Acts 6.7a – ‘The word of God continued to spread’
The Evangelism & Church Growth Initiative Newsletter
“Why can’t he be more courteous?”
“If he carries on being so rude, he will chase away new members.”
“That church is so cold; nobody seems to notice when I come in and go out.”
These are common comments we often hear. Why is that so? A lot has to do with our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If we truly believe in Jesus, there is no way that we do not wish to follow him and his ways. Repeatedly the scripture teaches us that JOY is not a by-product of our faith, but in fact the very essence of it. The apostle John urges us to create Fellowship with one another and with God the Father, and then our JOY will be complete. When there is lack of fellowship or poor fellowship, our JOY will not be complete. The acronym of the word JOY can be taken as:
Jesus first – Others second – You last.
Hospitality is putting Jesus first, others second and then you or ourselves last. In the words of Jesus, the command of ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’ or ‘count others better than yourself’ or ‘first look at the interest of others before yourself’ is an impetus to Christian Hospitality. If we can be a little more conscious and adhere to it a little closer, half the battle in the church or family or society will be won.
Hospitality is one of the greatest tools for evangelism. This can be commonly called Friendship Evangelism or Lifestyle Evangelism. This is non confrontational. It is precisely the outflow of the ‘fragrance of Christ’ that others can enjoy through us and eventually attract to the person of Jesus.
Bishop Moon Hing, Bishop of West Malaysia, Deputy Convenor of Anglican Witness:ECGI
For over 25 years, a ministry of hospitality has been operating on the streets of Victoria British Columbia. It is known as ‘Street Hope’. The message: there is hope – a Living Hope - for all who have reason to call the street ‘home’. That Hope is a Person, our Lord Jesus Christ. And furthermore, that Hope cares.
Hospitality Evangelism goes beyond words, though as St. Paul reminds us, words are essential. “How can they hear unless someone tells them?” Michael Green noted it is all well and good to say we are just going to let our light shine, but at some point we must tell them who lit it! Our Church Army colleagues in Australia coined the phrase ‘Christianity with the sleeves rolled up”. Whether words spring from action or action springs from words, they are like two wings of the same bird. Love and truth spoken; love and truth expressed.
The team of volunteers define themselves with these words:
“We are a motley crew of Street Hope volunteers, with varied gifts and experience. We are thankful that each of us is able to develop meaningful connections with different folks. Sometimes some of us wonder if we are going about this work in the right way - if we are really connecting people with Christ. We are thankful we can support each other through these questions and share with each other the wisdom that God has given us. A visitor who came to help one night recently encouraged us with these words: “You continue to give and love in Jesus' name when there is little hope of much change... just because it is the loving thing to do. You give acceptance and 'friendship' and a listening ear and provide a safe atmosphere for interaction: so much is being given in such a little space!”
The Street Hope project in Victoria British Columbia pioneered this particular style of hospitality evangelism for Threshold Ministries (Church Army) over a quarter of a century ago. Since then, another Street Hope project developed in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.
Initially it was a store-front work for people caught in the snare of prostitution and drug addiction. It has grown to include a residential feature for people who have been struggling with the worst that life could throw at them. Despite deep wounds and understandable resistance or suspicion concerning the gospel, the sense of genuine community and authentic concern causes many to seriously consider the claims of Christ.
A similar project was launched in The Pas Manitoba, primarily involving people from the Cree community. A daily soup kitchen serves as a place of warmth, welcome and friendship.
Street Hope is also in full operation in Peterborough Ontario, Whitehorse Yukon, and in Saint John New Brunswick.
It has been said that Hell begins where Hope ends. For many, hell is a very present reality simply because they have no hope, whether on the street or in the pew.
Hospitality evangelism, as expressed in the parable of the Great Banquet, says ‘There is no reason for you to be alone anymore. The days of being on the outside looking in are over. We value you, your presence, and your time. In fact, there is a place at the table with your name on it. We are not starting this party without you, so put your boots on and come on over!” Or as one car bumper sticker reads “Jesus loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it!” Hospitality evangelism springs from the celebration of such love.
People need to know they are wanted, needed and loved. In other words, people need to know they matter to God and they matter to us. This should mark the church. If nothing else, sceptics and onlookers should at least be convinced, reluctantly or otherwise, of this one thing: the church truly cares for people.
The gospel says ‘you are welcome here. The door is open; the kettle is on; make yourself at home’. May we seek and find countless ways to express the same as we dare to open our eyes, our hearts, our mouths and even our homes.
“Lord, help us to see, to feel, and to do. All in the name of Jesus. Amen”.
Bruce Smith, Ambassador, Threshold Ministries, Canada, Church Army International, email@example.com
Hospitality is one of the core values of Christians today as it has always been throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. From the example of Abraham, who welcomed visitors and found he had welcomed Angels and the whole family was blessed with a son Isaac in their old age, to the first community of believers; a community where love, unity, trust, help and sharing what they had, including food, were some of the characteristics which showed that the Holy Spirit was living within them. So the temple of God, as Paul mentions (1Cor 3:16), is the place where everyone is welcome!
In African communities, especially the Burundian one where I live, hospitality was one of the very important values. In the time before guest houses and hotels and modern transport, one could imagine what happened to people who were travelling a long distance when it got dark; where could they find to rest for the night? Hospitality was the answer. The stranger would go to any home on his way, and would be warmly welcomed; given food and drink and a place to sleep. There was still a power in truth and love and in trusting each other, where the stranger would trust the host and vice versa.
The East African Revival Movement was also emphasizing love, trust, walking in light, truth and hospitality as the core values of a real and committed Christian, commonly called ‘Born again Christians’. These were not nominal Christians, or those who only worshipped on Christmas day and Easter day. But they were the people of the light, who could go from one house to another. A ‘Born Again Christian’ would enter the home of any ‘Born Again’ and would feel the warmth of a special welcome; so every home was a temple of God and everyone was happy to welcome the Brethren and everyone was a temple of God. The hungry would be fed, the needy would be helped and the poor would be assisted. The sinner, through experiencing the hospitality and the good works of ‘walking the talk’, seen in the Brethren, would repent and join the Christian family.
It is therefore paramount, as today’s Christian community, to ask ourselves whether ‘You and Me’ believers, are still the temple of God and whether other people would see in us the power of love and truth, so that they trust us that and feel free to enter our home and get a warm welcome? What about the strangers and the vulnerable people? Can they find comfort? So let us stand in the gap and show hospitality in:
The Revd Canon Seth Ndayirukiye
One presentation to the ACC on Monday 5th November 2012 was from the Mission Department, which included work of the Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative. Bishop Patrick Yu, the Convenor of ECGI, was at hand to facilitate the session on four cases studies, which were drawn from four different regional contexts of the Anglican Communion. They included 'Back to Church Sunday' from Canada, 'pioneer ministry' in a new housing estate from England, 'Cathedral as centre for mission' from Kenya, and one on 'God provides - finding God in others' from Malaysia. There was a serious engagement with these case studies and a very good discussion took place in 12 groups of tables, followed by a feedback with important suggestions put forward. The ACC welcomed the Mission report and spoke very positively not only of the report but the centrally of mission, which the report highlighted.
A resolution was passed which also dealt with the name change from “Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative” to “Anglican Witness: Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative in the Anglican Communion (ECGI).” One other significant section in the resolution is the request to “the Anglican Witness: Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative of the Anglican Communion (ECGI) to investigate further ways of stimulating Provinces towards more effective, culturally-relevant ministry amongst children and young people, and to prioritise the sharing of learning and resources between Provinces.”
Worth noting, too, is the resolution on the ‘new’ mark of mission, the outcome being a revision to the fourth mark which now reads as follows: To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
The two resolutions referred to above (15.23 & 15.34) and all other ACC-15 resolutions can be found on this link: http://www.aco.org/communion/acc/meetings/acc15/resolutions.cfm
John Kafwanka – Director for Mission
St Barnabas Church, Klang has a long history and tradition of serving the community. It started in the ‘70’s with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program which eventually became a Home for Children from broken families in the ‘80’s. Today, St. Barnabas is actively involved in various other ministries for the poor and homeless in our community. These include a school for migrant children, a dry food bank, street feeding and a free, weekly hot breakfast for anyone in the community. This free breakfast is aptly named, “Sharing The Manna”.
SHARING THE MANNA
Thursday mornings at St Barnabas Church Klang are lively, many people passing by on their way to work are drawn in by the aroma of our coffee and the coconut fragrance of nasi lemak. This free, hot breakfast is served every Thursday mornings for the community and especially for those who find it difficult to make ends meet like retirees and the unemployed.
This ministry is run by the Parish’s Social & Welfare Committee and comprises of retired volunteers, mainly women from the Parish. Every week a small number of these dedicated volunteers faithfully come to help prepare the food, set the tables, serve the visitors and there are also others that come to mix and mingle with the people and spread a little love and care.
When it began, Sharing The Manna was fully funded by individual well-wishers. Today it is supported by the church and costs approximately RM 1000.00 to run per month.
Sharing The Manna started in October 2005 with a weekly attendance of about 20-30 people. Today we get about 80-100 people per week consisting mainly of the homeless and council workers who are paid minimum wages. Here are some profiles of our regular visitors:
Arumugam is a 70 year old homeless, Hindu man that lives on the goodwill of old friends and the public. He enjoys the different food served weekly and especially loves recollecting the good old days with our volunteers and other visitors.
There is also a 60 year old, Buddhist retiree, Ms. Soh, who cycles all the way from Meru to Klang (a good 45min journey!) every week. She looks forward to the breakfast and the new group of friends she has made here over the years.
Subatra is a single, Hindu widow who operates a small flower shop near the Church. She delights in the hospitality of the church and usually brings along her friends and people she meets along the way.
Sharing The Manna has brought many non-believers into the vicinity of our church. Many come for the food and eventually open up and share their troubles and burdens with our volunteers. Many have requested for prayers and some have even shown an interest in getting to know Jesus Christ as their saviour. In fact, we had the joy and privilege of baptising and confirming one family a few months ago.
The total number of people who have converted to Christianity through this ministry is very few. However, if you think of evangelism as a process, rather than an event, we have moved many individuals from being indifferent to Christianity to being interested in our faith. Some have even been moved to actively seek Jesus Christ. We are now in our 8th year of ministry and we hope to continue, touching the hearts of those through Sharing The Manna.
Mrs.Mary Das, Chairperson of the Welfare Committee, St. Barnabas Church, Klang, Diocese of West Malaysia
Praise the Lord and give God the Glory for hospitality evangelism being carried out by Church Guides group at the St. George Church, in The Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia. Weekly visitors from all nations visit St. George’s Church and the gospel of Jesus is shared with many of them.
St. George’s Church was consecrated on 11 May 1819 by Right Reverend Tomas F Middleton, Bishop of Calcutta. It is located in the center of George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site on Penang Island, Malaysia. On 6 July 2007 St George’s Church was declared one of Malaysia’s national treasures by the Malaysian government. This selection also marked the beginning of St. Georges’ Church’s extensive 3-year-long conservation and restoration work to restore the church. St. George’s Church was rededicated and commissioned 27 February 2011 by Right Reverend Ng Moon Hing, Bishop of West Malaysia.
In March 2011 the Vicar, Venerable Charles Samuel, appointed the Church Guide Group lead by David Loehden to open St. George’s Church to visitors. The focus of the church guide group is to provide hospitality to visitors with an emphasis on evangelism. The Church Guide group is putting into practice the great commission; Mark 16:15 Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Although we don’t go out to all nations, we do obey Jesus and go out of our homes each week and open St. George’s Church at our appointed times to visitors from all over the world and share the gospel. We are blessed with 14 faithful stewards of God who daily share the good news and the history of our church to the visitors.
St. George’s church has been open daily to visitors since 14 March 2011 by September 2012 it had over 23,000 visitors from 87 countries.
Our hospitality begins with welcoming each of the visitors to St. George’s Church; we evangelize by sharing the gospel through witnessing and by giving the visitors brochures and tracts. St. George’s Church has published our own brochure that gives a brief history of the church and explains our Anglican Christian belief. The Church Guides has also teamed up with Reverend Tan Meng Poo of RBC Ministries to provide evangelistic tracts. Because we have visitors from so many nations we have produced our brochure in Chinese, English, and Japanese and have RBC tracts in Chinese, English, Japanese and Tamil. This allows us to witness even if we don’t speak their language. God’s word is powerful; written or spoken! Psalms 29:4 says The voice of the Lord is powerful.
I would like to share with you a testimony of witnessing one Saturday when I was at the church. A lady from China was visiting the church and was sitting quietly in the pew in the the church. She was there for about ½ hour. I prayed that God would reveal to me if there was anything wrong. She got up and I greeted her on the way out and she seemed happy. A few minutes later she came back into the church and asked if she could sit down and stay a while longer. After about 10 min she came and told me that she was trying to become a Christian because it made her feel better and that she had a lot of hurting from her past.
I was able to share with her about our loving God, a God who sent his only son Jesus to die on the cross to take our punishment for our sins. That God raised Jesus from the grave and made Jesus our lord and savior. That God loves her and would forgive her no matter what she did in the past if she repents and believes that God raised Jesus from the dead to be her Savior. After sharing she had to go and I gave her tracts both Chinese and English so she could read them. I pray that the Holy Spirit will work in her heart. There are many more testimonies like these from our guides.
The heritage status is a blessing from God and although people primarily come to visit the church as a historical site, we are using this blessing to be a witness to all nations that pass through. Let us thank God for our church guide’s stewardship to the gospel and pray that they will continue to have a willing heart and courage to share the gospel as they serve the Lord in hospitality evangelism.
By David Loehden
Hospitality is not just about coffee and cake. It is about an attitude, an openness of heart and life that welcomes the other, without judgement. Hospitality is a core value for Church Without Walls and from it comes much of who we are and what we do.
When we began, we were quite nomadic, but always tried to meet in places that made it easy to be welcoming. When we got the use of a shop unit in the city centre, it was very natural to furnish it with sofas and coffee tables. We called it The Lounge. It felt a bit like coming home. Now we had a place of our own to which we could welcome others. It wasn’t long before we saw how powerful that could be.
We soon realised we were strategically placed for welcoming clubbers. We were on the thoroughfare between the pubs where people begin their night out and the clubs that they go to later. Anyone in town, for a night out, walks past us.
We began, with Christians from across the city, to open on a Friday night to provide tea, coffee and conversation to anyone who wanted it. In a busy, exploitative and sometimes dangerous night time environment, Nightchurch provides a place of calm. We wanted our welcome to be without strings. So we decided we would be very clear about being Christians but would leave it to our guests to begin any conversations about faith.
Many have met with Jesus and there have been myriad conversations about life, faith and God. One night, four girls asked if we ‘did confession’. What an opportunity! We decided we did. Two made commitments to Christ and they all left with Bibles.
Another night, one person after another wanted to talk about the difficult things they were facing and to pray. When one of the team stepped outside for a breather, a guest came after him, “you need to come back, we’ve got something important to pray about!”
Evangelism is sometimes seen as an exercise in explaining a set of propositions that people need to comprehend. In fact, it is about introducing a Person. For us, evangelism begins with creating the space and the atmosphere in which that meeting can take place. Sometimes it doesn’t need to get much beyond that. It is amazing what people and the Holy Spirit will do without our interference.
Our little tiny kitchenette boasts nothing more than a kettle, a microwave and a sink. That is all we need to provide a warm drink and a sandwich, which we do once a week for homeless, vulnerable and anyone else who wants to come. The food is simple and the welcome sincere.
Some who encountered us first through this route now join us on a Sunday. Our relaxed, informal style makes it easy for people to wander in and stay for as long as they want. There is plenty of space for questioning and debate and the kettle is always on.
One week, Kevin, who is homeless, dropped in for a cup of tea and a sandwich before the meeting. The next, he stayed and argued vigorously with us. Two weeks later, he told us that he was coming more for the conversation than for the food. He said he reckoned that if Jesus was here today, “he wouldn’t be in church; he’d be down the park with us boys.”
Another time, one of our guys gave us a pack of bread rolls. He was homeless and using drugs. I had no idea where he’d got a packet of bread rolls and thought it best not to ask. We used them to make sandwiches. That was a beautiful moment. He had gone from guest, to host. He truly felt part of us. He was baptised a few weeks later in a local river, and we had a picnic and a campfire. Two months after that, he was in rehab.
It is often said that Jesus told us to ‘go’ rather than to encourage people to ‘come’. This is true. By offering our hospitality in the right place, we can do both at once.
Catherine Cowell, Church Without Walls, Stoke on Trent
Back to Church Sunday (BTCS) has become quite familiar within the Anglican churches of the North, but is now being used in other parts of the Anglican Communion. First held in Manchester, England on the last Sunday of September 2004, BTCS seeks to unlock the potential of hospitality; the power of a personal invitation, Back to Church Sunday is an opportunity to act together each year and take the simplest and shortest step in evangelism; inviting someone we already know to our church. In some countries 30% - 33% of the population are considered as ‘de-churched’, those who used to attend church but no longer do so. Although BTCS is not restricted to the de-churched, usually they are the main target for this initiative. Globally, through BTCS: 100,000 have attended; 15,000 have stayed; 6,000 churches take part.
In the Province of Southern Africa, with 17 dioceses’ registering, a conservative estimate is that at least 170 parishes took part in 2011. One parish, where they normally have 250 attend, they saw an increase to 385, and were so excited! Twenty five families who had previously left re-joined the parish and 6 new families joined!!! Many lapsed members were surprised at the development which had taken place during their absence.
Another parish wrote of a Welcome Team being put in place and trained in what was expected. The music group were joined by some young musician from the local school who practiced for hours to get the worship right. It paid off and the singing hit the roof, especially when they sang “How great Thou art” The prayer team was active and especially just before the service praying into all areas of organisation. Most encouraging was the increase in attendance by over 80%, with some members returning after months of absence.
The primary goal of the Back to Church Program is to help Anglicans to become invitational people, witnesses for Jesus as a way of life. Back to Church Sunday is a time when everyone is asked to act together on one day of the year and to physically see the power of being invitational people when the worshipping attendance dramatically increases. For more information see http://www.backtochurch.co.uk/home
Stories from Growing The Church News September 2011 http://www.growingthechurch.org.za/ were held over to fit in with this newsletter on hospitality.
“Please have some of our simple food”, “Have a taste of what I cooked”, “enjoy our simple blow-out” and many inviting words to partake of the food, are the common sentences we often hear at St. Peter's Parish after the service. All the churchgoers will then take their place and enjoy the food on the table heartily prepared by the birthday celebrants on that week. All the birthday celebrants on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th week of the month bring in food on the Sunday before their birthday for all of the parishioners to eat. And in our eating together we continue on with our fellowship, in small groups, asking how each one is doing, sharing laughs and tears in between our bites.
It has now become a tradition of our church that we find it very enriching. The members could just celebrate their birthdays and eat in luxurious restaurants by themselves but they choose to do it with their brothers and sisters in the church; sharing anything from simple to a full meal. It is during these times that we also come to know, uplift, strengthen and encourage one another. It brings us back to what the first converts did as mentioned in the book of Acts 2: 46-47 “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people...” Food tastes better and very satisfying when it is shared. So please to those who have the chance to visit the Philippines, you are invited to attend our service and have some of our simple food!
Revd Florence Ayban, St. Peter's Parish in the Spirit of Sharing, Manila, Philippines
The Evangelism and Church Growth Initiative now has more than 340 registered participants based in at least forty different countries. We also have over five hundred friends in our Facebook group. The majority of the facebook friends are not registered, so we are confident that we are in touch with between 650 and 700 different participants around the Anglican Communion; 650 - 700 people with different stories to tell from being involved in evangelism and church growth within their different contexts; 650 - 700 participants that we can learn from and share with.
The Initiative is you, the participants, so we encourage you to use the Initiative as a way of keeping in touch, supporting and encouraging each other. You can:
Participate by registering - if you have not already done so, the online form is available on http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/mission/ecgi — we will inform the core group person responsible for your region about you and make sure you are sent this newsletter six times a year;
Become a facebook friend – once you have joined facebook, go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/anglicanwitness/ the facebook page provides an interactive forum so that you can share stories, prayer requests, resources and questions with each other
Explore the website – at www.aco.org/ministry/mission/ecgi you will find back copies of the newsletter, lists of evangelism resources and various resources that others have produced to help with their work;
Encourage others – who are involved in evangelism and church growth to register, join the facebook page and explore the website
Share your stories – so that we can include these within the newsletter; stories of how God is working through your church or organisation to grow his church; stories to encourage others; stories so that we can learn from your experience. Stories (300—700 words) and photos to arrive a month before the publication date to firstname.lastname@example.org
Send articles for the February 2013 edition on Unreached and Unengaged Peoples' by 1 January 2013
Tell us - about resources: books; websites; courses, good practice; prayers, forthcoming events etc that we can include in future newsletters or on the website
Post – stories, helpful web-links, resources, prayer requests, questions, information etc on the Facebook page
Translate - this newsletter, and other material, into the languages of those who cannot read in English; at this stage we do not have the resources to do this ourselves
Pray - for the work featured in the newsletters and Facebook page and give thanks for God’s faithfulness
The Mission Department
Anglican Communion Office
St Andrew’s House
16 Tavistock Crescent
London W11 1AP, UK