Quite how I became familiar with Sam Radford has been lost in the mists of time. I honestly can’t remember what it was that started a dialog that has been going on for at least a couple of years now, but I’m glad it happened, cause he’s a diamond. Sam describes himself as a “futurist, catalyst, change agent, tech lover, web designer, and human potential maven “, so it’s obvious to me that he’s an interesting guy.
I recently asked Sam a few questions to see if I could find out a little more about what drives him….and whether he can remember how we started talking!
Sam! Can you tell us a little about your story, so we have a little bit of background? Who is Sam Radford?
Hey Johnny, thanks for the opportunity to tackle these questions. And yeah, I too don’t remember the exact details about how we first connected. Regardless, it was obviously meant to be!
To the question! Well, yeah, who am I? Boy do I wish I knew! Whilst I’m figuring that out, here’s a few details:
I’m 32, married to my gorgeous wife, Rachel, and we have a 14 month old baby called Eloise. I live in Sheffield where I’ve been since 1996 when I came to study Business IT.
As to what I do, the question really is where do I start?! My main paid job is as a ‘technical content administrator’ for a government funded website for over 40,000 maths teachers. No, I’m not into maths! I am however into websites and design and, specifically, I work on the video, audio, and animation that goes on the site.
Also, I am the founder and ‘executive producer’ (still figuring out what that means) for Vox Sheffield. Vox is a not-for-profit creative arts community that is focussed on making the world a better place. We’re all about showcasing creativity, building community, and working together for a better world. We run music, arts and spoken word nights, book clubs, improv. comedy workshops, family play days, etc, etc.
Then there is Mosaic . Mosaic is a faith community that me and Rachel started a few years back. We are all about creating an interesting, inclusive, accessible, and diverse community where people can explore, question, and journey together whilst focussing on and seeking to follow the person of Jesus Christ. It’s messy, informal, and a whole lot of fun!
Finally, Mosaic actually employs me for one day a weeks worth of time to serve other groups and organisations. Specifically, I do a lot of work for Oasis South Africa , helping them with their website, technology issues, and I do strengths training with their staff. I also give quite a bit of time to other churches and organisation in Sheffield doing strengths training. And, thirdly, I use some of that time to help with the International Mentoring Network.
I know, I know. That was more of a ‘what do I do’ than a ‘who am I’, but it’s the best I’ve got for now! Oh, and
I promise my next answers will be shorter.
The words you use to describe yourself online seem to put you at the leading edge. Is that a fair assessment, and if so, how did you find yourself arriving in that place?
Haha! They either put me at ‘the leading edge’ as you put it or just as a pretentious git!
But yeah, I am a very future orientated person. Me and Rachel always joke that she gets to know people by asking where they’ve come from, whilst I always am asking them where they’re going. We make a good team that way.
I am fascinated by the future. I think that the message of Jesus and his kingdom is all about the future breaking into the present. I’m the sort of person who enjoys being out on the edge, trying new things, not being afraid to fail. I’m a pioneering personality. I think part of my role is to pave a way so that others can come along afterwards and do a much better job than we did. But, if we hadn’t gone first, they’d never be doing it.
I’m not sure how I became this sort of person. I’ve never been someone who has settled for the status quo. I’ve always asked questions that others felt they perhaps not even meant to ask. And that sometimes gets me into trouble. I was just 17 when I was first effectively asked to leave a church I was part of for asking the ‘wrong’ questions!
You have a number of connections with various communities or tribes, as well as having a number of roles within them. How does it all fit together?
It fits together as a beautiful mess called life! I don’t really separate these things out. I understand integrity to mean having one, integrated life, rather than a life made up of very different, segmented parts. So Mosaic, Vox, work, IMN, family…they just all blend together. We really don’t as a family ‘go to church’. We are simply part of a faith community, it’s integrated into our lives. Essentially, I just do a lot of stuff that I love and do it with people that I love.
My gift, I think, is to help others thrive. I’m not the most talented person in our community at anything really. But I’m great at helping develop the environments where all those far more talented people than me can actually bring their talents to the fore. That’s my talent. And I try and bring that to all the different communities and projects that I’m involved with.
You help lead a faith community in Sheffield called Mosaic. Were you there from the beginning? What kind of journey has it been with the folks there?
Yeah, as I mentioned earlier, me and Rachel started Mosaic several years ago. We’d both been on leadership (me: assistant pastor, Rachel: worship director) at a Pentecostal black majority church for around five years and had felt that God was summoning us away from there to do something that’d be more accessible for people who would never even venture close to a mainstream church. And so we started Mosaic.
It’s been an fascinating journey since then. We’ve learnt a lot through a combination of mistakes and accidental success! We’ve grappled with finding the right relationship to things like structure. Structure, as we see it, you see isn’t good or bad necessarily; but it is a wonderful servant and a terrible master.
We’re struggled through the challenges of doing something that doesn’t ‘feel’ like church as we know it. It is amazing how much of our faith is directly attached to so many institutional church structures, systems, programmes, buildings and services. And when they get taken away, it can be pretty exposing and unsettling and leave us craving what we had before! Guiding people through that has been interesting and challenging – and we’re still not there yet.
There’s SO much more to share here, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
I’m intrigued about how you came to be involved with Alex and Erwin McManus. How did that happen?
That’s pretty random actually. No time to tell the full story but, in short, it’s thanks to Google! I had had the name Mosaic in my head for a while but couldn’t figure out the reason why. When we realised we were to go and start something new, I immediately knew that it should be called Mosaic. Then, when searching around the word Mosaic on Google, I came across Mosaic in LA . I read through their website and ordered Erwin’s book ‘An Unstoppable Force’ (HIGHLY recommended by the way), and it was like reading something that put in to words all the thoughts we’d been having. Even the five values he talked about matched the things we’d been jotting down!
So, we got in touch with Alex who was the international liaison at the time. And, long story short, we ended up being part of his seven day mentoring immersion ran by the IMN in LA and this included, as part of that, attending Mosaic’s annual conference. And we’ve been in relationship ever since.
I work most closely with Alex as part of my role with the IMN, but I try and catch up with Erwin whenever he’s in the UK and we dialogue via email now and then.
Can I ask you about the concept of “mission”. What is it that informs your sense of mission?
Wow. Big question. This interview is already not far off becoming a book and now you ask me that!
I guess ultimately I’d narrow it down to two things: Jesus and people. I’m a totally Jesus focussed and Jesus centred person. Jesus is the filter through which I see and interpret everything. If he turns out to be a fake, I’m scuppered!
Ultimately, I see my life as being about a continuation of what Jesus started through his life and then brought to fruition through his death, resurrection, ascension and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And what was Jesus’ life all about? People. He was for humanity. He stood up for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the sick, the lonely, the sinful. You know, people! Us! And that’s the type of person I want to be and what I want my life to be all about.
I think Jesus is the best hope that our world has. I want my life to represent him well and to point people towards him. I want to be a voice of hope.
Did I forget anything you feel it would be important to share?
I think if anyone has made it this far they deserve a simple ‘no’ to this question!