May was mission month. We do one every year. But this year we moved it to May. It dominated our prayers. It dominated our diaries. It dominated our church programme. At all our events the gospel was preached and there were lots of guests there to hear it. What more could we ask for? We’re in God’s hands. We’ve sown. We’ll do some watering. We continue to pray that God will give the growth.
The mission was entitled ‘Balham’s Big Survey’. We launched a website and conducted a street survey to get people engaged with the big issues of life. We asked people one simple question, ‘if you could ask God one question, and you knew it would be answered, what would you ask?’ The street questionnaire got close to 600 responses. The website received only 100 responses. Congregational members had it all over social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, but it was real contact with people that brought the most fruit. I’m amazed that we didn’t get much more than 100 online responses. There was a steady stream of Facebook postings from CCB members that kept the survey live. But despite our pleas for help, people didn’t bite. Go figure.
The main events in our week of events were as follows:
Balham’s Big Quiz: A week before the mission week proper, Pete Matthew hosted our regular pub quiz in the Regent. They were terrifically helpful, welcoming and accommodating. Numbers weren’t as large as usual (we’ve had over a 120 at Christmas). So we probably didn’t put as much behind the bar as the Regent would have liked, no doubt. But we had enough for a good vibe. There were lots of guests so I suspect that many of our regulars didn’t pitch up. I took the opportunity to introduce the concept of the mission and invited people to participate by submitting a question and attending the events.
Balham’s Big Bounce: Clownfish, the Christian event company, filled up the gymnasium at Chestnut Grove School with an inflatable assault course, a bouncy castle and a soft play area for the toddlers. We run regular Sunday afternoon children’s parties but this one pursued the wow factor with renewed vigour. We had, I think, 50 kids who came with their families. It was undoubtedly the best attended party we’ve ever held. Simon Radomski, our children’s worker apprentice, spoke brilliantly. He compared the fun that ends when the party is over with the unending joy we have in knowing Christ. He did a great job illustrating that as he deflated the bouncy castle and the kids looked crestfallen! This event was well worth doing. But it didn’t ‘wash its’ face’. Even with the generous discount, we were a country mile off breaking even! Don’t let the treasurer find out.
Women’s Night: Hilary Nicholls, co-founder of the company ‘Frock Chicks’ and Co-Mission pastor’s wife, dispensed fashion wisdom to a crowd of 40 women. They were all ears. Half of the women there were non-church guests. Wonderfully Hilary was able to address the issue what to believe rather than merely what to wear. Several of our regular church women had helpful conversations with guests. The mix of fashion, drinks and canapés created a brilliant environment and the women had a wonderful night out.
Question Time: I chaired three panelists who responded to questions submitted in writing and also from the floor about any chosen subject. Chestnut Grove School Theatre had almost 90 in the audience, about a dozen of whom were guests. This evening worked really well. We’ll do it again. Having seen it in action, regulars now have more confidence in the concept than they had before. We’re indebted to those who were put under the spotlight and forced to answer questions that were fired at them.
Men’s Curry Night: After waiting nearly two hours for their curries, the men were hanging out! Deferring until people had got some food inside them, I then spoke from Luke 18 on the issue of why Christianity is not for the religious. We had a good time and the talk stimulated questions and some useful discussions with guests. We had about 30 men present and a few more than half a dozen guests. The girls put us to shame with the number of guests but it was the end of the week and a few of us had ‘blowouts’.
Balham’s Big Survey: Under the leadership of Guy Logan, a team of over 20 people hit the streets of Balham armed with the big question. They spend Saturday morning getting replies and then inviting people to church at the end of the week when the two most popular questions would be answered. On Sunday morning Pete Matthew dealt with the purpose of life and on Sunday evening I dealt with the issue of suffering. We had testimonies from two congregational members, both of whom have been converted in the last year. As you would imagine, it was thrilling for the regulars and, we trust, helpful for the guests to hear about an adult coming to faith in Christ.
Christianity Explored starts tonight. We’ve got a number of participants; a mixture of first time contacts, fringe newcomers and unsure regulars. I’m excited and a little apprehensive. We’ll let you know how it goes.