Just humour me for two minutes. Imagine for a moment that you haven’t been to a church service before, as far as you know, in your whole life. Your parents didn’t go, apart from funerals, and they didn’t go because their parents stopped going after they were married in their local parish church.
Picture yourself for a moment: you’re out and about with your children on a rushed sunday morning shopping trip with a list of two items: to get one of your children some new school shoes and to pick up some spuds for the roast dinner. As you enter the market square you encounter something colourful and vibrant, and judging by the laughter it looks like fun, too.
You go over and take a look. On offer are free activities for children, a free bacon roll stand and lots of young people giving away bottles of water. Your children wonder over to the craft table and ask if they can take part. Feeling a bit peckish, you join the queue for the bacon rolls. It smells good.
The guy serving the rolls explains that he’s the local Baptist minister and that he’s ‘out and about’ on this sunday morning to be among people who wouldn’t consider going to a service. He explains that the group of people with him from the church are there to encourage people to think about the Christian faith. So, how would you feel at such an encounter?
I can quite honestly write that out of the thousands of people I have encountered on the streets on a sunday morning I have yet to meet anyone who has shown a dislike to what we have done. The man shoe shopping for his daughter said to me as he tucked into his ample bacon butty, ‘It’s great to see the church out of the building, thank you for what you are doing.’ He then asked me about church service times and other activities that go on.
The church where I am a member, Bigglewsade Baptist, plucked up the courage to go and do something on a sunday morning. Twenty-five people left the safe confines of the service to join me on the market square where together we gave away 70 bacon rolls and 100 bottles of water. Around 40 people engaged with a craft activity of drawing and writing up prayers and tying them onto a gate. The message was simple: Once upon a time there was a man who said ‘I am the gate.’ ‘I am the bread of life.’ I give life-giving water.’
People wanted to know who the man was that said these things about himself.
I have been encouraged to hear reports of four Baptist churches which have recently engaged in st st projects. Saffron Walden Baptist Church recently joined in an early morning car boot sale and set up a free fruit (of the spirit) stall. People loved it. Another Baptist minister friend of mine spent her sunday morning in a pub with a sign that declared ‘I will listen.’ The people who frequented the pub on that Sunday didn’t expect to encounter ‘the church’ where and when they did. But then again, where else could they?
It is only through sharing what we have with those who haven’t that people can start the beautiful journey of following Jesus, as you and I have. We have spent way too long waiting for people to come to us and join our services, when it is really high time that we go and demonstrate the good news of Jesus.
I would love to know what kind of st st projects you are doing and if I can help with ideas!