A driving force behind some of the UK’s most dynamic Christian projects, Steve Clifford comes to the Evangelical Alliance with a strong track record of mobilising the grass roots church to reveal Christ to the community.
Born in Bradford in 1954, Steve became acquainted with tragedy at just five years old, when his father – an Anglican vicar – was killed by a drunk driver, leaving his mother to raise her sons alone.
The eldest of two boys, Steve developed a resourcefulness and sense of responsibility which became apparent in his teens, when he was appointed head boy of Grange Boys Grammar School. A keen all-round sportsman, he also played football for Bradford Boys and swam for his city.
He became a Christian at the age of 17, when he took a summer job at Capernwray Hall Christian centre in Lancashire and heard a talk about Jesus.
“I’d heard it all before, I knew the story, but somehow it all made sense in a way that it hadn’t done previously,” he said.
“It was an absolutely pivotal moment of conversion, giving my life to Christ.”
Steve embraced his faith with a similar gusto as he did sport, and the following year he travelled to Denmark, where he spent a year, amongst other things, running a café ministry in Copenhagen on one of the first Youth With A Mission (YWAM) projects.
He returned to London to study for a degree in theology at London Bible School (now London School of Theology), where he met his wife, Ann – and played football for the same team as the Alliance’s previous General Director, Joel Edwards.
After a brief period as a salesman and social worker, Steve embarked on teacher training in 1978, at Carnegie School of Physical Education. He taught for five years, running a unit for pupils withdrawn from mainstream studies in Longford School in Hounslow, later becoming Head of General Education at The Feltham School, while contributing to his local church as much as possible. In 1985 he decided to leave this promising career in education to pursue his passion for the church and become a Christian worker.
Since then, Steve has worked in a variety of church roles, including many, but not exclusively, amongst the Pioneer network of churches. Currently he is a member of the leadership team at his local church in West London.
As well as preaching and doing hands-on evangelism, youth work, schools work and church planting, Steve created the TIE Team (later to become DNA) discipleship course, which has trained several thousand workers. He also gives advice, training and support to numerous churches around the country.
In 1987, he was part of a small group of leaders who came up with a vision for a prayer walk around the City of London. Within months of the march stories of insider trading and greed began to emerge.
“I remember driving into London on the day of the walk, and it was pouring with rain,” he said.
“I thought nobody was going to turn up, but all these people arrived – 15,000 of them, in the pouring rain, to pray around London.”
The walk – initially called City March – grew into the international March for Jesus movement, with Steve as international chair. By 2000, when the movement officially ended with a millennium walk, an estimated 60 million people had participated in 180 countries.
“People from all kinds of backgrounds and all different countries got involved, across all sectors of Christianity,” said Steve.
“It was about the church in all its diversity getting out of its buildings and proclaiming Jesus on the streets. It felt like we were just running to catch up with what God was doing.”
Steve’s next big project started in 2003, when he was invited by Mike Pilavachi to chair the leadership team for the two-week Soul in the City project the following year.
This event brought 10,000 Christians from outside London, and a further 10,000 from London, together to volunteer around the city for two weeks, doing everything from painting and clearing rubbish to befriending the elderly.
“It was fantastic seeing the church talking about the good news of Jesus Christ, and reflecting that in its actions as well,” said Steve.
“Both words and actions are vitally important to sharing the gospel. When you look at the life of Jesus, that’s what he did.”
Following the success of Soul in the City, Steve became chair of the leadership team for Soul Survivor – an international youth ministry with 25,000 young people attending its festivals in the UK alone.
On an even larger scale, Steve was chair of Hope 2008, mobilising churches to demonstrate Christian faith in action and to explain the meaning of that faith in villages, towns and cities throughout the UK.
Thousands of churches took part through the year in more than 1,400 locations. Hope 2008 was commended by police, government and royalty with Gordon Brown recently holding an event to honour their volunteers at 10 Downing Street, and Prince Charles hosting a celebratory event at Clarence House.
“It was really about the local church,” said Steve. “Churches from the same cities who had never worked together before were coming together for the first time. They were working together collaboratively, but really making it their own, so that it would work in their local community.”
Steve was offered the role of General Director of the Evangelical Alliance in December 2008, and plans to start in April 2009.
Already a long-serving board and council member of the Alliance, he said he is excited about its vision and future potential.
“I am delighted by this fantastic opportunity to bring my leadership into the organisation, with all the chances it offers for contributing a positive influence to both society and the church across the UK,” he said.
“I think the Alliance has a unique contribution to make to Britain, speaking up, alongside others, about the kind of society we want to live in.”
Mike Talbot, the Alliance’s Chair of Board, said: “We are delighted to make this appointment.
“Steve is a leader of leaders, gifted at enabling and mobilising teams and individuals into action, with a real ability to build partnerships with people from across the
Christian spectrum. He is a visionary and I am excited to see how his vision has consistently centred around mission and evangelism.
“These qualities leave us in no doubt that he is the right person to take forward the Alliance, which exists to unite evangelicals in transforming society. He is well placed to lead the Alliance staff team in representing, networking and resourcing its members in the service of Christ.”
Mike Pilavachi of Soul Survivor, also a member of the Evangelical Alliance Council, said, “Steve is a man of total integrity who empowers others and has displayed vision and courage in all that we have worked on together, including Soul in the City, Soul Survivor and Hope08. He is much much more than a team player or a facilitator. He is, in my opinion, a great leader.”
Steve and Ann have a son Jake and a daughter Jordan, and live in West London.