“Don’t ever put pressure on yourself to lead somebody to Christ. Honestly, it’s actually not you who leads people to Christ. It’s Jesus – He draws people.
“We are the sowers in that process and sometimes we get to be the reapers, but He gets the increase and we just have to trust that person in God’s hands.”
Luke Collis’ heart is full of passion for evangelism and reaching the lost.
Based in Hawke’s Bay, Luke heads up a team, mostly made up of “amazing volunteers”, who help facilitate an outreach movement called UNASHAMED.
For about five years, Luke and his team have been following a prompting of God and a two-fold mission – a desire to see every young person in New Zealand reached with the message of Jesus and to raise up a movement of Christian young people committed to doing the same.
Jeremy Smith finds out more about UNASHAMED…
We here at Authentic love your unbridled passion for sharing the Gospel message of Jesus. Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood and how you came to know Christ?
I was brought up in a believing home. My dad is a passionate evangelist. It was instilled in me from an early age that as a Christian, you share Christ – it just went hand in hand.
Thinking back, I remember a moment when my personal relationship with Jesus became incredibly real to me. At the end of Year 12, I was offered an apprenticeship, but it fell through. So, there I was, leaving school with nothing to do. I got a full time job at a factory, which ended up being a really difficult time in my life – it was a dark environment.
One day after work, my parents were going to pick me up, but they had forgotten. As I began the 8km journey home, I just remember reaching a certain point along the way and crying out to God, pouring out my heart. I was questioning His reality.
A verse I’d learned in Sunday school came to mind. ”The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” – Psalm 19:1. Right then, I looked up at the sky and saw the biggest, brightest shooting star. In that moment, God spoke to my heart, and just told me He loved me. Everything shifted – all doubt about His reality vanished and I knew He had a plan and a purpose for my life. God began to open doors to share Jesus with people and wherever I was I had that on my heart. It was never something forced, it just began to overflow.
You mentioned that as Christians we are all called to share Jesus – but the fear of man often stops us. Can you offer some encouragement regarding overcoming that?
Hang out with people who don’t walk in the fear of man! I find that if I’m not consistently spending one on one time with Jesus, I lack bravery. But when I’m walking with Jesus closely and He tells me to step out, I’ve found myself in all types of situations.
Yes, at times sharing the Gospel can be scary and you’ve got to overcome worries about what people will think. But walk with Jesus and take little steps – it could be something simple like just having a conversation with people, but listen to the Lord as He prompts you and take those opportunities.
Once, when I was in Sylvia Park in Auckland, I was literally in the food court eating sushi and felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to stand up right there and share the Gospel with people.
I honestly thought I would get booed, but I stood up and just said something simple like “Kia Ora every one, my name’s Luke and there’s something I’d just like to share with you. Many of you feel like there is no hope, like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I just want to tell you that there is and His name is Jesus.” And as soon as I said that, there was this eruption of applause.
I then spent about 30 seconds sharing the Gospel and simply said, “you guys have a great day.” When I sat down I felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Luke, it’s not until you step out that I will step in.” That has always stuck with me.
How would you encourage other Christian men?
Let’s be intentional about spending time alone with Jesus. Sometimes I think we focus more on journeying together and our pursuit of God together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic being in community. But let’s not neglect time where we are just alone with God – like Daniel. Nobody sees necessarily, but we’re alone spending time with Jesus. Even Jesus went to quiet places to spend time with the Father. Out of that flows rivers of living water, welling up to eternal life. I think that’s where the Christian life really comes alive, as we pursue Jesus.
Sometimes, as we spend time with God, we may not understand exactly what He is teaching us in that moment – but in season it will bear fruit.
Psalm 1 verses 1-3 says, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take, or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.”
I also think of Joshua 1:7. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”
Can you tell me about your family?
I am married to Jess and we have four kids – Liberty (8), Corban (6), and Camille (3). Our youngest child Joshua was in May. Jess actually quit her job to join me in ministry, so that was a step of faith in itself. I couldn’t do what we do without a supportive wife and Jess is 100 percent supportive – an absolute gift from God who I am so grateful for. She’s got opposite giftings to me. I’m kind of spur of the moment, unorganised and I can roll with stuff. She’s super organised.
That’s so cool that you’re in ministry together! That requires complete reliance on God. Can you tell me how you got into ministry and how you’ve found living a life marked by faith in Him for your sufficiency?
I would say, and perhaps this applies to the evangelism side of things as well, that you don’t ever really get comfortable in it, you just have to get used to being uncomfortable.
I’ve been in ministry for 12 years now. Prior to 2016 when UNASHAMED started, I was with a number of other organisations – Open Air Campaigners (OAC), Word Of Life for two years and alongside my church.
In every step of faith there’s an element of discomfort – but it’s about completely trusting Jesus, embracing that discomfort and stepping out. You will grow in your ability to trust God, because He will consistently come through. During all of those years in ministry, it has literally been living by faith and not knowing how God is going to provide financially. Two years ago when we decided to go full time with UNASHAMED, that was a step of faith again. I had had a part time job as well up until that point, but when we trusted God we never had to worry about money – in the early days we had amazing stories of how God came through.
Matthew 6:25-34 is probably a life-long verse for me. Jesus tells us not to worry about our lives, what we eat, or drink or wear. He tells us that life is more than that. He reminds us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
You mentioned the beginnings of UNASHAMED. Could you tell me about how that started and the heart behind the movement?
A few years back, I lived in Ngāruawāhia and myself and a group of young adults just started hanging out with some youth down at the skatepark.
Many of the kids were young people who were dealing with neglect, the fact that there were times when their parents weren’t home and struggling for food.
It became a regular thing – every Monday night we would just hang out, have a sausage sizzle and share Christ with these kids.
Out of that, young people just started coming to know Jesus, so we moved into a church building across the road from the skate park. Then, the school opened up to us.
Essentially, I found myself becoming a youth pastor of a youth group of mainly young people who would never step foot in a church – a group I led for two years.
God opened my eyes then to the fact that so many young people were open. The thing that was holding them back wasn’t that they’d heard the message of Jesus and rejected it. But that they’d actually never even heard it. For so many of them, when they were presented with the message of Jesus in an authentic, genuine way, they were so hungry. UNASHAMED literally came out of a vision to see the Gospel message go forth like never before and see every young person in Aotearoa reached with the message of Jesus.
We then ran an event sharing the Gospel in as creative a way as we could – seeking to speak their language. It was a night full of the creative arts, spoken word, drama and music, all summed up with the challenge to come to Jesus.
So many of the students from the local high school gave their lives to Christ. The head boy even wrote about it on Facebook and it spread like wildfire.
The very next day we were planning to go to the Hawkes Bay to run a similar event but we just had to pull the plug. All these young people needed discipleship, and so every single day after school we’d meet with them, hang out, have some kai and learn how to practically walk out our faith.
Usually before an UNASHAMED event we’ll have a pre-event called The Commission and it prepares the Christian young people with the UNASHAMED vision. That helps to equip them in sharing their faith and then a couple of weeks later, we’ll come along with the main event. The idea being that in the meantime, they can be praying and inviting their non-Christian friends along.
The calling of UNASHAMED that God laid on your heart then began to be ‘noised abroad’ further than Ngāruawāhia didn’t it? All around New Zealand in fact…
Yes. We ended up partnering with about 20 youth groups in the Waikato and running a city-wide UNASHAMED event in Hamilton. And young people were coming to know Christ.
Hamilton opened the door for another event – in Tauranga, then one in Whanganui. Then, as we followed God’s leading, people started asking us to hold UNASHAMED events in places all over New Zealand. Young people are hungry for Jesus.
In New Zealand today, I believe there are about 700,000 young people between the ages of 13-25. Approximately 600,000 of those don’t go to church. So, that means only about 100,000 young people either attend a church or know Christ.
Raising up those 100,000 young people to share their faith is key to how I believe we will reach the 600,000 young people for Jesus.
If those 100,000 people shared the Gospel with just six people who don’t know Christ, our whole nation would be reached.
In John 4, Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman at the well. It’s an encounter that impacted that woman so much that she went and told her whole town “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
That’s what our young people need – an encounter with Jesus. From there, everything changes.
Speaking of those 600,000 young people, what’s it like when you see even one of those lives touched by the transforming power of Jesus?
I can’t even describe it really. Fairly often I’ll get someone coming up to me somewhere and say, “Luke, I just want to thank you – you led me to Christ. My reaction is to give all glory back to Him and simply say, “Jesus, you are awesome!”
It’s beautiful, not only when you see that young person come to Christ, but then when you see them also get really well discipled in a church, begin witnessing to their friends and then seeing their friends come to know Christ.
I remember once, the head boy of Morrinsville College weeping on my shoulder and saying “thank you, thank you!” Honestly, sharing Jesus is what I was born for. It’s actually what we were all made for. We’ve all got different callings, yes, but Christ’s commission was not just to evangelists – it was to His disciples, all believers. It’s wonderful seeing someone surrendering their life to Christ
With the work UNASHAMED does, we’re surrounded by a massive volunteer team from all around the nation who give so much of their time, completely unpaid. They serve because they have a heart for young people.
Are there steps we can take as Christians to perhaps be more effective in sharing our faith with people?
Philemon says it like this, ”I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
This verse is actually not talking about sharing your faith with unbelievers, but rather sharing your faith with other believers. There is something deep to that. If we step out and begin to connect with other believers, encourage them in their faith and speak into their lives, then that’s actually going to help us when we step out and look to connect with those who don’t know Jesus. It doesn’t need to be forced, or something awkward – it comes naturally. Just start a conversation.
We shouldn’t feel pressured to get out the whole Gospel in one sitting. Let’s use the analogy of the Gospel being like a whole pizza – sometimes you don’t want to grab the whole Gospel and shove it down people’s throats. Some are ready for that whole pizza, but some people just need a slice – they need one aspect of that whole message. In the moments where you have a chance to share, you’ve got to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as to what to share at what time, and then trust God with the results.
You’ve spoken of looking for opportunities to reach people by ‘speaking their language’. One avenue you’ve explored is your spoken word pieces to camera and other video content on social media. Those have created some cool opportunities to speak into young people’s lives haven’t they?
I’ve always envied rap artists like Lecrae and others to be honest! They are passionate about Jesus and are using their art form to captivate an audience and communicate a message. I’m creative, but I can’t sing for peanuts, I can’t rap and I can’t play a musical instrument that well. But what I can do is speak.
I remember seeing a spoken word artist early on and thinking it was awesome. It got my thinking about whether I could write my testimony in spoken word format. I did, but never used it.
One day though, I was having a quiet time at a place in Ngāruawāhia called The Point. As I’m reading my Bible, two young Māori boys arrive in a car. We got chatting and they asked me what I was reading. It turned out they were in town for a spoken word competition and they had made the finals, which were going to be later that night. I asked one of them to share one of their spoken words with me and it was powerful – all about his desire to return to his Māori roots.
As he spoke, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me that it was my time to share – and so I did. When he finished I asked him if I could share a spoken word with him – my testimony. It was a powerful moment and God was moving. I was amazed, because he then asked me to come along that night and share my spoken word at the competition.
So, there I was standing on stage in front of all these people – with the very first words of my testimony being “…do you know Him?”. Amazing. How overt is that? Subsequently, I recorded it and put it online and so many people were contacting me telling me how it had impacted them. My third spoken word reached 70,000 views online. From that experience, God really gave me a heart and a desire to find creative ways to speak young people’s language, in order to reach them for Christ.
In addition to the outreaches we spoke about, at the end of last year you held the first ever UNASHAMED training camp. Can you tell me about the vision for those?
Absolutely. Those have opened up a whole new world. We spoke about equipping those 100,000 young people, and that’s the thought behind these training camps. I’m super excited about doing more. Seeing young people grow in their faith and go from timid and quiet to bold and courageous is amazing.
The camps are nine days and are limited to 10 young people per camp so we can spend time investing in them. The camps are all about raising up a generation of young people who are equipped and emboldened to share their faith.
The idea going forward is to have a series of other camps as we progress which will see young people who have already been to camps helping to equip and train other young people.
It’s important to note that while we consider ourselves a voice in evangelism, we partner with local churches to see young people come to Christ and then linked in with those local churches.
Looking forward to 2021, can you tell me a little bit about the vision for UNASHAMED this year?
Last year we’d been aiming to run about eight gatherings, but because of Covid-19 we only ran four.
As a team, we had set a long term goal to be running annual events in seven regions of New Zealand by 2023.
We’ll achieve seven regions this year – likely with three events in every region. In two years, God-willing, we’ll have annual UNASHAMED events in 12 regions, maybe even up to 14.
Truthfully, there’s just such a hunger for Jesus, that demand is exploding and opportunities to enter new territories are opening up. Our overarching question as we follow God’s leading, one step at a time wherever we go, is “…what will it take to reach Hamilton for Jesus? What will it take to reach Tauranga for Jesus? What will it take to reach Aotearoa’s young people for Jesus?”
Thanks so much for sitting down to catch up Luke! To find out more about UNASHAMED, or for information about dates and locations of regional UNASHAMED outreach events in 2021, visit www.unashamed.nz. To watch some of Luke’s spoken word videos, visit the UNASHAMED Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/unashamedNZ
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By Jeremy Smith
About the author
Jeremy Smith is the assistant editor of Authentic Magazine
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