Tony Cummings spoke at length to Tim Jupp, the founder of the BIG CHURCH DAY OUT

Continued from page 1

Tony: What have been the attendances for BCDO?

Tim: We keep growing each year. We were just slightly shy of 20,000 people in 2014. I wouldn't be surprised if we grew quite significantly next year - maybe 25,000 people. Economically it's incredibly challenging. We run at a huge loss each year, even on those numbers. That's partly a vision thing too, because our vision is one of the main things that underpins the whole event: we really want it to be as inclusive to as many as possible so that's why we keep our prices so cheap.

Tony: Because of the relationships Delirious? built up with many top American artists, I wonder if you have been persuading them to come over to play BCDO for just the cost of the airfare?

The Big Church Day Out:  The rise of Britain's premier Christian
music event

Tim: No, we've paying everyone what they're due. People have come and supported us; they know they don't earn the same money coming to Europe as they would in the US. That's part of the huge expense of putting the show on. But I guess my currency was those relationships: I was able to pick up the phone and call people, invite people in. Pretty much for the first few years, everybody who came was a friend in one form or other - and in many cases still are. I'm gradually running out of friends! We've started bringing in artists I don't know! But relationship is still a very important thing for me. As you know, as well as the Big Church Day Out event we've also organised some UK tours under the name Big Church Night In. I was recently on a tour with Rend Collective and Phil Wickham. In some ways I didn't have to be with the guys on the tour but I travelled too because I love what they minister and the relationship I have with them. I'm always trying to build relationship.

Tony: Has Greenbelt's move away from its evangelical Christian moorings helped your event?

Tim: I'm sure it has a bearing on it; I'm not sure 'help' is the right way to describe it. In the landscape of what God's doing, there's space for all these expressions. The Big Church Day Out, as you've alluded to, is a different event. I love Greenbelt: I still go every year for a day or so. As you know, Delirious? played at Greenbelt for many years. Maybe the Big Church Day Out is ticking a box for some people that Greenbelt doesn't. I'm sure Greenbelt ticks boxes we don't. One of the important things for me about festivals is that corporate thing: there has to be a space at those big gatherings where everyone's together. That's part of the reason we have them in the first place, coming together and knowing we're part of something bigger. Greenbelt, from what I see, would have a lot of content in smaller amounts; we have fewer things going on but on a larger scale. We just have three stages. We don't have a talking programme, because the corporate identity of the Church coming together in worship is what is key to our vision.

Tony: Has it ever been suggested you start a major seminar programme?

Tim: People have sometimes suggested that, but I don't think that's what we're there for. In many ways, that responsibility lies with the local church, week in, week out. What we provide is something the local church can't provide - a massive gathering, and an opportunity to experience some influential worship leaders and artists from around the world. Saying that, there's a lot of teaching going on through the songs and people just being together.

Tony: For someone who's never been, BCDO is quite a hard event to describe. The word that comes into my mind is 'party'. There's an inclusivity in the great range of Christians there. Did you achieve that straight away, or did it take some tweaking?

Tim: What you do in these things is you start off with one vision, and they become multi-layered. The Big Church Day Out is definitely that. Some of the key layers of the onion of the vision of the Big Church Day Out would be the Church unity thing. I find that hard to explain or wrap a theology around, other than that I know when Jesus prayed for his Church he prayed that we would be one: he didn't pray for world peace or for the whole world to be healed, he prayed that we would be one. I get excited about that. I get excited because I see the conversation about unity. As I travel around and have the opportunity to meet different parts of the church I sense that conversation's getting louder everywhere. If the Big Church Day Out can play its part in what God's playing out in terms of unity, that's very exciting to me.

In some ways we have a vision, and that brings form to how things are played out; but also, I want to be holding things so lightly that if the wind blows another way and God says, 'This is where I want you to go with the whole thing', we don't become some monstrous structure that can't just blow with the wind. For me, this is where it comes back to the DNA that ran through us in Delirious? - all of us guys personally - is that utter conviction that the presence of Jesus can be the thing that really changes people's hearts. That's the thing I live for, and that was always the prayer every time we went on to play in Delirious?, all those 17 years, that people would meet with Jesus. One of the things you can't get on the internet is that corporate experience of the presence of God, and that's what the Big Church Day Out can do. I know that whilst there's all these different people coming from all sorts of different backgrounds within the Church, my heart is that they'll come and experience the presence of Jesus in a way they're not always used to on a day-to-day basis.

Tony: Unlike other events Big Church Day Out has avoided using labels like 'worship' and 'evangelistic'.

Tim: Because our vision is to be inclusive I've been careful about the label, so there is an intentional part to that. There's been lots of great events in recent years with very cool one-word names that sound very young and youthy. I thought, 'I don't want something that sounds like an exclusively youth thing, because the Church is everybody'. So our event has intentionally got a cheesy name. Also, it does what it says on the tin. I've never really used the world 'festival'. I love the word - in Old Testament times, the Church got together for festivals - but in our culture when you say 'festival' the immediate thing is music, and if all it is is music, it's just for young people, which BCDO certainly is not.

Tony: But it is more than a day out: it's two days out.