In memory of Colin Hart (1963-2024)

In memory of Colin Hart (1963-2024)
Colin Hart (1963-2024)
Mike Judge
Mike Judge Mike Judge. Editor of Evangelical Times, and pastor of Chorlton Evangelical Church in Manchester.
20 March, 2024 4 min read

My friend of 25 years, Colin Hart, died a week ago today. Even as I write those words, I’m still shocked and don’t quite believe it.

At any moment, I expect the phone to ring and hear his voice. Yet I shall never hear his voice again until we are reunited in the world to come.

It was only seven days ago that I received an urgent message, telling me that he had collapsed. An hour later I received another, telling me that Colin had gone.

Just seven days ago, but it already feels like an era-defining moment for me.

I first met Colin in 1999 when I applied to work at The Christian Institute. The interview process was an all-day affair, rigorous and detailed.

That was so typical of Colin. He was rigorous and detailed in everything he did. It could be infuriating at times!

But he believed – quite rightly – that if you’re going to stand for Christ in the public realm, you need to get it right.

Colin was at the very centre of issues being debated by parliament, the media, and the courts. So, there was no room for sloppiness.

It was that single-minded commitment to honouring God in everything that enabled him to start The Christian Institute from scratch.

Just think for a moment about what he accomplished. In his 20s, he gave up his job as a teacher and began to establish the Institute.

Working out of his spare bedroom, without any mailing list, without any staff, he began to set things in motion.

I joined the Institute when the staff team was relatively small. There were just a handful of us, and the budget was tight.

We used to work into the wee small hours, and then be up early the next day to put in another full shift. Those were exhausting times, but also thrilling.

And now, under God, the Institute is a well-established charity, with a large staff, supported by thousands upon thousands of Christians in the UK and beyond.

That wouldn’t have happened without Colin at the helm.

Yes, he had some talented and loyal senior members of staff alongside him, but be under no illusions – Colin was always the captain of the ship.

In his absence, I’m confident that the senior staff will continue in the way Colin would desire.

He was a man of great vision, spotting vital issues way ahead of other people. It was Colin, back in the early 2000s, who foresaw the gender confusion that afflicts our culture today.

At the time some Christians shamefully mocked Colin and the Institute for making such a big deal about issues like that. But these are the sort of issues that churches and Christians are now facing on a regular basis.

I left The Christian Institute in December 2013 to become pastor of Chorlton Evangelical Church in Manchester. It was one of the toughest decisions of my life.

Colin was not just my boss. He had become my brother. When you’re in the trenches, taking flak from all sides, you develop a bond with those you fight alongside.

I feared, when I left the Institute, that I might break that bond. But I couldn’t be more wrong. If anything, the bond strengthened.

There was a side to Colin that most people didn’t get the chance to see. He was a caring, generous and loyal man. He spent many hours on the phone with me, giving me advice and encouragement.

When I took up the role of editing Evangelical Times, he was supportive. He didn’t always agree with everything I published (who does?). But even in his criticism, he was always a friend.

In recent years, I have been so glad to be a trustee of the Institute. It has given me an opportunity to retain a connection with the work.

Every time I attend a trustees meeting, I am constantly reminded of just how well run the Institute is. It’s a model of good governance and wise leadership.

Again, that’s all down to Colin, and the team he established.

It’s only since I left the Institute that I have realised just how lonely and pressurised leadership can be.

Whilst I was there, yes I had a stressful job as the Institute’s media spokesman and head of communications, but the final buck stopped with Colin.

I didn’t know it then, but I was always under his wing. I was always under the protection of him being the final decision maker. 

I wish I had appreciated that more at the time. I wish I had thanked him. I wish I had acknowledged the burdens he was under as leader of the Institute.

He visited me a couple of times in Manchester. I remember one particular occasion he visited with his good friend, and the Institute’s former chairman, John Burn.

I asked the two of them to speak at an impromptu event after my church’s evening service. The three of us sat at the front of church and talked about how the Institute came into being.

Most of the congregation stayed late into the evening, enthralled as Colin and John spoke about how they became friends, and how the idea of an ‘institute’ first came about.

Oh how I wish that occasion was recorded. They told some wonderful stories. But we didn’t know that Colin would be taken from us so soon.

This past week my mind has been full of memories of Colin. Some of them make me chuckle, like the time we visited Washington DC together and he dressed like a tourist while I was trying to blend in.

Other memories are more sombre and serious. Colin was a big influence on so many people. And I am honoured to count myself among them.

There’s a quote which Colin first introduced me to in 2005. The quote is often mis-attributed to Luther. It goes like this:

“Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefields besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” 

Colin was a Christian who stood in the very centre of where the battle raged. He was loyal. He was steady. He never flinched. And he was my brother and my friend.

I shall miss him.

When for a while we part,
this thought will soothe our pain:
that we shall still be joined in heart
and hope to meet again.

Mike Judge
Mike Judge. Editor of Evangelical Times, and pastor of Chorlton Evangelical Church in Manchester.
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