Passion for life in England

Phillip Jensen

Across England in March this year there has been a local and yet national evangelistic campaign called "A Passion for Life"

For more than a decade, evangelical churches of all denominations have been developing localised "Gospel Partnerships" across the nation. This "A Passion for Life" campaign has challenged the Gospel Partnerships to evangelise their locality together.

Being a national campaign has enabled the production of good quality resources such as books, leaflets, gospels, dvds, art work, resources, at affordable prices. It has also enabled all the churches to share in overseas evangelists who have visited England specifically for the campaign. 

From Sydney Al Stewart, Simon Manchester joined other overseas speakers such as Frank Retief and Tim Keller.

However being local missions, each gospel partnership has developed its own plan to reach its part of the nation. Sometimes this has meant churches putting on joint activities sometimes each church put on its own program. 

My involvement

Here is my report from the three gospel partnerships that I worked with:

Durham and Newcastle worked together but were very different from each other. In Durham there was only one church involved. It is a large student church with a growing and significant family ministry as well. They did a lot of street evangelism and I spoke at several meetings in a theatre in the centre of the city. In Newcastle there were four small churches working together in the working class part of the city. They put on joint activities such as an evangelistic dinner, a men's breakfast, and a women's pamper night. These little churches most likely could not have done these activities by themselves but invited in many non-Christians who had almost no background knowledge of Christianity. It was exciting to see people who had recently become Christians inviting their friends to these meetings. 

Derby and Nottingham were quite different. In Derby there was a great fellowship amongst the churches but their readiness to evangelise was well behind the activities of Newcastle. Several meetings were aimed at stirring up Christians (and clergy) to engage in evangelism. There was one major combined churches evangelistic dinner in a Chinese restaurant at the end of the week which was packed out with many non-Christians in attendance. 

Nottingham was, like Durham, more middle class and educated. There were a couple of university meetings for students to bring their contacts. There were some combined churches meetings taking over a restaurant one night and a rugby club for a men's breakfast. I preached at three churches on the Sunday but while they were well attended there were fewer non-Christians at these than at the special events.

In North London the organisation was different again. About 30 churches were involved but the joint involvement was morning mission prayer meetings. From 10am till noon each day we heard from each other of what was happening in our different missions and prayed for each other's work.  I gave Bible studies each day to encourage the work of the gospel. At night, and occasionally at breakfast, I was then sent to key opportunities to preach.  These were sometimes individual churches and sometimes joint activities.  In several meetings more than 50 percent of the audience was not Christian. 

How they went about their work of contacting and attracting outsiders was varied and fascinating. One church bought the next door pub and has turned it into a community centre.  Another runs evangelistic Bible studies every Wednesday night. There were about 180 in the room around a dozen or more tables. I sat on a table with a group of men who were Chinese, Korean, Greek, Egyptian, Iranian, Nigerian and Welsh. Amongst them were a recently converted Muslim and two inquiring Buddhists. They discussed the passage I was to speak from and then listened very attentively as I expounded it to the whole meeting and called for repentance.  Amongst the joint activities was a youth evening when 150 teenagers from about 15 of the churches combined for the evening. It was very encouraging for the churches with such little youth groups to be part of something a bigger, and some had brought their non-Christian friends. Again I preached at a couple of churches on the Sunday and while these were great gatherings there were fewer non-Christians present.

Overall it was a useful experience. It is always valuable to preach the gospel. It brings glory to Jesus and salvation to people. It was good to encourage these churches who believe in the gospel and its proclamation to work together in the common cause of the gospel. There were many very valuable and moving conversations I had with people struggling to come to terms with their sinfulness and God's amazing grace in Christ Jesus. There were many people signing up to do courses such as "Christianity Explored". There were a large number of gospels and Christian books and dvds given away. 

For my own part aside from the exhilarating exhaustion of preaching 36 times in three weeks, it was a great opportunity to watch people in a variety of situations connect (and sometimes fail to connect) with their community around them.  The creativity, persistence, patience and prayerful effort of some of the churches was most impressive. There were many things I saw that were worth bringing back to Sydney and some for the Cathedral.