It’s Sunday morning and I’m on the streets.
I’m waiting in the heart of the city of Peterborough enjoying a bacon butty and a cuppa. The chaps I’m expecting are a couple of Baptist ministers who are joining me in the experience of reaching out to the majority of people who wouldn’t consider going to church as being on their list of things to do on a Sunday morning.
Graham is on sabbatical and Phil works as the youth director extraordinair for HOPE. (I made up the job title… But he is quite an extraordinary guy.)
Even though the shops have just opened it is fairly busy. I buy tea for the big issue sellers and then chat to a couple who recently had a civil partnership. I listen to some of the struggles they have encountered in life, I share a little about what I do.
The plan is simple. We will buy as many doughnuts we can for £20 and offer them to people with an optional choice of a prayer of blessing. This is, in some way, thrown in with a wee tad of novelty inspired by the inspirational book by Roy Goodwin, The Grace Outpouring.
The blessing is something I have made up and simply printed out on one of those free-be offers you get, you know the ones which declare everything is free
including 2 million business cards, apart from you have to pay for postage which turns out to be a small fortune if you opt for the postage that means you get the cards before one or two decades. Anyhoo, I ordered some of those cards that simply stated:
A prayer of blessing:
In the name of Jesus I bless your life, your home and your family. May you have all that you need from mighty God who created you. I bless you to know everything about Him. May God pour out His presence into your life. May you be kept safe from harm. May you know of His love for you and may you have His peace.
Yes, I know there’s a lot of stuff that I could also have included, like long swaths of the Psalms and gospels and bits of Leviticus, but it was an attempt to bless peoples lives. I simple wanted to ask God to meet with people in powerful ways.
So, did it work? Well, kind of, in fact, better than kind of, it did connect with people. In fact the 200 doughnuts certainly were well received and I reckon we must have prayed blessing over at least 20 people between us.
At times it was like a mass grab of fresh fried sugary dough… But at other times it was full of peace and calm and people communicated what a lovely idea it was to be given a free gift and a prayer too. One guy shared how much he appreciated the way we went about gently sharing ‘the message.’ I spoke with him for some length, put my tray down and explained what it meant to be a follower of Christ. I spoke with him about whether Jesus was calling him to follow him. He wondered if he was, and was challenged by what this could mean for his life and family.
On reflection, the morning was rather too successful on the giveaway front. Trying to say a prayer of blessing over everyone who took a doughnut was impossible. As people stood before us with sugary lipped smiles it seemed more appropriate to simple say, ‘hey, I’m giving away doughnuts to remind you that God loves you!’ Slightly cheesy I know, yet it is true… And somehow rang true for others.
Also, it was difficult to somehow communicate that taking the free doughnut wasn’t a catch to proclaiming some wacky prayer over peoples lives. Sometimes it seemed so much more gracious to say nothing.
Phil and Graeme both spoke about being out of their depth for different reasons, but armed with a tray of goodies seemed to make the job of explaining something of God’s love and free gift of Jesus so much easier. They were brilliant, and their concerns changed to being just ‘up their street…’ (Pardon the pun!)
For the 20 or so people we spoke and listened to the morning was potentially life changing. I don’t write this in some kind of arrogant way. What I mean is that the gospel IS life changing and our small attempt to communicate this news may bring hope to those we met.