BAPTIST churches have been encouraged to set aside a number of Sundays each year to get out into their neighbourhoods and meet people who would not normally come to church.The call comes from minister, evangelist and future president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Revd Chris Duffett.Mr Duffett has launched an evangelistic project called Saints on the Street (St St) and has a vision that congregations would engage with people in public places.
‘As the vast majority of people in the UK do not go to church, St St projects takes church to the vast majority,’ he explained.
‘Our hope is that St St may become a vision for Baptist churches in the UK to set aside some Sundays in the year where the morning service is used to engage with people who wouldn’t consider going to church.’
The project is designed to take church, once a month, to people on the streets or public places who may not consider attending a church service on Sunday mornings.
Each month there will be something different taking place, along the lines of Mr Duffett’s ‘Get in the picture’ idea at Christmas. For the launch of the project recently, he invited shoppers in Peterborough to walk along a VIP red carpet. His aim was to give shoppers the message that God thinks they are ‘Very Important People’. Forty copies of Mark’s Gospel were given away. Mr Duffett said, ‘We were able to talk with many people about Jesus who wanted to know why we were declaring they were very important. ‘One young man who was drawn to the fun of walking the red carpet stayed for nearly an hour to find out what it means to be a Christian.’
He added, ‘My hope is that more and more churches would be creative in reaching out to those who have yet to hear and experience what it means to be a Christian.
‘We need to meet people where they are at on a Sunday morning rather than expecting people to attend services.’ The Saints on the Street project has the backing of the BUGB. The Revd Ian Bunce, head of the Union’s mission department said, ‘St St is a great example of Crossingplaces, the missional call to churches to get involved in the community where they live, outside of the church building.
‘It is as we engage in this way that the church and the Christian message will again to be seen as relevant to the whole of life.’
The project is backed financially by Network Peterborough, which has partly funded it for 12 months.
Other St St projects include prayer on the streets, free fun days, hot cross bun giveaways and visiting care homes. The initiative comes as figures from former head of Christian Research Dr Peter Brierley projected a decline in church attendance over the next two decades (The Baptist Times, June 4). Dr Brierley cited less evangelism as a factor in the decline.
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