The Games and the glory
The Olympic rings floated down the River Thames to the flash of cameras and drone of half a dozen helicopters. London is getting ready for the 2012 Olympics, and local churches are in training for a huge mission that aims to win a far greater prize — the hearts and minds of people for Christ.
Different events have been planned to take place before and during the Olympics. Many churches are preparing to run holiday Bible clubs on an Olympic theme. Others are holding special missions.
Bible study materials have been prepared by Go Teach and Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), called ‘Run the race’, which take up the biblical theme of comparing the Christian life to a race.
Grace2London , a London-based organisation set up to use the 2012 Games as a springboard for evangelism, has been busy, teaming up with churches and Christian organisations in the area and elsewhere, to help Christians ‘gird their loins’ for mission.
It has put together a resource pack for London churches and praying partners, with suggested themes to help churches put their own missions into action.
Homerton Baptist Church, East London, was where God planted the idea for Grace2London, and its pastor Steven Richards tells the story.
When Jacques Rogge announced on 5 July 2005 that London had won its bid to host the 2012 Games, a massive operation had to commence to transform the approximately 600 acres of land in the East End into the Olympic Park.
To say the area looks totally different now is a gross understatement. That which was largely derelict, polluted and unused has become lively, vibrant and exciting.
In the past, much of the area was used by the rail industry and had been called ‘rail lands’. The northern part had been used by the Victorians for landfill. More recently, there were some small, local industries, but largely the area had been much neglected.
By 2005, the soil contained petrol, lead, arsenic and other heavy metals. The waterways were full of such objects as dumped cars and shopping trolleys.
The Olympic Delivery Authority was tasked with turning this into a world class Olympic Park that would function not only for the 2012 Games but also for the years of legacy after the Games.
After the clean-up operation came the ‘big build’. The stadium, aquatic arena, water polo pool, handball arena, velodrome, BMX circuit, basketball arena, Paralympics tennis courts and hockey pitches had to be built.
Add to this the Olympic Village, in which 17,000 athletes and officials will be living for the Games, a media centre for 20,000 journalists, and an energy centre to service all the venues!
As soon as we knew London had won the bid, we realised that this presented us with a unique opportunity to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to the millions of people coming to the Games and those living around the Park.
We knew this to be too great a task for one church, so others were contacted and an organisation known as Grace2London was formed. Our aim is to encourage our churches to get involved, not just in London but wherever those churches are.
Our concern is to have a biblical foundation, so we are using the Affinity doctrinal statement and we ask those who wish to be involved to express their agreement with this statement.
We have visited a number of churches and talked to other organisations about our plans and it has been encouraging to see their responses.
Some people from churches across the UK have indicated their willingness to work with us in London and others have plans for their own areas.
One thing that can be done is to be prepared for the Torch Relay. The Olympic torch is to be carried around the UK, starting at Land’s End on 19 May and finishing at the Olympic Park on 27 July.
Already churches are planning to provide refreshments and facilities for those who will be lining the route and use that opportunity to find ways to present the gospel.
Sixteen African pastors are coming from South Africa. They recently had experience of evangelistic outreach for the World Cup and have offered to help us in whatever way they can.
There will also be roughly 100 Christians from Answers In Genesis USA. They have had experience of outreach at recent summer and winter Olympic Games.
Coinciding with this, we will have a special meeting on 8 August, at which Professor Andy McIntosh will be speaking on some aspect of the human body. We plan to produce a credit card size DVD, called The amazing human body, which will be given out on the streets together with other relevant pieces of literature.
During the Olympics and Paralympics, we hope Christians will go out onto the street to talk to people and distribute literature. Any volunteers are most welcome.
Dorking Baptist Chapel will open its premises for refreshments and facilities during the road cycle races on 28 and 29 July. West Ham, one of the churches closest to the Olympic Park, hopes to have a Globe Café.
Many churches will host a community barbeque on 4 August, while Homerton Baptist and others will have a Jamaican evening on 6 August. There will also be an Eric Liddell Olympic Champion Exhibition and a John Newton exhibition. But all this is irrelevant without God’s blessing on the work.
This is a massive task and we need much prayer and support from the Lord’s people. Please pray.
Any gifts for this work can be sent to Grace2London Ltd, c/o Homerton Baptist Church, Barnabas Road, Homerton, London E9 5SD. (Please do not send gifts directly to ET.)