Tell us about yourself, Carl.
I’m married to Karen with two daughters (aged 13 and 11) a dog, a cat and apparently a hamster lives somewhere in the house. I grew up in Romford and Hornchurch (TOWIE) and had a fantastic childhood growing up with a sister who is a few years older than me and parents who were devoted to each other and to us. My Dad was a policeman who had something of an illustrious career involving some pretty full on work with the CID running various elite squads and latterly as a senior murder investigator. My mum, a former dress maker was always there for us and seemed to spend most of the time singing and I remember them always laughing together. Mum and Dad are still alive and together and were and are a fantastic role model of being faithful and deeply devoted to each other. My family weren’t church goers in any sense and it was basically after talking the mick out of a mate who I discovered was a “born again Christian” (as he described it) that led me going to church after he challenged me to go by saying that I was a “right chicken” for avoiding Jesus in front of some mates. I only kept going because there was a girl there I really fancied! Having had a burning ambition to join the British Army since year dot, I basically met Jesus and distinctly heard him call me to “fight a different type of battle”. So, to cut a long story short, I went to uni and studied building, worked in a bank in London as a salesman and then at age 24 planted a church from scratch on a very tough council estate. From there I became team leader of a large church with multiple congregations and a large team and then took a step of faith to leave that to focus on evangelism. Along the way, the girl I fancied became my wife and the rest is an ongoing story of living something of a roller-coaster ride!
You head up Christian Vision for Men – tell us about that too.
CVM is a movement of men who want other men to meet Jesus. It’s a grass roots movement working across the UK from the toughest parts of Belfast through to suburban Surrey. We are now operating in about 10 nations with more coming on line all the time, from Cambodia to Canada. Last year in the UK alone we estimate that we got the message of Jesus to about 250,000 men who aren't yet believers and the network in the UK ran about 4,500 outreach events. Amazing really because we are a very small team, with not a lot of cash, working from a small office in Chesterfield! We also educate the church on men, male culture, gearing church for men and deal with stuff that men face such as porn, violence against women, integrity issues, faithfulness etc. We also run conferences and camps and partner with churches and networks from the Salvation Army to New Wine!
What inspired you to create The Code, CVM’s call to men to live an uncompromised, Jesus-centred life? What impact is it having?
I was in the shower and crying out to God for the way to win one million men to Christ. I immediately had this phrase “the code” in my head and wrote down four statements, starting with “Jesus is my master and commander.” (Basically because I had just watched the Russell Crowe movie!) I took it to the team and announced that I had found the method to disciple men into a missional lifestyle only to see a number of raised eyebrows. In a nutshell, I sat on it for two years and kept re-writing it with some mates. Along the way, I bumped into Peter Grant who was at the time International Director of Tear Fund. He told me that he had a vision to provide a Christian Response to Violence against women and that he had written a few statements down. I couldn't believe it!! There was such a synergy between us and a real sign that this was of God. So, we now have “The Code”, 12 aspirational statements for living a Jesus-centered life. It’s holistic, straight out of the Bible and is resulting in many men coming to faith or getting back onto the narrow path. There’s a little book and also a year’s worth of study material for free online. I really think that through this we can tackle so many issues that numb and blunt men’s walk with Jesus. It’s also been partly responsible for the global spread of our work.
Your passion is to see more men becoming Christians and actively involved in the church. Why do you think congregations are mainly female? What do churches need to do about it?
What we’re hearing is that more women are leaving the church or stepping back from faith because their contribution is not welcome. How can churches be places where both women and men can thrive?
Interesting. My view is that we want to create healthy churches that are fantastic for women, men and youth. Balance is key I think. There are of course churches that restrict the roles women can have but these intriguingly often also have a deficit of men. Let’s face it, the kind of men we often recruit into leadership and the training methods we use are also pretty prohibitive to the average builder who finds Jesus. I don’t think he is geared up for writing a 5,000 word essay on a theology of Old Testament worship and he probably doesn’t want to! The same of course applies to many women who find Jesus. I think we need a radical look at the whole issue of church and leadership. Our culture is leaving us behind and we still use an essentially Victorian model and wonder why we see so much decline. Having said that, some Anglican dioceses are now ordaining more women than men and many denominations now ordain women. I have also worked alongside female ministers as both a Baptist minister and now an Elim minister. I can totally see however that for a woman to find Jesus and be absolutely full of it, only to discover that everywhere in the world and wherever God takes her, she can use her talents and gifts to serve God apart from in her church, it would be pretty devastating. This argument isn’t going to go away quickly but what we don’t want however is a gender war where as a result we get deeper entrenched into division and hurt. Again, I speak as an evangelist. In my view we need all hands on deck to win a nation! As an aside I think we should rejoice where there are differences, laugh at our idiosyncrasies, avoid intensity, not take ourselves too seriously but the mission really seriously.
Some people say that men won’t be comfortable in a church with a female leader. What’s your response to that?
It’s not something that I feel uncomfortable with personally. It’s fair to say that I really want to feel like I’m being led into battle for something worth fighting for. I guess I look for that quality in whoever is leading a church, so the ideal female leader for a bloke like me is probably like a redeemed Boadicea! Perhaps it’s more about style than anything else. I was in church recently when a female leader said that Jesus wants to “romance us today”. No thanks! Where does that come from? I’ve also heard a male leader tell me to run into Jesus arms and bang on about love that’s more akin to eros than agape. No thanksI
I currently worship in an Anglican church and I always value what our female curate has to say. Equally, our rector is a bit of a bloke and brings his own perspectives to bear. Feels pretty healthy to me. Sure, there maybe a personal issue that I would be uncomfortable sharing with a female leader but that’s why I think we need people in leadership that both sexes can go to in confidence. One of my senior staff members who happens to be a woman, told me that she would feel uncomfortable going to a male church leader about some things. So I think it cuts both ways. I think we need to hear perspectives from both genders and all age groups. I’m a believer in team ministry and think that to reach a world made up of men and women, those who don’t believe need to hear from the redeemed of both sexes! I don't agree with the teaching that men and women are only different biologically, I think we are wired differently as well. Most neuroscience shows this so I think we need both sexes’ perspectives and outlook.
And others are calling for Christian men to conform to a rather macho stereotype. Do you agree that there’s one model of masculinity that all guys should aspire to?
I think that’s shallow, unhelpful and a bit idiotic and toxic really. As a cheeky plug, I wrote a blog recently on this on carlbeech.com called “Real men ain’t wimps” that explores this issue in more depth. I myself am a mix of things. I write poems, don’t like football, play piano, like rugby, bonfires, cooking, star wars lego, art, animals, xbox and Top Gear and I married a veggie. Go figure! Of course, there are blokes out there who are really full on blokes and we need to reach them too and show that the message of Jesus is for them as well, calling them to a redeemed life of blokeishness! I think that the church has really failed to do this. Interestingly, whenever we do stuff for those sorts of guys we always get a mild backlash of being too blokey which I find really intriguing. I do think that we need to challenge men and I also think that we need to take the call for sacrifice really seriously. Men are called to lay down their lives for their wives as Christ loved the church (if they are married) and I think that’s a very high calling. I think we should teach men about sacrifice. I think it means we need as men to apologise first, carry the can and take a hit on behalf of the women in our lives. I would say to women to not try and stop us from doing that, as we are called to do so in scripture and its a great use of our testosterone! My wife and I are a team but in a world where my bigger muscles and physical strength is mostly redundant (I no longer need to be a hunter gatherer and kill a stag for dinner) I think I can use my testosterone for something more life giving in my family and wider relationships. Again, I explore some of this on my blog. There is a danger of telling blokes they are redundant, so it’s a matter of finding out and exploring just what we are good for, without unhelpfully stereotyping. So let’s just rejoice in it without feeling threatened and totally ignore some of the extreme teaching out there that just creates more polarisation.
You’ve got two daughters. What are your hopes for them as they grow up?
I want them to be everything that they can be and use everything that God has given them. I want them to know Jesus and be happy... They are both incredibly different. One is a hugely talented artist for her age and the other is really academic and loves science. Emily plays football as a goalie and Annie does ballet! I want them to know that there is no restriction on what they can do with the gifts and talents that have been given, other than God telling them not to do something! I’m praying already for any future husbands they might have, should this be part of God’s plan and praying for their happiness and fulfillment as people which I believe is only truly found in knowing Jesus. Emily recently gave her life to Jesus after reading the bible by herself which is amazing and really moving. In a nutshell, I want them to be what they were made by God to be.
Anything you’d like to say to Sophia members?
Please pray for us and support us. We are simply trying to see men come to faith and we need all the help we can get from women. I’m thinking of doing a tour on how women can help men find God as well as exploring some of our differences. Could be fun without any hint of controversy at all! ;)