Sowing the seed
It is part of the Great Commission that evangelical churches should reach out to their neighbourhoods, regularly and prayerfully, and use the opportunities given.
Perhaps the greatest opportunity, apart from regular visitation, is at Christmas time. For the past three years, Aycliffe Evangelical Church in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, has used the December Evangelical Times in its Christmas outreach, delivering a copy to each of 1,800 homes in the community around the church.
The first reason is that increasingly, over the last few years, ET has made its Christmas issue a very special one, geared to the evangelistic opportunity.
In last year’s December ET, there was obviously a sustained effort to include a great variety of appropriate evangelistic articles. These varied from a range of testimonies of changed lives, to articles that addressed quite deliberately topics of interest to all. These included evolution, the credit crunch, life and death, sorrow, anxiety, design in creation, and so on.
Each article was written with unbelievers in mind as the ones who would be reading; and each was presented from a biblical, evangelistic standpoint. There were also articles on specific gospel issues such as the new birth, heaven and hell, and why Jesus came.
It should be said too that the colours and lay out of the December ET were appropriate to a Christmas newspaper – attractive, without looking worldly.
‘Who would read it all?’
But you might ask, ‘Who would read all those articles?’
A valid question. But then how many of us read every single article in a particular newspaper? Yet we still find it informative and interesting to read whatever we do, and feel that we have indeed ‘read the paper’ even if we have only actually read one quarter of it word-for-word.
The point is that the wide variety of issues dealt with and the wide variety of testimonies presented bring the gospel message within reach of a wide variety of readers. It becomes accessible to all types of people.
‘Why a national newspaper?’
‘Why use a national Christian newspaper for a local church? Isn’t that a bit impersonal?’
It could be but, to avoid this, Aycliffe church included an A4 sheet (on glossy paper) with the ETs.
This addition was a two-sided sheet which contained a personal letter from the pastor, giving a brief of the history of the church, and an invitation to the coming Christmas evangelistic meetings.
The handout also gave some detail (including photos) about the church’s activities for the past year and contact details.
If that all seems too much, there is a smallish box left blank on the front page of December’s ET so that you can stamp whatever details you want into it. These could be, for example, the times of your Christmas services.
‘What about the cost?’
The first answer to that question is, ‘What is the cost of a soul?’ But obviously a church has to decide what it can afford.
We did weigh up the cost. We considered that, since the December ET is always sold at a special bulk rate, the total cost of both newspaper and A4 insert was reasonable.
Certainly, if we had purchased a well-produced, professionally printed tract for use, there would be little difference in cost.
But evangelism is always costly in time, prayer and dedication.
‘What was the fruit?’
‘What was the fruit of the visitation last year?’
We do not know that anyone came to the Lord through it.
But then, if we are honest about most of our evangelism, that would usually be the case, despite all the literature we might distribute and conversations we might engage in.
We do not know of anyone who came to any of our meetings as a result of this distribution. But we did receive some positive comments from people we saw when we were delivering the newspapers.
And we carry on praying that God will work in his way, in his time. It is all part of sowing the seed of God’s word.