This is the recent report in The Baptist Times online of last weeks Big Hearted Tour in the South West of England…
Chris Duffett is a president exactly right for this time, says Sam Griffiths
I’ve never seen anything like it in almost 25 years of ministry as a Baptist pastor. It wasn’t like this in the old days you see.
The president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain would always be one of those suited chaps, well known, Phd, brown floppy briefcase, black shoes and a smooth haircut, and with a presidential theme that was probably generally forgettable after he had departed your church.
And many churches do sort of get on the presidential band wagon – they must have the president come and preach, regardless of who he is and where he was from. It was kind of what you did as a middle class, middle of the road Baptist Union Church. But not this president.
Chris Duffett is a president who is absolutely right for this time and this moment in our culture, where we find ourselves as a union of churches. I for one would support having him for a two year stretch!
Arriving with enthusiasm pouring out of him, and a delight in every person present who was bravely there to be trained in being big hearted, Chris is plain speaking, inspiring, and rapidly makes you feel that you CAN do the stuff that he does, and that we can afresh see people on our streets and in our communities comes to faith.
As we sit café style listening to story after story from this now bare foot, hoodied and shorts wearing BU president, we are passionately encouraged to be on the streets of our communities so that people “get it”.
That’s what Chris has experienced on the streets of Peterborough, and is how he sums up people understanding the Gospel. ‘I just want people to get it!’ he repeats.
And so through the use of sofas, red carpets and hi-viz bouncers, the giving away of fruit with a prophetic word, a wall with the title ‘when I die I want to ……’ , or an offer of prayer, or a Bible study in a coffee shop – or most radical of all – to go treasure hunting using the prophetic leading of the Holy Spirit, that some be reached and won for Jesus.
This is a president like no other in our history. And the teaching is absolutely what we need for now if our churches and our communities are to be transformed.
You see as lovely as those presidents of old were, I can’t remember much about what they said or how it changed me. This one gives it to us practically and passionately wants to see us and our towns change, because our evangelism methods have grown stale, and our streets become far more challenging.
This was one of his challenges: ‘I want you all to go into a betting shop and place a bet with £1’. Stunned silence. ‘So you can understand just how foreign it is when someone unchurched comes into our churches.’
And so off we went – £1 on Murray to win the US open, brought me a £2 return.
The Revd Sam Griffiths is minister of Wellington Baptist Church in Somerset
Of his time in the South West, Chris Duffett said, ‘The Big Hearted Tour in the SWBA included some daring new outreach. This included an approach to evangelism called ‘Treasure Hunting.’ After some training we spent time in prayer seeking to hear from God as to the ‘treasure’ he would lead us to. Sure enough, we met people who were grateful to learn that they were loved and that God knew them. The most encouraging part of the tour in the SW was seeing the confidence grow in some of those who joined me in Wellington and Torquay.