Yesterday morning, we had a visit from Chris Duffett, vice-President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. Chris brought his own irrepressible personality and sense of humour to the children’s talk and sermon. Even better than that, after the service he took some of us out into Peterborough city centre to offer pastries and prayer.
It’s a simple idea! In two’s and three’s, we went into shops offering a free pastry and also free prayer to shop-workers. In other words, we were taking a gift of grace and of prayer to a group of people who would not normally be able to get to a church service, even if they wanted to. Some of us also offered the same to shoppers in the pedestrian thoroughfare.
The responses varied. Some accepted the pastry, but had no need of prayer. ‘My life is fine at the moment’ seemed a common comment. Others declined the pastry but were glad to pass on a request for prayer. A few were willing to be prayed with there and then. Between the twelve people who went out from my church as ‘saints on the streets’, we must have had some contact with 50 or more people who are not Christians during just an hour! I’m not aware of one of them taking offence at our offer, and many were genuinely pleased at our approach. My partner in the gospel was Chris, and we took prayer requests for a man having problems with the cashpoint, relatives of a woman who had melanoma, women with breast cancer and a good education for a secondary school pupil to name but a few.
It’s said that Christians and non-Christians share the same view of evangelism: neither of them like it! Yet pastries and prayer was non-threatening way of sharing just a little of the love of God. Next week, we will be sharing in the ‘Big Welcome’ of Back to Church Sunday. I doubt that we will have anywhere near 50 non-churchgoers joining us (although I’d love to be proved wrong). We hope the world will come to church, but perhaps we should be cancelling our church sometimes so that the church can go into the world? Now, haven’t I heard someone say that before?