‘Real Lives’ Mission October 2005: Organising a full week of outreach events was a big challenge for us as a church, a healthy challenge to our faith and an opportunity to reach many people we hadn’t reached before.
It is true to say that the kind of evangelism you do during a mission week is the same as you do at other times. There’s just more of it. It gets folks mobilised because minds are concentrated, prayers are focused and things come together.
Kesgrave is a fast-growing suburb of Ipswich in Suffolk, with a population of around 13,000 people, a good mix of retired folk in the older - bungalow - part of town, and young families who live on the new development of 3,000 homes that has gone up in recent years. Kesgrave Baptist Church has been working here for 50 years. We are a church of about 80-100 people with active youth and children’s work.
We knew that in 2005 we would be conducting a major building project, demolishing our halls and extending our main building with excellent new facilities, and so we thought ‘Why not follow this with an evangelistic mission?’ So we invited Paul Hinton to come as our evangelist, and timed the mission to coincide with what we thought would be the end of the building project. As it turned out, the builders were still hard at work when the mission started and the church buildings looked a mess. However, this didn’t really matter because we held several of our events off-site amongst the community.
The mission programme:
» Tues 11th – 7pm
Evangelistic supper in the church
» Wed 12th – 12noon
Senior citizen’s lunch in the scouts hall
» Wed 12th – 7.30pm
Men’s night at Ipswich Town Football Club with special guest Derek Jefferson (former ITFC player)
» Thurs 13th
Quiz Night in local primary school
» Friday 14th – 6.30pm
Family Fun Night for all parents of kids in our children’s club
» Friday 14th – 8pm
Youth café held with other churches in Kesgrave
» Sat 15th
Guest event in community centre with John Mosey, the father of a Locherbie victim. Evening was titled: ‘Locherbie father wrestles with disaster.’
» Sunday 16th – 10.30am
Guest Service, including testimony from John Mosey
» Sunday 16th – 6.30pm
Guest service ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’
Paul Hinton spoke at every event, and we had good numbers of non-Christians at all of them, with the one exception of the men’s night, which clashed with an England Football International! (We had booked the venue months in advance and paid up front, so we were at the mercy of the F.A.!)
Paul is a brilliant evangelist who can really connect with an audience of strangers in any setting. Having an evangelist that Christians can have confidence in is very important to the success of the mission. Paul had been for a previous mission and other visits, and came for a pre-mission visit that inspired us. Another key aspect of all we did during the week was to avoid the format of meetings that are not much different to a Sunday service. The evenings with Derek Jefferson and John Mosey took the form of an interview, interspersed with video, so that we heard their story in a very relaxed informal way, and this transitioned easily into Paul’s preaching.
One of the main legacies of the mission has been that we now make three weekends, one each term, specifically evangelistic, with similar kinds of events that tell someone’s story or deal with a gospel issue. Captain Simeon Jemmett told his story of being wounded in action in Afghanistan, Tom Chapman spoke on the problem of suffering in the light of his experience of cancer, and we have had two great weekends with Nick Howard, including a memorable men’s breakfast. These weekends become a focus for inviting our friends and praying for each other’s personal witness, and we have seen these having a steady gospel impact in the last couple of years.
Looking back with three years hindsight, a mission week of six days of events non-stop was probably too ambitious for a church of our size. We might have done better focusing on four days, or sharing Paul with another local church. That is why we are so keen to be involved with A Passion for Life as it gives us the opportunity to reach out to Ipswich with a much wider range of churches and to make a gospel impact together that we could not do alone.