Something new is happening in Oxford this spring, as Oxford Community Church embarks on an exciting new adventure and you can join in! Many people will be taking annual leave in the week Sunday 30th April to Saturday 6th May 2017, and I encourage you to consider doing the same, so that you dont miss out on anything in this transformative week.
A new day
For years, Christians in the UK have been frustrated by their own lack of confidence in the gospel. At times, weve even wondered whether the good news about Jesus really works beyond the church like it used to. Many of us have been exploring new means of communication and new ways of being an inclusive community, but all too often ended up with other people simply thinking were interesting or nice.
Yet weve continued to pray that wed see an explosion of joy in our neighbourhoods through many hundreds of people hearing and responding to the core Christian message for the very first time. We were still praying for that in summer 2016 when we began to hear that just such a thing was happening in Berkshire.
Over just a few weeks, just under 2000 individuals heard a simple gospel message on the streets of Reading and responded in prayer to Jesus. This got our attention, and a group of pastors from across Oxfordshire went to meet the pastor, Yinka Oyekan, to hear about it first-hand, sat on the street outside Yo Sushi! As we listened to the stories, our scepticism began to give way to thanksgiving that ordinary people were discovering how the Christian message on their lips had immense power to impact others hearing it for the first time.
We began to ask, Could we get involved? We were not alone!
Yinka has been overrun by people wanting to learn from the Reading experience, and has since led teams to towns across the UK and beyond. A few stand out for us, because some of us know the local people involved.
- In Leicester, in 10 days, over 500 people responded to the gospel in prayer.
- In South Oxfordshire, our own family of Salt & Light churches visited Abingdon, Didcot, Wantage and Henley, joined by members of Oxford Community Church. They saw 170 people respond to ordinary Christians explaining the same good news.
- For Lille, northern France, our own Ruth Morton translated materials into French and in 12 days the team saw 865 people respond in prayer. Some of these fell involuntarily to the ground at the mere mention of Gods love, astonished by the power of this truth!
Such things have not been our normal experience, but they are becoming a new norm.
It gets better
After hearing all this, I confess that I still expected the Christians involved to be finding it all rather hard work, but thats not the story.
Every single street evangelist I have spoken to, be they boisterous extrovert or retiring introvert, has come home from the streets amazed at a change occurring in their own soul. Supported by Yinkas simple training, they have finally found their voice and with it a whole new dimension to their relationship with God, as they become companions with Him in the urban outdoors!
As well as sharing Jesus and praying with people on the streets, those joining in are seeing a personal spiritual renewal, and God touching their own families and friends
How does this fit with normal church?
God has led us over years slowly to develop some new vehicles, by which I mean the more flexible and inclusive Christian communities that now make up our churches in Oxford, Bicester, Banbury and beyond.
The best way I can describe this new evangelistic dynamic is that it is like discovering a powerful new engine that can fit right into those vehicles and get them moving like weve never seen.
What actually happens?
There is a pattern. It begins with an evening of worship, renewing our fellowship with God the Holy Spirit. It continues by going out, full of the same Spirit, to talk to people the next day, for a bit less than the time that was spent in worship the night before. Relevant training is also provided before the outreach.
The whole thing is being called The Turning and we are going to be launching it in Oxford on Sunday 30th April 2017. You will be invited to get filled up and trained up and to go out on the streets with others during the week. We are looking for hundreds of people to pray a prayer of commitment to Jesus for the first time.
And right now
Lets pray for courage and joy. Lets pray for enough sensitivity to be able to learn everything that God wants to teach us, and to receive everything he plans to give us. Lets pray for the kind of impact not seen since the days of Wesley and Whitfield.
And, please feel free to volunteer your help! We need help with everything from organising prayer to helping with practicalities, to preparing and doing the follow-up or anything else. This adventure will only work if we pull together and help one another, so do get in touch (@email, 01865 297420) and let us know what you might be able to do.