Harvest field in Yorkshire


A view of the conurbation of Huddersfield

A view of the conurbation of Huddersfield

Yorkshire is a county which needs no introduction.

Famous for its landscapes, agriculture, industrial past and present, and modern commercial clout, its sporting success and the warmth (and pride) of its people, Yorkshire is a well-known brand.

Spiritual bankruptcy

What is less well-known is its current desperate spiritual state. Yorkshire has been blessed with astonishing revivals and courageous church planting movements in the past, and in many areas chapel buildings of different sorts bear witness to what God has done.

Today there are just a small handful of churches which we might call ‘large’ by UK standards. In most places, gospel-loving churches are very small, and in a tiny minority. Whole communities, urban, semi-urban and rural, are without a vibrant witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. With a population of nearly 5.5 million (the same as Scotland’s), the need is almost overwhelming.

The good news for Yorkshire

Last year a handful of concerned believers living and working in Yorkshire started meeting to talk about the needs and opportunities for church planting. Over the months since commencing… (click here to read more)

Lewis Allen

This article was first published in the June issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Any gospel witness amongst Yorkshire youth? Enter Yorkshire Camps!


Andrew and Hannah Peace

Andrew and Hannah Peace

Each Monday evening, for the last 12 months or a so, a small group has come together to pray.

They were praying for the provision of a centre which could provide a strategic base for gospel witness amongst young people in Yorkshire and beyond. On 24 February God answered their prayers in a remarkable way. To understand the story we have to roll back around three years.

While working at The Oakes Holiday Centre, a Christian camp centre in Sheffield, Andy and Hannah Peace started to pray that God might open the door to start a similar work further north. It was a big idea. With no team around them, or money to get them started, it seemed unlikely.

But God stepped in. He supplied the people and finances to get started and in faith they ran their first camp in Easter 2013. Spurred on by a great time and delighted parents, Yorkshire Camps was up and running.

Yorkshire is quite spiritually barren. Less than 1% of the population have contact with a church. Most churches have small or struggling youth groups, which makes it difficult. However, to bring groups together not only makes it possible for Christian young people to be encouraged, but allows non-Christians to be reached for Christ.

Bigger vision

Since that first venture, Yorkshire Camps has run over 16, hiring centres in West and North Yorkshire. Most have been full and some young people have professed faith. Older campers have returned to help out younger campers. Over the past two New Years, two groups of teens came together for three days. Reflecting on these Andy said: ‘Watching young people see in a New Year with their Bibles open, hearts soft and minds attentive to what God was teaching them, was thrilling!’

As good as these were, however, Andy and Hannah’s vision was for something much greater:… (click here to read more)

Yorkshire Camps

This article was first published in the May issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.

Cityscape evangelism


Emma Jarvis

Emma Jarvis

Once Emma Jarvis was converted to Christ, the Lord gave her a great desire to share the gospel with others.

This led her to apply to spend a year with London City Mission (LCM), which she started last autumn after graduating from university. EN interviewed her about what it has been like so far.

en: What is your background and how did you become a Christian?
EJ: 
I grew up in Wiltshire with two brothers and my parents took us to church from the year dot.

Growing up, I was the kid that knew all the answers in Sunday school but knew that I wasn’t a Christian and was quite happy living the way I wanted to. I then went to university in Surrey and during my second year found myself going to (and enjoying) church and Bible studies more and more, and the Christians I got to know were a great influence. To make a long story short, I was stubborn and proud, but God was patient and kind. I realised what conversion was, the significance of Jesus’s life for me and what I needed to do about it and I became a Christian when I was 21.

en: What led you to spend a year with London City Mission?
EJ: 
I think as soon as I became a Christian I felt the desire to get other people to engage with God and realise that Jesus is important for them.

I did some beach missions during the summer, and got involved with evangelism on the university campus during my final year. I thoroughly enjoyed these and God gave me the confidence and willingness to do more. When it came to thinking about life after university, I wasn’t inspired to start on the job ladder but realised that my biggest passion was talking about Jesus, so I pursued mission opportunities and doing full-time Christian work.

I was half expecting to have to learn another language, but I heard about LCM because it was the focus of prayer at a church I was attending, so I investigated what I could do with them. I signed up to their gap year scheme called City Vision (CV) to start to test whether this was the kind of thing God wanted me to be doing.

en: Give us an overview of LCM’s work?
EJ: 
LCM is involved in a huge variety of ministries that all aim to help Londoners practically and spiritually, whether with local communities, workplaces, ethnic minorities, the marginalised and those being cared for.

Examples of some of the ministries include community centres, schools teams, cafés, workplace chaplains and a day centre for homeless people called Webber Street. There’s plenty more than that and it’s great to see so many different and creative ways to reach various communities and introduce them to Jesus.

en: Tell us about your work and what a ‘normal’ day involves?
EJ:
 I work in Vauxhall Christian Centre three days a week, with the schools team in Morden one day a week, and I attend Urban Mission training lectures on the other day.

Two days are rarely the same, which I really like. As an example, a typical Friday in Vauxhall may involve meeting with my team in the morning, then spending a couple of hours doing door-to-door visits around the local blocks of flats. I would come back and help serve at our lunch club and then join in with a short Bible study and prayer session. The afternoon is then spent chatting with members of the community who drop by and setting up for our after-school girls’ club. When the girls arrive we spend two hours enjoying things like baking, table tennis and jewellery-making over a drink of hot chocolate, as well as a short spiritual talk. After that I make my way back home to Tower Bridge Road, normally pretty tired.

en: What is different about sharing Christ in an urban context rather than with students?
EJ: 
There are several differences between urban mission and the evangelism I was used to on campus.

The people in the local housing estates are not all the same age as me, they often have mind-blowing stories to tell and are in unfavourable financial circumstances. It seems that people’s identity is in their upbringing and what they have experienced, rather than in their education or aspirations. Bringing the Christian message into people’s lives is therefore different; university students often have a number of their own thought-out objections and questions, but the people I’m meeting now are often uninterested in, and unfamiliar with, debating and apologetics. However, they do have their own underlying objections. While students often want to discuss evolution and homosexuality, the people I meet want to talk about their life stories and struggles.

I have been encouraged by the example of Jesus, as he spent time with social outcasts and often engaged people’s minds by just asking questions. In the urban context that I work in, it is important to take a relational approach; there are numbers of people who are only willing to open up once trust and friendship have been established. This is true in all contexts but particularly so with some people in the community environment. We operate from a community centre and sharing Christ with some people feels like slow-motion evangelism; it is a gradual process for some people to become comfortable with coming to the centre and then engage in deeper conversations.

There are, however, a number of similarities: everyone seems equally willing to chat when in their dressing gown at any hour of the day. Also, my approach still needs to be reliant on God’s help at every moment and inspired by love. In both contexts people are frustratingly apathetic to life’s big questions, but Jesus is intriguing.

en: How would you encourage others to think about spending time with LCM?
EJ: 
I would encourage them whole-hearted-ly! There are several opportunities to work with LCM because they have so many ministries. They also offer ways to get involved for varying periods of time; a list and description of the different opportunities can be found on their website (www.lcm.org.uk).

The Mission’s City Vision scheme is a good way to spend a year. Within just a few months I have learned a lot about evangelism and have been taught a lot about the Bible, mission and counselling. I’ve also been able to work alongside a number of different missionaries with a huge amount of experience and have met a wide diversity of people in communities that I would otherwise be unlikely to cross paths with. This has been great in broadening my perspective of society, God’s saving power and different ways that he can meet people’s needs.

Mission like this is not particularly easy and doesn’t always feel successful, but LCM’s work is definitely worthwhile, I’m well looked after, have great colleagues and housemates and it’s a privilege to be so openly working for God. My time here so far has deepened my trust in God’s control and, most importantly, I have got involved in sharing God’s love and his Word with people that are so often unreached. I would therefore encourage others to do the same.

This article was first published in the February 2014 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Scotland: 20 Schemes


Scotland 20 Schemes_2November 2012 saw the launch of a new church revitalisation and planting initiative aimed at bringing gospel hope to housing schemes and other needy areas of Scotland.

The brainchild of Niddrie Community, Edinburgh, in partnership with Bardstown Christian Fellowship, Kentucky, and supported by 9Marks, this exciting new ministry aims to reach out to some of the least evangelised areas of our country.

Mez McConnell, the director, explains: ‘During a detailed survey of the 50 most deprived schemes in Scotland we discovered that at least half have no gospel church present and, of the rest, even though there was the presence of some form of church, we were uncertain as to their theological and gospel convictions. One thing was clear, though, not only were Scotland’s 50 most deprived schemes in trouble economically and socially, but they were desperately deprived spiritually too. Therefore, if we were really going to see a turn around in the lives of residents in council estates and housing schemes, we were going to have to embrace a radical and long-term gospel strategy which will bring gospel hope to untold thousands’.

The mission is simple. It is building healthy gospel-centered churches for Scotland’s poorest communities. EN put some questions to Mez.

EN: Why do you want to do this?
MM: For a number of reasons. Firstly, we believe that the gospel changes everything. We believe that we need to raise up a generation of Bible teachers and preachers who will go into the forgotten schemes of our country.

Second, we recognise that the presence of the church is mercy ministry. In other words, we want to see local churches built up, evangelising, discipling and equipping a new generation of men and women from within these housing schemes who, likewise, will go and make disciples.

Thirdly, we are heavily burdened for Scotland’s housing schemes as we see these communities with no, or very little, gospel witness. Planting new churches is a key strategy in reaching the lost in these areas.

Fourthly, we desire to assist and resource existing churches — across denominations — and/or gospel ministries in these areas to bless them and further Kingdom work. We will plant if we have to, but we would rather support and encourage existing work by offering people, resources and training.

EN: How will you do it?
MM: We intend to identify 20 schemes as priority areas over the next decade. Then, where possible, identify church revitalisation partners in those schemes.

We want to recruit church planters, female outreach workers and ministry apprentices to send into those schemes as the ‘first wave’ of a long-term strategy. We aim to recruit local leaders if possible, but we will recruit outside the UK if necessary.

Then we will need to develop church partners worldwide to support and resource our work in the schemes and invest long-term in indigenous leaders by providing training, resources and support.

EN: Describe for us what the housing schemes you are trying to reach are like.
MM: These are some of the poorest and most underdeveloped areas of Scotland, very similar to many housing estates in England, Wales and Ireland.

Many were purpose-built during (and after) the Industrial Revolution in Britain as a way to move the poor out of slums and into affordable housing. Although there is much revitalisation going on in these areas today, there is a history of urban blight, unemployment, high mental health issues, addictions and crime.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. We still have a core of working-class families who love their communities and want to make them better places to live in. But, there is a desperate lack of healthy churches in these areas and we long to see this transformed by a new missionary church-planting movement across the country.

EN: How have you linked up with 9Marks and what backing do you have?
MM: We have formed a working partnership with 9Marks in the USA, alongside relationships with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Practical Shepherding. We have recently had the pleasure of being offered help, training and resources from Ligonier Ministries. In the UK we have links to Acts 29 Europe, Porterbrook Training and the FIEC.

Niddrie Community Church is on the board of the East of Edinburgh Gospel Partnership — a group of evangelical church leaders across various denominations seeking to strengthen gospel ministry in our city and beyond.

We hope to achieve our aims by building a broad evangelical consensus across denominations in Scotland. So far, we have friendships with Baptist, FIEC and FC churches, ministers and youth workers.

EN: What about churches which are already in these areas?
MM: Our aim is revitalisation, primarily, and planting where necessary. Therefore, the aim has to be to strengthen already existing evangelical churches in these areas.

Because there are so few, it makes the task all the more urgent. What we have found is that there may be para-church organisations, individuals or small groups doing ministry in poor areas, but there is very little in the way of planting and/or revitalising existing local church ministry. Our aim is to provide teams and/or gospel workers necessary to either establish or revitalise local church ministry.

EN: What are your greatest needs at present?
MM: To build a solid, prayer and financial base in order for us to be able to build a sustainable long-term infrastructure. We need interns, female outreach workers and those prepared to spend their lives on behalf of the poor in our inner cities.

EN: What encouragements have you had?
MM: We have seen many come to faith and we are now seeing our first intake of indigenous interns being trained and prepared to be the next generation of local church leaders and team embers.

Scotland 20 Schemes_1Mez says: ‘If we can serve you or your church community please contact me. If you are interested in finding out more about how you could serve as a planter, a women’s worker, a ministry apprentice or an intern, please also contact me at mez@niddrie.org or use the form on the website. We will be happy to help. We are currently seeking financial help and are looking for opportunities to share about the work in churches. Thanks to you all in advance and praise God for his great mercy. Let’s pray for a gospel revival in Scotland’s housing schemes’.

Like our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/20schemes
Our Twitter: @20schemes
Our website: http://www.20schemes.com

This article was first published in the November 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information. www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Rico’s Recommendation – a resource to help churches involved in ‘A Passion For Life 2014’


Ricos recommendationPod Bhogal talks to Rico Tice, author of the Christianity Explored course about the importance of one-to-one personal work in evangelism, Seeker Bible studies and Uncover, UCCF’s latest gospel project which is now being adopted by local churches.

PB: Rico, you’re a big advocate of personal one-to-one work in evangelism and seeker Bible studies; why is that?

RT: As we head into Passion for Life — or any church-based missional activity — we have to be aware of the significance of one-to-one evangelism. We can’t just put on events and guest services. It’s got to be that, when my friend comes along to an event, the moment the talk finishes we’re able to say: ‘Would you like to look at the Bible with me?’ or ‘Have you ever looked at the original source material for yourself?’ At this point in time people may often feel very intimidated, but something has happened to change things in the last two years and that’s the Uncover suite of resources from UCCF.

PB: Can you explain what Uncover is for those who are unfamiliar with it?

RT: Uncover is six Bible studies, written by Becky Manley Pippert, and a Gospel featuring QR codes that link to evangelistic and apologetic films. It has been developed by UCCF and is staggering in terms of its impact. I have nothing to do with this material.Christianity Explored are not publishing it [but], in the 20 years I’ve been doing evangelism, I’ve never seen anything like it. What is happening in the student world in terms of evangelistic one-to-ones is remarkable. Let me give you an example:

Oxford mission

Five years ago I led the mission in Oxford. It was a tough mission, Dawkins was at the fore and only a few people professed. It was a really hard mission run by a faithful OICCU.

In 2013 I had accepted an invitation to lead a mini-mission in Oxford and I kept thinking: ‘This is going to be brutal’. About three months before the mission they got in contact and said: ‘I know it’s a three-day mission, but we’d like you to come for five and we’re going to do lunch time talks as well’. I said: ‘That sounds like a major mission’, and they replied: ‘Oh yeah’.

I arrived for the mission and the numbers had rocketed [from the previous mission]. On the last night, they told me: ‘We’ve got 150 non-Christian students reading Uncoverwith Christian students in the university. Just please preach so that people will repent and believe’. We saw professions all week.

PB: Why was the second mission more successful?

RT: What was happening was that one-to-one work was going on alongside the guest events. You see this is what we’ve [the church] got to get in place. The events we organise for Passion for Life are just the tip of the iceberg. The key thing is what’s going on underneath and that’s the personal one-to-one work. There was a student when I was in Oxford and she was not just the wettest Christian student at Oxford, but was the wettest student. On the way back from the Wednesday night talk, she’d managed to get her friend to come along and she said: ‘Would you like to look at the Uncover materials with me?’ The friend said: ‘Fine’. What’s been staggering is that non-Christians are willing to look at the primary sources in their hundreds.

Earlier this year I went to Preston. There are 21 in the Christian Union and eight of them are reading Uncover with their friends. It’s a sea change in the culture that UCCF has managed. Praise God!

Preaching facilitated

PB: What difference does the one-to-one work make?

RT: Now the guest events and guest services are full of people whom you can really preach to because you know the moment it’s finished, they’re going to invite their friends to a one-to-one Bible study. Talking to Richard Cunningham, Director of UCCF, he just says: ‘I’ve not seen anything like this in 20 years. It has been quite remarkable — the non-Christians are hungry to do it.’

PB: How are you using Uncover in your church context?

RT: People at All Souls whose kids are at university are coming back and talking about reading a Gospel with their friends, and my brother is a case in point. His son, who’s at Bristol, is reading Uncover with three people, and my brother says: ‘If my son’s doing it, I’d better start doing it!’ And I’ll tell you what, in our family we’re thick idiots, so if we can do it, anyone can do it.

The UCCF motto is 5-5-5. Pray for five, give to five, read with five. And at All Souls we’ve been so struck by this that we’ve set a target of having 200 people in the church family reading Uncover. We’re going to run this because we’re so staggered at what God has done in the student world, and we really hope you’ll do it.

Pod Bhogal is head of communications for UCCF

OrderUncover resources for you and your church: thinkivp.com/uncover

Book for an Uncover Training Day at a venue near you with Rebecca Manley Pippert:http://www.uccf.org.uk/uncover-training/


This article was first published in the Oct 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

Church planting among Muslims


Witnessing to MuslimsSeven years of church-planting can teach you a lot.

We were involved in such ministry in and beyond the remote little town of Mpanda in the west of Tanzania. It taught us much about Tanzanian culture and values, about the Africa Inland Church of Tanzania and about who we needed to become as missionaries with AIM International in order to play our part well.

Being very isolated as expatriate missionaries for those years meant enormous challenges, but also meant countless important lessons learned which enabled us to serve there and prepared us for ongoing ministry elsewhere. How God then led us to the Digo, a Muslim people near the Tanzanian coast, is a story in itself and this article can only relate a small but significant part of a work which continues today and includes a team of people other than ourselves. But at least some of what God has been doing among the Tanzanian Digo should be told or we dishonour God by staying quiet about how he has answered the prayers of many, his work for which he deserves praise.

Seeking permission

In 2002 when we set out to seek permission of the Digo to live among them, the Tanzanian Christians we shared our plans with were incredulous. The Digo were known for their resistance and even Christians of other tribes in the vicinity of the Digo villages were doing nothing to reach out to them.

From a Digo perspective, to be Digo means to be a Muslim. Their culture, while retaining some practices of traditional animistic belief from their pre-Islam days, is Islamic, imposed on them generations before as an alternative to slavery. Evangelism in the early 20th century had made some inroads, but most of the converted Digo were pulled back and, among the hundreds of village mosques, we only found one tiny Christian community in a different part of Digo territory from our own. Even there, when Andrew preached in the church and referred to Jesus as the Son of God, an elderly leader who had wept with joy when we first arrived, objected angrily.

‘Let them come’

December 2002 saw just the two of us (my wife Rachel and me) standing in a Digo village before a crowd of local people, being introduced by a village chairman as people who wanted to come and live among them. The scene was almost overwhelming and is deeply embedded in our memories. We were open about being Christians and some were hostile, raising their voices in objection, saying we would be like poison working its way through the people. The door seemed to be closing against us and we knew that if it did other villages would say no. It was the local imam who then stood and announced that he was secure in his faith and that if others were sure of theirs then they should allow us to stay. A chant went up: ‘Let them come, let them come!’ and the following day two more villages also said yes. God had opened a door for us and our TIMO team* which joined us a year later.

God’s Word breaks through

Isaiah 55 speaks of God’s Word accomplishing that for which it was sent and it was God’s Word which began to draw a few men to us in that first year, secretly expressing interest in the teaching of the Bible. Later, it was God’s Word which caused the handful of brave seekers in those villages to attend our team’s house church and listen week by week as we used our still halting Chidigo to teach, using Chronological Bible Story Telling. It was God’s Word which brought the first believers to their knees in submission before God and to baptism, which grew the local opposition into something more, bringing Islamic leaders out of the city to name and shame those who had ‘changed their religion’.

It was John’s Gospel — produced in Chidigo by those who were working with Bible Translation and Literacy (EA) across the border in Kenya among the Kenyan Digo — that the men building the large and elaborate mosque a few villages down the road read in their chai breaks. Later, when the Chidigo New Testament was finalised and given to every household who would accept it, God’s Word was the only published book they had in their own language.

Best practice

We have seen over and over again how the best evangelism flows from relationship. As God enabled our team to live very closely with the Digo and to become like them in every way possible, opportunities opened up and Bible storying groups met secretly in homes and fields across the villages. It was very hard for those first few believers as they bore the first wave of anger and opposition and, even today, most of them struggle significantly. Yet they blazed the trail for others to believe and, in spite of opposition of many and various kinds, a church was born.

The believers wanted a place to meet for worship, so, when a local man offered to sell us a large plot of land at one end of our village and braved the criticism aimed at him, the reality of a church now being present in the area could no longer be hidden. We were determined that the church should bless the community from the outset, so, although the clearing of the dense bush could have been more easily done by machines, we employed local people in need of work and they felled the trees, dismantled the vast termite mounds and carried sand for the foundations of the Pande Gospel Centre, two buildings which were familiar in design to local people because we saw no reason to build unfamiliar structures.

In one of those buildings we met as a gospel community learning to worship in culturally appropriate ways, watched at a distance by a wider community which was both appalled and intrigued that there was now a Christian presence in their midst.

A Tanzanian pastor, Matinya, himself a believer from a Muslim background, and his wife Milka have led the church since 2007. Matinya has now identified a Digo man who has shown characteristics of a leader and is now attending a Bible school course, a few months there, a few months back home. The church has grown slowly, drawing a few Digo, and some non-Digo people as well, as God’s Word is preached faithfully. Our team mates who carried on after we left partnered with the few Digo believers and established story-telling groups in other remote Digo villages. These are now slowly emerging as worshipping communities. There are only three expatriate workers left now, in villages an hour or more from the main church, and they will soon leave. We must pray that the Digo will carry on the work of reaching out to their own people.

Vision for a school

Pastor Matinya and Milka had a clear vision for a church school and it has now been running for five years, over-subscribed by mostly Muslim families. Registration took a long time, but at the official opening in June 2012 the men and women who did that early work of clearing the land were celebrated and their pride was evident, even though they are still Muslims. Some people who were outraged a few years ago now send their children to the school which we pray will give the next generation a choice like never before. The Standard 4 children, most of whom live extremely poor and basic lives, have recently sat national exams in English and have excelled almost beyond belief. With entrance to secondary school being dependent on use of English, this opens wide their chance for ongoing education. How we thank God that those children and many more are so much more likely now to be able to extend their thinking and lives in many directions, including, we trust, into a greater freedom to choose Christ.

Praise the Lord indeed!

So a community of people, known for their resistance, has begun to witness the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In 2008, when told about the church with its school, a Christian official in our nearby city slapped his hand down on his desk in delight and exclaimed: ‘A church among the Digo — well praise the Lord!’ Indeed.

Andrew and Rachel Chard

Andrew is now European Director of AIM International and Rachel is a Staff Worker for Friends International

TIMO* — Training In Ministry Outreach, the church-planting training wing of AIM International. See http://www.timo-aim.com

  

This article was first published in the July 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

A pattern for evangelistic missions


In 1983 I left teaching in a large comprehensive school to work full time as a travelling evangelist.

Before then, evangelism had been my life, so that when God called me into this work, it was a natural progression from what I had been doing. In the last quarter of a century there have been huge changes not only in society and church, but also in methods of evangelism. Some of this has been rapid.

Event based outreach

One of the differences in evangelistic approach over recent years is the development of event-based and targeted evangelistic meetings. Undoubtedly, focusing our outreach for particular groups of people can be effective. So events aimed specifically at men, women, the young or the elderly, lawyers, students, sports people, diabetics, gardeners, etc., does seem to help to draw along a group of unconverted people.

As a schoolteacher I had been involved in preaching missions in tents and churches which lasted for 16 days or more, as well as barbecues, coffee bars and the like. The trend, though, was moving away from the traditional missions, and food-based evangelism was in vogue. In fact, there were whole missions based almost entirely on this style of outreach. Undoubtedly, these attracted good crowds of unbelievers because it was easier for Christian people to invite their friends to such events without embarrassment. However, they did not prove to be great reaping opportunities, and churches were often disappointed at the lack of fruit, even after much prayer and hard work.

Focus on afterwards?

The length of missions today would very rarely be more than eight days, for there is a feeling that the patterns of life for people vary, making it harder to keep up the momentum of a longer period of time. The style of missions today is often a hotchpotch of events, which are deemed attractive to different groups of people, followed by an epilogue explanation of the gospel. The aim is to get people enrolled into a follow-up course such as Christianity Explored, rather than the expectation of seeing conversions of real strangers to the church.

Abandoning mission weeks

But many churches have simply abandoned mission weeks completely. In January 1989 a Boeing 737 crashed at Kegworth in Leicestershire. An engine had caught fire and the pilot tried to get into East Midlands Airport. Unfortunately, it later emerged that he had shut down the wrong engine and didn’t have the power to get to the airport. Similarly, it seems to me that churches, recognising their weakness in reaching the lost, have shut down the wrong engine and stopped running evangelistic missions. There is an impression given that we have lost confidence in the power of the gospel being preached to bring people to Christ. Changing the metaphor, we have enlarged the bait and blunted the hook in our proclamation of Christ and Him crucified.

Most effective

I am convinced that the most effective missions are the ones where the focus is on the direct proclamation of the gospel, rather than a tag-on epilogue, or an after-dinner talk to a group of people who have really gathered for other reasons. Not that such events are of no value. Of course they are, but ideally they are pre-mission occasions rather than part of a week which is designed to proclaim the gospel to non-Christians in such a way that we can expect to see greater reaping.

Let me suggest an alternative mission strategy.
Main-event programme

The mission week could be called ‘Real Lives’ and last for seven or eight days. The main events begin each evening at 7.45 pm and last for about 75-85 minutes. The people who gather are not asked to join and do anything, but rather follow a programme that is presented to them. They may be seated in rows, or around coffee tables with drinks and snacks available on their table throughout. There may be a background jazz band or pianist, or just ‘piped’ music until the commencement of the programme. After the welcome, there will be a musical item or two from a soloist, or band, etc. Then we go into the first main ingredient of the evening, the 20-25 minute interview with the guest.

Throughout the gospels there are numerous conversion stories, each illustrating God’s power to save. Paul’s conversion is recorded in the Book of Acts and the Epistles, and he tells his testimony repeatedly, using it as a means of gospel proclamation. In this postmodern age, too, people love stories (think of magazines like Hello or OK or Rugby World). Publicity for the mission would have as its main title, Real Lives, but details of each event would be listed, so that the story of a Christian, with an interesting conversion testimony appealing to non-Christians, becomes a real attraction.

Interview

With the two of us sitting in armchairs (Michael Parkinson-style), I interview somebody to draw out their testimony. This may be a well-known character, such as singer and Radio 2 host, Paul Jones, or the Olympic rower, Debbie Flood, or it may be a local Christian or visitor who has a powerful story, such as Andy Cardy, whose daughter was abducted and murdered; or David Hamilton, converted terrorist. I have interviewed over 40 times John Mosey whose daughter was killed in Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. Each evening will have a headline type title, so, on this occasion, it may be ‘Lockerbie father wrestles with disaster’. Then there would be another musical item, or PowerPoint presentation, before the preaching of the gospel, which would last for about 30 minutes.

There is no separate Bible reading as such, but I would incorporate this into my message. If the reading is from Matthew, John or Acts, I may show the DVD version of the passage being read and enacted. I would then preach the gospel for 25-30 minutes, trying to relate my message to the testimony. Again, we would have no opening prayer — the praying should be done before when believers are gathering together — but I would close in prayer, which will sometimes be a prayer of repentance, faith and commitment so that those who want could join in. After that, as refreshments are enjoyed, people who want may come to talk to me, so that I, or someone from the church, can speak, maybe pray with them, and give them literature.

Confidence

Of course, there are local variations on this pattern, but my experience is that Christian people see the format, and have confidence to bring along their unconverted friends. I have found too, that non-Christians come repeatedly throughout the week, and are therefore repeatedly hearing the gospel and stories of God’s power to change lives.

On the Sundays, I think it best to meet in the normal church venue, more or less follow a Sunday service order, but also to include in it a shorter testimony. Both services will be evangelistic in aim.

During the weekdays, there can be targeted events, such as business or work place lunches, coffee mornings in homes or the church, school assemblies, etc. The aim is not just to fill the evangelist’s day, but to strategically reach people who may then come to evening events. I also make myself available to meet with people who want to talk further.

Follow up

Careful follow up to the mission is essential. Every Christian rejoices to see immediate fruit of people coming to faith in Christ. However, I refuse to manipulate people’s emotions to try to get instant responses. I tremble at the thought that I could damage someone spiritually by inducing a ‘new birth’ before it is right. I publicly urge each one to trust Christ, and expect some to do so. However, if instead a person enrols for a follow up course, I know that the church will take great care in regularly meeting with him or her. So I strongly recommend using Christianity Explored or The Stranger on the road to Emmaus course, which is suitable for those with less background knowledge of the Christian message.

Part of the value of a mission for me is to distribute good quality Christian books, so I bring with me on missions a bookstall which has many evangelistic books for both adults and children, as well as Christian biographies and literature designed to build up the believer. All these are sold at between 33% and 80% discount. I make no profit on literature.

I am absolutely convinced of this style of mission, and really do recommend it to you. It is being used in the winning of people to Christ, and I believe is honouring to the Lord because it is not based on gimmicks, but on a testimony and biblical, gospel proclamation. My promise is that in all my preaching I will seek to proclaim faithfully ‘Christ and him crucified’ to the glory of God alone.

http://www.associationofevangelists.org
Roger Carswell