Faith goes viral
For Josh Hawkins, Jesus is Lord over everything, including his YouTube videos.
On the internet he explained how to speak Australian (his tip: abbreviate everything). On the radio, he won $10,000 in a 24 hour dance-a-thon. He recently auditioned for Australia’s Got Talent with an incredible rendition of Jamaican reggae singer Shaggy.
For the last nine years Josh Hawkins has not only taught people about Jesus, he’s kept many laughing with his quirky antics, too.
By day Hawkins serves the young adults as a minister at St Paul’s, Castle Hill, and by night he pops up across all channels with his quirky brand of entertainment.
Even he isn’t quite sure how to describe it.
“Sometimes I say, ‘I make YouTube videos’,” he laughs. “I’m sure a good explanation will come eventually.” But he also performs live, as his appearance on Australia’s Got Talent shows. “My go-to karaoke song for a couple of years has been Shaggy,” he says. “One night a friend who had never seen me do it before mouthed from across the room, ‘Dude! Australia’s Got Talent!’ And it just clicked.”
Shortly after, he found himself before the judges working his magic. “I was thinking [as I prepared] what are my friends going to say ‘I can’t believe you did that’ to?”
Hawkins has been amusing people for as long as he can remember. “Out of boredom, my friend and I started making short videos just to entertain our friends and make each other laugh.”
He started YouTube channel, hijosh, as a way to showcase his antics to his friends. This changed last year with the release of the video “How to Speak Australian: Abbreviate Everything”, the success of which blew Hawkins’ mind. “I posted the video at 8pm and it unravelled before my eyes. I stayed up until 3am talking to people about licensing. By the morning there were millions of views and a bunch of emails from the media.”
His first reaction? “This is cool,” he says. “From that moment on, there was a bit more legitimacy about what I was doing. The purpose is always to entertain my friends and to have a laugh. The crazy thing is that people outside of my small friendship group also enjoy my videos. That is wild to me.“
As Hawkins entertains, he is unapologetically Christian. His website details the gospel. Australia’s Got Talent shared about his vocation as a minister. As he took out the radio dance-a-thon title, which was streamed online, he wore a shirt declaring, “I belong to Jesus”.
“There is a level of wisdom about being a Christian – people knowing you’re a Christian and how they perceive you,” Hawkins says. “I am careful not to push boundaries too much that people might be offended or ‘weirded’ out. I want people to be drawn to what I’m creating and for me to pass that onto Jesus. If people are attracted to what you do you don’t take that glory for yourself. You pass it on to God.”
Joy is an important part of the Christian life for Hawkins, and he celebrates that in what he creates. “I want to show that being a Christian is being joyful as well. Christians are free, and so we can have a laugh and enjoy life.”
Hawkins loves it when God provides opportunities to share, but wants them to come naturally. “I don’t want to be the guy who answers every question with ‘Jesus’ even if it makes no sense,” he says. “I create stuff that isn’t explicitly gospel content most of the time. I’m just trying to entertain and see what God does.
“But one of the craziest times was after the first video went viral and I was interviewed on the radio. A celebrity agent was on the line and I asked for his advice. He replied, ‘You’ve got to follow the calling of God. God’s will is on your life, you shouldn’t run from God’s will.’ He wasn’t a Christian, but he was saying what came to his mind and it was broadcasting across Australia. I sat back and thought, ‘Wow, I didn’t initiate this!’ But those moments don’t always happen. It’s just about being ready.”
After his videos went viral and the attention increased, Hawkins spent a lot of time with God. “I was trying to make sure it didn’t make me crazy,” he says. “It was the thing God was revealing to me as media opportunities were coming up. God was saying, ‘Just go and be a normal Christian that people can respect and don’t feel weird about approaching.’ That’s what I’ve tried to do.
“I think it’s good for people outside of the church to see that Christians can laugh at themselves and have a sense of humour.”