Anyone who’s ever organised a men’s event will tell you that they have a distinctly different flavour to women’s events or those for a mixed group, but last month Earlwood Anglican went all out on the taste profile with a smoked meat cooking class and evangelism night.
The parish puts an extra focus on evangelism every October, explains rector the Rev Brendan McLaughlin.
“We do it to keep evangelism on the radar,” he says. “A couple of years ago we came up with the outreach system ‘As easy as PIE’ – P is for pray, I is for invitation and E stands for engaged. So, each year when we roll out October Outreach, we remind people of what our evangelistic strategy is.
“We encourage people to pray, we encourage people to invite friends and family along, and to tailor their conversations around that so they can engage them with the gospel. We’ve done various evangelistic training in the past and, in the lead-up to October Outreach, we always have one or two evangelistic sermons to get people excited about outreach again.”
This year Mr McLaughlin preached through John 1:1-18 over four Sundays in October – looking at Jesus as eternal, as the bringer of life, as the meaning of life and as God in the flesh to help highlight who our Lord is, why he came and how people can draw near to him.
As in past years, parishioners were encouraged to be in prayer for three non-Christian people and invite them to one of the Sunday outreach services or events.
The women’s gingerbread house event is yet to occur but, says Mr McLaughlin, the men’s smoked meat cooking class was a great success.
“It’s one of the best church events I’ve ever had the privilege of attending,”
“The food was amazing – all the guys couldn’t stop raving about it – and about 40 men attended, with 10-15 of those being guests.
“The church stepped up and invited non-Christians along [and] those guys got to learn something about smoked meat and take all the recipes home. They got to hang out with a church crowd, enjoying good food, good drinks and good conversation, and they also got to hear the gospel preached.”
So far, so good. But if you’re doing a talk on a night like that, how on earth do you segue from smoked meat to Jesus? No problem, apparently.
Mr McLaughlin’s talk considered three surprising things that the Bible tells us about meat. First, when the ancient people of God went to the temple “it smelt like a barbecue” because animals had been sacrificed and cooked.
Second was why this needed to be done, including the fact that the worshipper was the one required to cut the throat of the sacrificial animal: “It confronts you with the seriousness of your sin – that you need to kill a living being to come near to God”.
And third – why church no longer smells this way – “because Jesus is our atoning sacrifice”.
He adds: “I had one visitor tell me on the night that he enjoyed the talk, while another visitor rang me a week later to say ‘Thank you’ and tell me how much he enjoyed the evening.
“Several people turned down invitations, but the response is in God’s hands. All we can do is invite people along to an event they would most likely enjoy and ask God to do the rest.
“Overall, we were able to glorify God with our ministry, our outreach... and preaching the gospel. We cannot tell what will work in terms of evangelism yet that shouldn’t stop us from working hard as a church, as well as trying new things.
“Our prayer is that God will use our feeble efforts to bring about great things for his kingdom.”