Wow! What a week!
St. Andrew’s Parish Church, Leyland, packed over 70 events into an amazing nine days under the umbrella of ‘Life Week’ in March.
A team of 12 students from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, led by the enthusiastic octogenarian evangelist Dr. Michael Green, spearheaded the mission. The church and surrounding venues were consistently packed as exciting and varied events drew in many from this enclave of South Ribble Borough, Lancashire.
Dan Walker, the presenter of BBC TV’s Football Focus, High Court Judge Sir Jeremy Cooke, Rachel Waddilove, childcare expert and nanny to royals and celebrities, and international rugby league player Jamie Jones-Buchanan (Leeds Rhinos) were a few of the more well-known speakers who drew in the crowds. But so did the mid-morning coffee meetings covering issues such as being a grandparent, coping with mental illness and bereavement, alongside lunchtime talks about people who met Jesus — taken from Luke’s Gospel — with a free lunch provided. Added to this were a range of sporting events, a ball, breakfast events, home-based meetings and a family fun day with over 250 people spending time together in the church hall.
Evangelism on secular ‘turf’
There was something for anyone to come along to, no matter what their interests or age. Working from the principle that evangelism is best done on secular ‘turf’, team and church members could be found in places as diverse as the Leyland market, all the local schools, the Softplay centre for children and Starbucks. They worked with the elderly, the very young and those who have learning disabilities, all in venues across the locality. Four hours of air time was given by BBC Lancashire, in two slots, for interview programmes. The mayor was invited to two events, and came to both, showing real interest and being moved by what was seen.
The evening events all had high-profile speakers who warmly shared their personal stories, drawing out various gospel truths and applying them to the people listening. High Court Judge Jeremy Cook talked about the perfect judge and loving father who calls us to come home to him. The Leeds Rhino player, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, by his very presence showed that Christianity can’t just be for physically weak people! But he reminded people that there’s much more to life than being ‘top of your game’ and that only Jesus lasts for ever. Everything else is illusionary. Dan Walker, the BBC radio and TV presenter, talked about how for him Jesus is totally unique and the most significant person who ever lived.
David Gibb, vicar of St. Andrew’s, said of the week: ‘So much has happened, with a significant number giving their lives to Christ. Around 80 people filled in the response forms in some way and we have already started courses to help people take things further: Christianity Explored; a ‘Getting started’ course; the Prodigal God course as part of the 9.00 am service; and the Uncover group using Luke’s Gospel at our 11.00 am service. People have signed up for all of these. However, it’s easy to judge things now and this is just a snapshot of where we are, but what we want is long-term fruit. Please pray that we see deep roots which won’t shrivel up in the days to come’.
One family, for whom the week was very significant, had connections with the church for over a year since the tragic death of a family member. The church held the funeral for that young man, and a few members of his family attended events during the mission week. Out of a desperately sad situation, Life is growing!