Spiritual food for starving people
by Mark Richards
‘Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again’ (Ecclesiastes 11:1)
The proverb may have its origin in sea-faring trade, shipping corn on the high seas, but it is framed in such a way as to emphasise the need to engage in risky ventures if we are to prosper.
In the cold, energy-sapping days in which we live, we are often reluctant to take new initiatives in evangelism, because such efforts seem reckless and unrewarding. But Christ’s words to his disciples in Luke 9:13 still apply – ‘You give them something to eat’. We need to be fired up to do so.
For this reason, after being challenged by the example of another church, we have for the last two years distributed copies of the Christmas evangelistic ET to about 1500 homes in our area of the town.
Our parish is diverse. There are English and Pakistani, those drawing benefit and those doing well. Like everywhere else, insatiable materialism, short-term relationships, drunkenness and vandalism are much in evidence here.
There are many in these homes with whom we have no contact at all. There are some, for sure, who have little contact with anyone.
The articles in the Christmas ET are, in our view, engaging, provocative, and supremely relevant to 21st century men and women. The unchanging gospel is clearly and faithfully proclaimed.
Even a cursory reading makes it clear to the recipient that we are not promoting a cult or even a denomination. Rather, we are publishing what we are convinced is good news concerning Jesus Christ.
Our prayer is that some will read an article or a testimony and start seriously considering the claims of Jesus Christ upon their lives. In fact we know there is enough of the gospel in the newspaper for someone to be converted simply by reading it through (as has happened elsewhere). Surely last year’s front page testimony, ‘I cast a spell’ must have caught the eye of the self-confessed witch who lives adjacent to our church?
Venturing in trust
This past Christmas a couple of volunteers stapled a small invitation to our Christmas services to the front of the paper, and then about thirty members of the congregation distributed them in the area. In most cases these were simply put through people’s letterboxes, which takes less than a minute a house.
In the streets immediately around the church we sang carols one evening, while two or three people knocked on doors and gave personal invitations to our main Carol Service. We also gave copies out to visitors who attended any event at the church over the Christmas period.
Was there any evident response? The last two years we have had at our Carol Service a handful of visitors who we have never seen before, but to date we have had no tangible success in building on these first contacts.
But then, let us be honest, not one of our regular evangelistic efforts as a church (youth groups, Sunday School, luncheon club, Market stall, door to door, Christianity Explored) seems specially favoured with success. Yet we keep venturing and trust God that after many days we will find that the bread has been received and brought forth life.
The author is the pastor of Newtown Evangelical Baptist Church, Chesham, Buckinghamshire.