In partnership we Trinity Church in Aberdeen, we put together an outreach event. A few weeks before that I had spoken about evangelism at the church’s weekend away; and their pastor, David Gibson was really keen to put what we had learnt into practice as soon as possible. I had spoken a bit about coffee-shop evangelism, so they booked a branch of Costa Coffee, and invited me to come and speak.
The Costa Coffee shop they booked, is just around the corner from their new church premises. They currently meet in a hotel, but have bought a wonderful building which is a huge former Church of Scotland building. They are in the process of redeveloping it, and it will be a wonderful place for them to meet, and worship and minister in.
The night I was in Aberdeen though they made a point of not meeting in the church buildings, but taking the gospel outside the church. They asked me to speak on “Where is God When Things Go Wrong?” Trinity is a really mission-minded church, because loads of people invited friends who aren’t Christians, who aren’t part of the church; and the coffee shop was nicely crowded. The coffee shop is “U-shaped”, so it was like speaking in the round!
I spoke for twenty minutes or so, and connected the “Where is God when things go wrong” theme to Christmas as I observed that when things go wrong, when we experience pain or injustice, we don’t want something just said; we want something done. And that’s what God did at Christmas, in the incarnation of Jesus Christ which is really God stepping into history – and that is the beginning of God’s answer to the problem of sin, evil and suffering. So although the starting point was the problem of suffering, the end-point of the talk was really Christmas; that God is with us – Immanuel!
Then, as usual we did a Q&A, and it was a great Q&A session! There weren’t any angry atheists there, but there were a lot of good questions from friendly people who are really searching. However I had a really long, and positive conversation, with one visitor who started the conversation with a question about suffering. However as we began to dig into the issues, it turned out that this person had really been put off by a very bad experience of ‘church’ and ‘religion’ and was deeply suspicious. The only thing you can do when people have been let down by the church is to apologise and to point them to Jesus.
And these sorts of conversations demonstrate the importance of taking the gospel of Jesus outside the church premises into places like coffee shops. The person I spoke to in Aberdeen would not have gone to a church; but was very happy to sit and chat about faith in a high street coffee shop. So it was wonderful to be able to share the gospel with folks in Aberdeen, and to renew our friendship and fellowship with Trinity Church too!