Market Stall Outreach
Mark Reynolds, Hemsworth, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
This article, like that in the February magazine, has been compiled from the writer’s answers to questions posed by the editor. It is hoped that the material will give a different insight into such outreach activities and encourage others to see what can be done in reaching the lost with the message of the gospel.
How did you go about setting up your market stall outreach?
Much of the gospel literature that we often see can be out-of-date, dog-eared, of little relevance, and, sadly, has obviously been in its place a long time. It suggests a lack of care, love, and seriousness for those who are outside of Christ and are one step away from a lost eternity. Also, the only people who would ever see this material are those who went to church where it was displayed. What about the thousands who don’t go? How will they know?
After retiring and moving into fellowship in Hemsworth, I shared with the elders a burden I had for some form of market outreach. I had noticed when going around the local market that there was nothing for the Lord, and, as far as the assembly knew, there never had been.
I approached the management of the market with trepidation, but in faith, and explained that we were looking for a market stall so that we could give away free Christian literature to anyone who wanted it, and that we would be doing it on a non-denominational basis.
Points to consider:
- Some market managers could be more receptive to the idea if it is explained that the stall would not be representing any particular Christian denomination – we would just be representing the Christian faith!
- From a practical point of view, think about insurance. It may be that when you pay for your stall that part of the payment is an insurance indemnity provided by the local authority. In other situations, you might need to inform the provider of your public liability insurance cover at your assembly building to ensure that you are covered for such activity.
What issues did you have to sort out before you could start? Were there any requirements to meet? etc.
From the point of view of fellow believers:
- Is the church ready to support the work prayerfully and seriously?
You don’t start something unless it is an exercise of the Lord. We must all understand that what we do we will be accountable for!
- When would we do it?
We need to be effective without overstretching ourselves because of other commitments, our age (most of us are retired and over sixty), or abilities. Whilst not all may be evangelists some can provide much needed prayerful support.
- Would the resources be there?
This does not mean just financially but practically. Would there be sufficient helpers to stand with me.
- What literature would we use?
It is important to carry fellow believers with you so that all are happy with the choice of literature. It also has to cover all age ranges, and the range of possible issues that you might have to handle. Once the material is agreed, it is important that at least one person is appraised of all that is on display so if a question were asked they could give an answer.
- If questions were asked to which one had no answers could the questioner be directed to an approved source?
Be prepared for, and discuss amongst those who may be able to assist in the work, the question that you will not be able to answer. In every case, it is important to be able to direct any enquirer to the word of God.
- How would the literature be displayed?
The display is very important because it is the first impression that the passer-by gets of your stall. Take time over what you do – we actually did a ‘dry run’ in the hall. You might want to consider what posters you might use as part of your overall display
- What contact point for enquirers might you offer?
Whilst it may be desirable to have details of the church and its times of meeting, it may be helpful to consider setting up a web page which the enquirer can visit. In this way they do not have to ‘come to church’ but can find more about the gospel through the site.
With all enquirers, it is important not to give personal phone numbers or addresses out as contact points for further enquiries.
- Where would the material be stored, and, when the weather is bad, kept dry?
It can be helpful to inspect the site to see whether it may supply an answer to these and other issues. However, there are storage issues from day-to-day when the stall is not run. It is important to ensure that the literature does not become soiled, creased, or corrugated by poor storage.
As part of the storage, it might be useful for someone to catalogue materials and keep track of them for restocking.
What do you stock on your market and why?
Most of us do not possess twenty years of practical experience in evangelism through literature, or running children’s work. However, we can all observe and, by experience, learn what works and what does not. Not all material is relevant to evangelism or outreach. The quantity does not matter, it is the quality!
Some that we have found useful include:
- Radio Bible Class ministries – material on life’s issues;
- The Bible Society and their children’s colouring books;
- Trinitarian Bible Society or SGM have helpful ranges, and access to foreign language material;
- Creation ministries and their children’s range;
- LivingWaters.com materials. They produce a lot of little cards and coins with the Ten Commandments on and they create interest. This material comes from the USA.
A2 Posters include:
- ‘Light of the World’ by Holman Hunt;
- ‘The genealogy of Jesus’ from SASRA;
- The ‘Up Down Line’, an old railway poster from the railway mission.
I am also working on ‘The broad and narrow way’ in order to remove the ‘all seeing eye’ to avoid giving the impression that the gospel has something to do with Freemasonry.
What type of question do you get from people?
Very often we meet people who want to tell us their opinion but who do not want to listen to others! However, it is important to expect certain issues:
- Why would God allow this to happen? Family tragedy can often lead to anger.
- Hasn’t science disproved the Bible? Evolution is not regarded as theory but is assumed to be fact!
- What about disasters in the world and wars? Where is God in such situations?
- How can you know the Bible is true? Isn’t it just made up stories?
- What church do you go to, or who do you represent? People want to be able to label you!
Keeping abreast of things that are topical can also enable you to anticipate some of the questions that might be raised.
What are the benefits of such work?
I believe the benefits are significant. Romans chapter 10 verse 14 asks, ‘how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?’ The market stall provides a living ‘wayside pulpit’ where ‘the whosever’ can come, converse, and carry away literature. What is more powerful than the written word of God in reaching sinners?
It is essential to keep uppermost in our thoughts that such activity glorifies the Lord, lifting Him up as the only Saviour. Equally, the local church will be blessed in doing what the Lord commanded, ‘Go ye into all the world’, the great commission, Mark 16. 15. Following on from that, this work stimulates prayer. This is true in a personal sense, but also in the church. It can focus our prayer meetings because we have specific contacts to pray for, as well as the general work of the stall.
The market stall, and gospel work in general, brings a sense of wonder to each heart. It is humbling to think that the Lord would ‘use me, even me’, as the hymn writer says!
What lessons have you learned that have helped you improve the outreach?
It might be obvious but it is worth repeating. Always, but always, pray before you set up! You must never take anything for granted.
Here are some of the things we found useful to remember:
- Always try to be natural and pleasant – try to ensure that your manner does not detract from the message!
- Listen. It will help you determine the issues. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in applying the word of God as the remedy or answer to the question.
- If possible, deal with a person on a one-to-one basis. Be gentle with your voice and avoid large groups all at once. Seek colleagues to help split up a group and tackle individuals.
- Exercise caution when dealing with a member of the opposite sex – making sure that there is somebody from the team watching you and praying for you is a help.
- Place your confidence in the word of God, and, if at all possible, open your Bible and let the enquirer see for themselves.
- It is always helpful to hold a conversation to the main point – present Christ and an acceptance of Christ. Some enquirers will want to take you away from the seriousness of their plight!
- Do not be drawn into argument.
Finally, one of the things you may find is that the market stall brings along believers who are not yet baptized, or who do not attend a church on a regular basis. It may be helpful to have material that will encourage a new believer, or untaught believer, to progress in their spiritual life, and to find a place where they can feed upon ‘the sincere milk of the word’, 1 Pet. 2. 2.
AUTHOR PROFILE: After over 20 years working for the Soldiers’ and Airmens’ Scripture Readers Association (SASRA), latterly at Catterick, he is now in fellowship in the assembly in Hemsworth, Yorkshire. He continues to remain active in various aspects of gospel outreach.