firth is CEO of Authentic Christian Trust
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