Reaching into the Community with the Gospel
Stuart Dan, Plymouth, England
A record of outreach work in Efford, Plymouth, Devon
How many times have we been taught that the assembly is not a building, but a group of people? Yet, we find it hard to get among people and build bridges to allow them to get to know us and ultimately to know our Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and be integrated into the local church.
About 20 years ago, the assembly took the decision to move from their dilapidated premises and create a higher profile witness on a needy council estate in Plymouth.
We started to run a monthly family service in the local Junior School and many young people from our Sunday School and youth clubs joined us with their family members until we were welcoming as many as ninety people on the Sunday mornings. One of our elders was invited to become a governor in this same school and regularly took assemblies there. The head teacher was very supportive of our initiative in the community and also allowed us the use of his school on Friday evenings for a Christian youth club which attracted on occasions around 100 young people.
Our present youth work continues to attract similar numbers and we are now considering reaching the mums of our young people via a ladies’ outreach meeting.
The Lord opened up a project for us to build a new hall immediately adjacent to the Junior School and despite many areas of opposition, the new building was opened about two years ago. We have been very encouraged by a number of the younger single people and families in the assembly purchasing homes in the immediate area of the building and being able to walk to it – a great witness in itself.
We then faced the challenge of reaching a whole new community, without compromise, with the gospel. How could we bridge the gap between ourselves and the community? We contacted The National Blood Service and invited them to consider using our premises for Blood Donor Sessions. They accepted our invitation and regular sessions are held during the year and where people as yet untouched by the gospel now walk through our doors. The local police team asked for the use of our building to hold Community Policing evenings where more members of the community crossed the threshold. The barriers between us and our neighbours were beginning to fall.
We set about reaching different people groups. We commenced men’s breakfasts on a Saturday morning every few months. Like other assemblies in the city, we held a weekly coffee morning where people can make their first approach to us and enjoy a chat over a cup of coffee and some delicious cakes. Many people who had their first contact with us at the coffee mornings are now regular visitors to our family services. We constantly try to provide a varied programme of evangelism to effectively contact a community as yet not reached with the gospel.
One lady who lived in a nearby bungalow to the hall mentioned that she needed a hard standing built to accommodate a mobility scooter so a small team from the assembly built the hard standing on a Saturday morning and were able to show her something of the love of Christ. Through the endeavours of some of the ladies in the assembly (and not forgetting some of the men) we also provided for the over 55’s a monthly cooked lunch at which approximately fifty people join us each time. We have the opportunity to visit a complex of flats for the elderly and hold a monthly service in their communal lounge.
During a Saturday morning just before Christmas, the assembly was mobilized to have a stall in the shopping precinct opposite our building and provided ‘hot chocolate and mince pies’ with invitations to our Carol Services. Our building was open on that morning for people to wander in and talk and several people took advantage of the opportunity on a cold December morning. We enjoyed welcoming 180 people to our Carol Service so the hall was filled to capacity and some had to stand.
A new block of flats for the elderly has recently been built across the road from us and we are in the process of visiting each resident with a ‘Welcome Pack’ comprising of a jar of coffee, packet of tea, a packet of biscuits and an introductory leaflet saying who we are, what we believe, contact telephone numbers and a schedule of events being held in the building. We trust that these acts of kindness will bring their rewards in due course and bear fruit for The Lord.
Currently we are in the middle of running a Christianity Explored course where nineteen people meet with us each week. We have a 45-minute meal together and then spend 75 minutes discussing the content of Mark’s Gospel plus a DVD presentation. The course will run over a 10-week period. We can now report that three people have made professions of faith having attended the course.
Someone once said, ‘People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ Our Lord cared enough to come to where we were and purchase our salvation. How will people know that God cares if we don’t show it? We long that our contacts will become converts and ultimately true disciples of our precious Lord.
All activity needs prayer, training, preparation, willingness and commitment. We pray that in our generation, God will raise up groups of His people with the qualities and desire to spend and be spent for the Lord who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Romans chapter 10 verses 14-15 states, ‘How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?”’ NIV.