Interview with Graham Hooper – author of ‘Undivided’
Graham, before we start discussing how you came to write ‘Undivided’, can you tell us a little but about your own working life? I gather you have seen quite a bit of the world!
Yes my job has taken me around quite a bit! I grew up in UK, where I graduated as a civil engineer. I then went out to Tanzania for 2 years to work for the Game Department, in the Selous Game Reserve in the south. I went on to work on a port development project in Mauritius for six years before taking a 2-year ‘ time out’ to study theology at Trinity College, Bristol. We then moved out to work in Papua new Guinea. Through my role as a senior executive with a global infrastructure company, we have also lived for extended periods in Australia and have spent the past five years based in Dubai. My wife and I are enjoying being back in Australia, nearer our children and grandchildren.
Graham, can you tell us briefly how you came to faith in Christ?
It was while I was in East Africa. When I packed my gear to go out there I threw in a hard copy New Testament which I had received as a prize at school, but which had remained unopened. I thought it would be useful for pressing flat family photos. I lived in a tent for a year and had a lot of time in the evenings to read and I eventually got round to picking up the New Testament. I started to read (perversely) at the end, in the book of Revelation, The words in the first chapter: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega , says the Lord God,, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” had a profound effect on me. There was a God who began it all, who would end it all and who kept it all going. I realised I had finally found the framework for life. At around the same time, I received a long letter from a hippy friend from University telling me that he had been ‘converted’ to Christ. He had no Christian background. He explained the gospel to me in his letter and ended by saying that he had come to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and, in that belief , ‘everything fitted into place’ It was over a period of several months following that I came to understand that I was fundamentally sinful and that Jesus Christ had died for me but that experience in my tent in the bush was the turning point in my life.
I have spent most of my life working in ‘the secular world’ seeking to live out my faith.. A few years ago I became increasingly concerned at the gap I experienced between what went on at church and life out in the world. There seemed to be a lot of unreality, of real issues being ignored or swept under the carpet. As I thought and prayed about that I started to reflect on all the other gaps in our experience:
- the gap between the world as we would like it to be and how it is
- the gap between who I wanted to be and my actual experience
- the gap between how we like people to perceive us and how we really are
- the gap between the Christianity professed in churches and the Christianity practised by many churchgoers
- the gaps between the religious and the routine, the sacred and the secular, and
- underlying it all, the gaps in our understanding and knowledge of God.
This drove me to back to the Scriptures where I realised that God’s people have always struggled with these things, albeit in a different historical context. I wanted to earth what I learned from the Scriptures with what I experienced in my own life and what I learned from others.
I have written this from the heart over a period of about 3 years and that made writing relatively easy. It was a labour of love. I just sought to relate the Bible to my life and experience. IVP (InterVarsity Press) in UK liked the concept and the content and decided they wanted to publish it.
Who do you have in mind as the primary audience for this book?
Anyone who is struggling to bridge these gaps and live an honest, integrated life as a Christian. I suppose I have tried to write a book I would like to have read in my twenties or thirties but I hope here is something there for all ages
If you had to summarise the single most important message of ‘Undivided’, what would it be?
God is at work to close all these gaps and make us whole. This is good news in a divided and disintegrating world. From our side, God sees the same person at work on Mondays as he sees in Church on Sunday. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves and not divide our life into compartments, each with its own behaviours, but rather bring our whole life, our work, our relationships and our plans under the control of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Being an ‘undivided’ Christian seems to me something for which we have both an individual and corporate responsibility. What advice would you give us as individuals and as members of church communities as to how we can help one another pursue the goal of an undivided life?
We spend the vast majority of our waking hours at work rather than at church. It’s in our daily work that our faith is tested as we grapple with difficult relationships,, ethical problems, financial and health worries. I suspect there are many Christians who lock these problems up and come to church on Sundays portraying an image that ‘everything is fine’ when it really is not. We need to find someone, or a small group, to talk through and pray through these issues that face us in living as a Christian at home and at work. It’s a lonely road when you feel that your church does not support you in this or when there is no one you can share with and pray with. If God’s work is to make us whole people, (which it is) then the role of the church as Christ’s Body on earth must be to do the same. So churches need to encourage people to relate their faith to their daily task, at work and at home.