Paying our debts is seldom easy, yet there is one debt we can settle with a sense of privilege and joy. Paul refers to it in Romans 1:14: ‘I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and unwise. So as much as is in me I am ready to preach the gospel…’
Paul’s ‘debt’ was of course the gospel itself, which he ‘owed’ to those who had never heard it. It had been entrusted to him that he might deliver it to the lost, whoever and wherever they were. The same applies to us. We are not apostles, of course, but if we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are nonetheless involved. We have received the good news concerning him that we might share it with others.
Each year, the December evangelistic issue of
Evangelical Timesgives us an opportunity to do so. Hopefully, we regard sharing the gospel as a year-round responsibility — we don’t have to wait for Christmas! But reaching out to our community on a largescale may well be undertaken as an annual activity.
At the Campus Church, Welwyn Garden City, around the beginning of December each year, 3,000 copies of the December
ETsuddenly appear, stacked up along one wall in packs of 100. Delivered on a pallet to the home of a member, they are transported to the church with surprising ease in a couple of cars (one if a people-mover is available!).
After the Bible study one Wednesday evening, a dozen or so people using three self-inking rubber stamps take no more than 30 minutes to stamp the church’s contact details on each copy and pack them in 50s in plastic bags.
A list of local streets is posted on the notice board and individuals ‘sign up’ to deliver the papers to the homes in a given street — a task which is carried out at leisure over the next three weeks.
How long since our neighbours heard about Christ? Never more than twelve months.
Energising the church
Engaging in outreach can energise a church. Last year our valued contributor Geoff Thomas wrote:
‘We are getting more excited about Christmas. The congregation got 1,000 copies of the December issue of
Evangelical Times, the special annual evangelistic issue in which I’d written a piece called, “Why you need Jesus”.
‘We wrote a bilingual covering letter, and volunteers who live in different parts of Aberystwyth or the surrounding villages each ordered 50 or 100 copies and then delivered them throughout their own neighbourhoods, some just posting them through letter boxes while others knocked and introduced themselves and the church.
‘There seemed to me unusual enthusiasm for this project in the church. The young men arranged it, and all of us after a prayer meeting folded the 1,000
ETs and enclosed them in the letter with an elastic band and put them in plastic bags … for the various individuals to pick up; so simple, and cheerfully done.
‘All the happy banter of a group of Christians doing something together for half an hour characterised that time, and nice stories of conversations in distributing them were reported back to us later’.
Read and enjoyed
John Rubens, pastor of Aycliffe Evangelical Church, adds his own church’s experience as follows.
‘”Are you the church that puts round that newspaper every Christmas?” asked a man as he approached a member at an open-air meeting in the town. “I enjoy reading it every year.” For the past few years the church has circulated about 1,000 copies of the Christmas edition of
Evangelical Timesto homes around the school hall where the church currently meets.
‘Each copy includes an invitation to the church and an offer of a copy of
Ultimate Questions. Over the years there have been comments from those receiving the paper, so we know that people are reading it.
‘On one occasion as we passed by a home shortly after we had delivered the paper, a woman could be seen through her lounge window reading it. This past Christmas we received an anonymous abusive letter as a result of distributing the paper — at least the person had read it!
‘We cannot claim to have people coming into the church as a result of using
ETas part of our Christmas outreach but we are convinced that many people read at least part of the paper. Prior to using ET, we often produced our own Christmas tract but we found the difference in cost was minimal — and with ETwe have a far more substantial, varied and interesting publication’.
Let’s be sure to pay our debts this Christmas!