I was recently contacted by a local Evangelist based in a church with whom we have partnered in gospel work over recent years. Due to some unforeseen changes in circumstances, particularly the loss of certain opportunities in his local area, he was looking to expand his remit and try working in a few different areas. Ours was a natural fit for him and so we set about thinking of ways he might be able to supplement our existing work.
After batting a few ideas around, we landed on running a simple book table outside the frontage of our church building. We have a porch that comes out onto the main thoroughfare from Glodwick into Oldham town centre. This made it an ideal spot to set up a book table, speak to those passing by and allowed us to open up the church and invite in any who showed real interest.
Yesterday was our first effort. I was unsure how well it would go and there was certainly a point, early on, that we wondered whether it would be better to head into a busier part of town. Judging the success of such things is also difficult. Do we assess it based on the number of conversations we had, on the highest quality conversation(s), on the number of professions of faith on the day, on the amount of literature/books distributed, on the willingness of people to engage, on the inroads into the local community, on the visibility and profile raising of the church locally, or on some other measure altogether? Each of these things would give a different answer as to its relative success.
For what it’s worth, here are some of the things that I thought were helpful. Whilst there was not a vast amount of footfall, almost everybody who was offered literature took some. In an area like ours, that is not to be underestimated. Second, we had two or three particularly valuable conversations with folk passing by who went on to take books addressing many of the questions they were raising. Third, being in that location made it very clear we were linked to the church and many people stopped and saw Oldham Bethel Church actively doing something in the community. Fourth, a couple of our Iranian guys came along to help and this was a wonderful witness to the local Muslims that those who were ‘born Muslim’ (as many Muslims think of themselves born into the faith) were now identifying as Christian. This sends a message that one has no obligation to remain part of a religion they believe they were born into – something many Muslims have simply never countenanced before.
I would be lying if I said we saw people making professions of faith on the spot. But conversations were had, literature distributed, ideas discussed, questions addressed, open invites extended. The locals certainly knew we were there and knew what we were about. We didn’t receive any hostile reception and the gospel was proclaimed several times over. It may not have been grand or flashy but, as a first effort, one has to feel relatively encouraged.
We are praying the opportunity will continue in the coming weeks. Our Evangelist friend has committed to coming weekly. We are praying this simple thing will have a great impact in Glodwick.