Sharing the gospel in Seaton

A Solas team, consisting of myself and Steve Osmond went to Seaton Community Church in Aberdeen for a weekend of ministry.

The highlight for me was the outreach meeting on the Saturday night. It’s talking about Jesus with people outside the church that really gets me fired up and buzzing about the potential the gospel has to change people’s lives forever! Often when we are invited to do some training with a church, such as Confident Christianity evangelism conference, we encourage churches to consider putting on an evangelism event while we are in their town too. Typically these take place in café’s, pubs, restaurants and other neutral spaces, but Barry the pastor at Seaton indicated that their church premises is at the heart of the community in Seaton and would make a great venue for an event. He pointed out that many, many non-Christian people come through the doors of Seaton Community Church each week, and are comfortable doing so, and that working in the church premises would be a good option for them.

The invitations went out, and a lovely couple in the church cooked a great Indian meal for everyone, and the church hoped and prayed for 60 people to come. On the night over 80 people showed up, which was really encouraging for us all. Extra chairs were brought out to accommodate the people, and thankfully there was plenty of curry for all comers! After dinner I spoke on the subject “Christianity: Out of date, irrelevant and intolerant?” So I took each of those accusations head on, and pointed out that far from being out of date, Christianity is growing. In London, for example there are 10% more people going to church than there were forty years ago, because immigration has really fuelled church growth giving the churches there a vibrant international flavour. But it’s not just in the West where such things are occurring, in Africa there we used to count the number of Christians in single-figure millions; but now they are measured in the hundreds of millions. China too is a story of extraordinary church growth, and I showed some data on the decline of atheism today as well.

When it came to the relevance of Christianity, I looked at some of the big questions of our age such as justice and meaning. There seems to have been a change in the intellectual climate over the last few years, which our friend Justin Brierley has charted in his book The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God, with more and more people saying that Christianity is in fact incredibly relevant. Now I know that there is a difference between people thinking it is relevant and believing that it is true. But we can certainly observe the decline of the objection that it is irrelevant, and therefore not worth anyone’s time investigating.

Intolerance is an accusation that is usually levelled at Christianity around issues of sexuality. I explored that in the light of ‘freedom’. Because if you think the purpose of life is to be able to do whatever you want and to be entirely free from constraint, then of course you will have a problem with Christianity. But the idea of an entirely unconstrained life is a myth – there are all kinds of limits on what we can do physically, socially and so on. The real question is ‘what were we designed for?’ and therefore what are the limits which will cause us to thrive and not to wither? I gently suggested that God’s design for our lives is designed to be life-giving, and will cause us to flourish. Indeed Jesus famously promised to give us ‘life to the full’ in John 10-:10.

The question in the Q&A that stood out in my mind came from a man who only came along because someone from the church put a flyer through his door. He said, ‘I think there is something after death, I reckon there is probably some kind of God, but how can we be sure we’d ever get into the afterlife, what if God didn’t want us?’ So it was such a joy and privilege to address that question by saying that I believe that we can know God’s salvation in this life, and be confident of being accepted by Him for eternity. However, we can be confident of that not because of our performance, but because of what Jesus has done for us. Barry, the pastor had a good chat with this man at then end. So, it was a  really encouraging night in Seaton!