Christ Church Bromley is a suburban church, predominantly middle class, and with a growing mix of nationalities in the congregation.
Over the past five years we have carried out a mixture of small missions (typically two restaurant events sandwiched by two ‘guest’ Sundays) and larger missions (with a fuller range of services and events with visiting speakers and teams).
We have also done one ‘away’ mission where we have taken a team to help another church with their mission and we hope to do more of these ‘away’ missions in the future.
In 2009 we will have a regular sprinkling of events-based and guest-based services throughout the year, but without a specific mission week. Hopefully that will mean our preparation for A Passion for Life is both thorough and focused.
In 2006, we hosted a mission called Cross Examination. This was a larger scale mission with numerous events going on each day and featuring several guest speakers. However, in addition, for Cross Examination we invited Rico Tice as the ‘main’ speaker. Rico came with a small team who helped with some children and young people’s work and other mid-week events.
a) Centralised courses
We run a type of five-week Lent course each year with different teaching streams for people to choose from. Growth Groups (home groups) go to the central streams of teaching and then meet together at the end of the evening. In those years in which a mission is being run, we ensure that half the streams are focused on evangelism training. For example the courses are entitled: ‘getting familiar with Christianity Explored’ or ‘how to give an answer’ or ‘how to deal with tough questions.’
b) Mission booklet
With the help of resources from other churches, we produced a mission booklet for each member of the congregation entitled: Everything You Need to Know about Cross Examination. Despite all the work involved in making it, the booklet proved to be helpful. However we decided that future ones would perhaps not be as long. If there is too much material to wade through, people can be put off reading any of it! The booklet consisted of four sections. The first section, ‘Why have Cross Examination?’, explained what our motives should be regarding any evangelism we do. The next section, ‘What is Cross Examination?’ outlined the overview of the week and unpacked some of the ingredients that made up the mission. The longest section was ‘How can we be involved in Cross Examination?’ This section covered details such as: praying for the gospel (tips on praying, prayer meeting times), getting to the gospel (tips on bringing the gospel up in everyday conversation), planning for the gospel (an attempt to encourage church members to think specifically of those they hoped to invite), explaining and defending the gospel (explaining a simple gospel outline and giving some initial answers to common questions) and then some recommendations for books about the gospel. The last section of the booklet, ‘How can we prepare for Cross Examination?’ covered the Bible study material for the small groups. Throughout the booklet we included testimonies from members of the congregation, in order to encourage ourselves of the power of the gospel at work in people’s lives.
c) Sunday services
In our main Sunday meetings we explained different sections of the booklet each week. This meant that we could keep the mission on everyone’s agenda without becoming repetitive. Tickets for events were on sale after the main Sunday services over coffee so we were able to raise the profile of the mission at every opportunity.
d) Growth Groups (home groups)
For a series of weeks before the mission, the Bible study material from 2 Corinthians was used as key preparation for the mission.
At both the small group level and at the main church prayer meeting, the mission occupied pride of place in our prayers for many months leading up to the week. We produced prayer cards featuring appropriate biblical encouragements to persist in prayer, the cards also came with a space for people to write the names of those they were praying for. Some of the congregation got into triplets specifically for the mission in order to pray for friends and family.
The features of the mission were as follows:
a) Specially tailored Sunday services
Structurally speaking, the mission was centred around two Sundays; both services being considerably more evangelistic than our regular Sunday services.
b) Main events
Some of the main events were designed for specific people groups (men’s curry evenings, women’s evenings, family fun mornings) and some were for whoever wanted to come along. For many events we hired local restaurants, otherwise we used church premises for events - such as a quiz night, a concert and a workplace breakfast.
c) Small group events
Each small group in the church was encouraged (whether they were a Growth Group, a day time Bible study group, a 20s and 30s group or a day time women’s group) to host their own evangelistic event with a speaker. The event would also include some quality refreshments - either a meal, cheese and wine, or coffee and cake.
Although we did arrange daily prayer meetings, we found it difficult to know the best time to have them - in order to give as many people as possible the opportunity of praying alongside others. Short of having about three meetings each day, it was difficult to determine whether first thing in the morning, after the school run or after work were the best times. For those who did come, it was invaluable to have fresh news of how previous evenings had gone and to pray for individuals.
After the Mission
We tried as much as possible to encourage each member of the congregation to follow-up their own friends and contacts, and to think through what would be the next step for those they know. More formally, Christianity Explored was the mainstay of our follow-up. We offered courses at three different times, two evenings and an afternoon, hosted in a mixture of homes and church premises.
There weren’t as many on the courses as we had hoped - a total of about 20 unbelievers over three courses - but some have since given clear professions of faith.
Our long-term aim is to give the congregation confidence in using Christianity Explored with their friends on a one-to-one basis, but we’re a little way off that yet.
Since the mission we have also developed a door-to-door team, who regularly visit homes in our parish and build relationships with the local community. Any future mission would involve that team, as they build bridges to those living around our church building.
a) Though it is not always possible, there is great value in having an outside speaker and team, especially when they are committed to personal work with individuals during the week. This is true of both Rico Tice and of Will Stileman - who came to help us with a mission in 2008.
b)Persistent, clear and imaginative communication to the church is very important for mobilising and enthusing the church family. It is worth working hard at not being repetitive and yet constantly underlining the greatness of the opportunity created by a mission.
c) We have been made to think how to help the congregation not to ‘crash’ after the excitement and effort of a mission week. Whilst a short sharp burst of evangelistic activity is a necessary prod to most Christian believers, we also want to help the congregation think in an ‘ongoing way’ about their lost friends and family. It is easy to have a period of heightened mission fervour, only to then collapse and stop thinking about non-Christians for the next six months. We have since tried to spread the mission over a longer period, with ‘taster’ events running throughout a month, before a ‘main’ week of events. This would enable a longer presentation of the gospel.
d) The spiritual good done by a mission for unbelievers, in terms of moving them on a step, is a cause for great joy and thanks to God. It is undoubtedly a long process in many people and we constantly need to remind ourselves of God’s sovereignty in conversion. But we have also known just as much joy in seeing God’s work carried out among the regular believing members of our congregation. For example, we have seen Christians growing in gratitude towards God for the gift of Christ after hearing the gospel unpacked, clearly, again. People have grown in their understanding of what it means for a church not just to assent to the gospel, but to so believe it that they are driven by the gospel in all they do.
Christians in our congregation at Christ Church Bromley have grown in their boldness regarding speaking up for Christ and in inviting their friends to events. This is made more achievable by the fact that brothers and sisters around them are all trying to do the same thing. Missions bring the church family together in the task of making Jesus known, so that both the encouragements and the heart-breaking discouragements are shared.