Inside out church

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!

15 thoughts on “Inside out church

  1. HI , WAS REALLY ENCOURAGED WITH THIS , WHAT A GREAT IDEA. IM FROM THE BEACON HOUSE OF PRAYER IN STOKE ON TRENT…WEB SITE:WWW.BEACONHOP.ORG RECENTLY A SMALL GROUP OF US WENT TO OUR LOCAL TOWN OF TUNSTALL AND GAVE AWAY 50 FRESH LOAVES OF BREAD IN A MATTER OF 10 MIN. THE FOLLOWING MONTH WE DID IT AGAIN ,AND WE GAVE AWAY 100 FRESH BAKED LOAVES IN ABOUT HALF AND HOUR, WE HAVE BUILT UP A RELATIONSHIP WITH SOME OF THE PUBLIC , SOME HAVE BEEN PRAYED FOR , WE HAVE CONTACT WITH A SMALL GROUP OF ALCOHOLICS, WE TRY TO SPEAK WITH THEM AND DIRECT THEM TO ORGANOSATIONS THAT CAN OFFER SUPPORT, THIS IS WITH “HEALING ON THE STREETS ” TEAM…..GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO BE “OUT THERE”…… CAROL..

  2. Excellent Chris.
    For a number of years, the church we’re part of (St Mary’s CofE Bletchley) has run something called Church on the Green on a Sunday in July (we were on holiday this year so missed it!).
    It takes place on the ‘village green’ in front of the church (hence the name) and starts with an open air service. It then goes on to become something like a church fete on quite a grand scale with all kinds of stalls. The church’s mobile catering unit (that’s right – it’s used at all kinds of events) operates with hot dogs, burgers, drinks etc. The one difference to other summer fetes is that everything (including the food) is free.
    This year the estimate was that a couple of thousand people passed through.
    It’s a great community event and over the years it’s also been an entrance to church for some who as a result have joined Alpha courses and come to faith.
    Keep up the good work in Biggleswade!
    If you want to email me I can put you in touch with someone who could tell you more.

    • Thank you for your encouragement. Good to read what you get up to. We ran something similar in Chester called ‘funday on a Sunday.’ – it became the community event of the year and grew over the years from 200 guests to 12,000! it was all a bit too big I suppose BUT it had an amazing impact upon the community.

  3. This is a lovely idea. Our church – Park Baptist in Great Yarmouth – has organised “Praise in the Park” – 5 Sunday evening services in the local park – one for each month of the summer season – the last one will be on the first Sunday in September. Many of the people who come already go to local churches but there have been lots who’ve stopped to listen sometimes for a short time and some for longer. Free tea and Coffee have been served in our church hall – just across from the park – afterwards.

  4. Great to hear that this is taking place. I do just question bacon? It is not very inclusive. Jews, Muslims and vegetarians could feel left out!

  5. We know the harvest is ready, and it was great to hear about workers going out into the local community. It’s always exciting to do the Lords work and to watch Him bring people to speak to you at just the right time in their lives. God is amazing.

    Let that light shine!!!

    Our project is just embarking; we intend to open a Landscape Park Garden with an Evangelistic message in Kent. We’d value your prayer support too. It’s a large garden that takes visitors on a journey, …. ever read Pilgrims Progress?
    My husband is from Stoke so we’ll definately check out the Beacon House on line and pop in next time we are visiting family; are you handing out Oatcakes too? 🙂
    Galations 2:20 has been a verse I have been meditating on this week. It is Christ in us that will reach out when we give Him the opportunity to use us. To KNOW God and to make Him KNOWN. God Bless your ministry. Marie (Sandhurst Baptist Church)

  6. Hi Chris

    In June our church Avenue Baptist Church in Southend did our second annual Church Without Walls day where 90% of the church went out to serve the community – giving away cakes & plants, washing windscreens, gardening for a local care home, rubbish clearing etc etc. Everyone always comes back from these events buzzing and asking why we don’t do it more often! However I am not sure how easy it would be to persuade the church to do it more than once a year! Personally I would quite like to do it every week! 😉

    A couple of years ago I set up http://www.dontgotochurchsunday.org in response to my frustrations at the limited value of back to church sunday! Very basic but could be developed!

    Would love to chat with you about a few ideas sometime… 🙂

    God bless & thanks for sharing this post.

    Juliet

    • Hey Juliet… what about developing the not going to church sunday site with some more ideas and stuff to link to? I like it. Thanks for your message, be the light, Chris

  7. Hi Chris
    We’re just starting ‘Street teams’ in our church. Last Sunday 10 of us walked down the highroad offering free choclates and free choclate biscuits to the shoppers. We had a great response; lots of interesting and encouraging conversations, many people thanks us for doing something ‘nice’ for the community., many much deeper conversations too! We’re fired to do this again and make this part of our regular Sunday worship – a bit of time inside the church building, then more time being church outside the walls. I’d be grateful for any ideas and advice on how we can develop our teams

    • Thanks Graham. Your comment is music to my ears! So good. Just to encourage continuity, maybe one Sunday a month and to introduce with a ‘free giveaway’ an offer of prayer. There’s around 20 different ideas you could try on my St St bit of the blog… God bless you, be the light, Chris

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