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Friday, 28 September 2012

Big Hearted Tour hits the South West

 The Big Hearted Tour will arrive in WEBA in just 2 weeks' time!
Here's a report by Sam Griffiths, a Somerset minister, about the SWBA leg of the tour. It first appeared in The Baptist Times online:

I've never seen anything like it in almost 25 years of ministry as a Baptist pastor. It wasn't like this in the old days you see.

The president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain would always be one of those suited chaps, well known, Phd, brown floppy briefcase, black shoes and a smooth haircut, and with a presidential theme that was probably generally forgettable after he had departed your church.
And many churches do sort of get on the presidential band wagon - they must have the president come and preach, regardless of who he is and where he was from. It was kind of what you did as a middle class, middle of the road Baptist Union Church. But not this president.

Chris Duffett is a president who is absolutely right for this time and this moment in our culture, where we find ourselves as a union of churches. I for one would support having him for a two year stretch!
Arriving with enthusiasm pouring out of him, and a delight in every person present who was bravely there to be trained in being big hearted, Chris is plain speaking, inspiring, and rapidly makes you feel that you CAN do the stuff that he does, and that we can afresh see people on our streets and in our communities comes to faith.

As we sit café style listening to story after story from this now bare foot, hoodied and shorts wearing BU president, we are passionately encouraged to be on the streets of our communities so that people "get it".

That's what Chris has experienced on the streets of Peterborough, and is how he sums up people understanding the Gospel. 'I just want people to get it!' he repeats.
And so through the use of sofas, red carpets and hi-viz bouncers, the giving away of fruit with a prophetic word, a wall with the title 'when I die I want to ......' , or an offer of prayer, or a Bible study in a coffee shop - or most radical of all - to go treasure hunting using the prophetic leading of the Holy Spirit, that some be reached and won for Jesus.

This is a president like no other in our history. And the teaching is absolutely what we need for now if our churches and our communities are to be transformed.

You see as lovely as those presidents of old were, I can't remember much about what they said or how it changed me. This one gives it to us practically and passionately wants to see us and our towns change, because our evangelism methods have grown stale, and our streets become far more challenging.
This was one of his challenges: 'I want you all to go into a betting shop and place a bet with £1'. Stunned silence. 'So you can understand just how foreign it is when someone unchurched comes into our churches.'
And so off we went - £1 on Murray to win the US open, brought me a £2 return.

The Revd Sam Griffiths is minister of Wellington Baptist Church in Somerset

Friday, 14 September 2012

Changing the Conversation

I met Kaye and Jane on the train home from this year’s Baptist Assembly in London. I knew where they’d been because of the packets of fairtrade biscuits poking out of their bags - we were all given chocolate chip cookies as part of our lunch during the Saturday Day Conferences.

Soon I was sitting with them and chatting about the conference they had attended. The title was ‘Pass it On’ and taking part was the newly appointed Baptist Union President Chris Duffett.

“Chris told us stories of giving out free fruit marked with the fruits of the holy spirit,” Kaye told me,  “standing in the market with a sign offering free hugs, leaving a pile of stones in the high street – each one marked with an encouraging Word of Hope - and then watching as God guided individuals to the message He wanted them to receive...  These words sent tingles down our spines and we felt filled with a ‘get up and go’ feeling – this motivation of wanting to ‘give this a go’!!

Giving out roses as part of a Big Hearted Tour event

 “With those words ringing in our ears we went out to eat our lunch under the shadow of Big Ben... as we sat there a man approached us and clearly wanted to chat... so we did.  “Jane offered him a sandwich and the three of us joked together about the weather, tourists, inane engaging chatter really. 

“He then told us that he had been working really long shifts and that he had hurt his back badly when he chased a burglar out of his garden - it was at that point that Kaye had an out of body experience and heard herself asking if he would like us to pray with him... he laughed and walked away.  Not put off, Kaye called after him and he agreed that we could pray for him after he had gone... so we did!!  We could not quite believe it when he came back… we both felt that he was probably embarrassed, and we were pleased he had not just scorned and left.”

By the end of the train journey, Kaye and Jane had begun a conversation about God with the young student who was sharing their table. They had also offered their church, Clarence Park Baptist, as a venue for a very special WEBA training day on Saturday 13th October. We’re calling it Big Hearted Living.

Chris Duffett will be joining us as part of his Big Hearted Tour of WEBA, and sharing some of his unique brand of street art with us in Weston-super-Mare. Conversations with strangers, however, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – and there are other ways we can all change the conversation about God.

Table Talk takes the form of a game you can play with any group of friends

Table Talk is a simple game you can play with the family and friends you already have. It provides a safe place for people to begin to have conversations about the important questions in life, from ‘how do you live a meaningful life?’ to ‘how rich are we?’

Paul Griffiths will provide an opportunity to play Table Talk at Big Hearted Living, as part of his seminar How People Journey to Faith.

There will also be seminars by Alisdair Longwill (about transitioning your church into a mission-shaped congregation) and Stuart Earl (about doing youth work in a Big Hearted Way)

If you want to live every day as a disciple of Jesus Christ, this day is designed for you. Clarence Park Baptist Church is within easy walking distance of Weston-super-Mare railway station, and it’s also accessible from the M5. The cost for the day is £5 per person with big discounts if you bring a group of four or more. You can book online   at bigheartedliving.eventbrite.co.uk or go to http://www.webassoc.org.uk/event_det.aspx?id=380 to download a postal booking form.

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2012 edition of WEBA news.