FREE outreach across London
* Students and churches in London unite for citywide student mission event
* 22 people indicated that they had prayed when they filled out follow-up cards
* 28 people came to the first follow-up course meeting
‘Very powerful inspiring evening. I’m seriously considering Christianity, which I’ve never really done before’, said one student of the London-wide FREE project, a mission event involving 18 Christian Unions from campuses across the capital during the week January 25 to 29.
Reaching out to their own campuses during the day (through an assortment of lunchbar events, apologetics talks, and first contact questionnaires), the CUs came together in the evenings for the main event at All Souls Church, Langham Place. Richard Cunningham (Director of UCCF: The Christian Unions) delivered the evening address from John’s Gospel.
Natasha Kasprowicz (assistant UCCF team leader for London) commented on how notoriously difficult it can be for members of London Christian Unions to invite and bring friends to such events. She said: ‘In a cutting edge city like London, it is important to create an atmosphere that connects with and speaks relevantly to student culture. The student planning team spent a great deal of time thinking through how to deliver the highest quality events that would fill CU members with confidence that this is the kind of thing their non-believing friends would enjoy and be drawn to’.
Alex, a student at LSE, commented: ‘I loved the atmosphere on arrival — the music, the lighting, the decorations and the layout of the room. I instantly felt relaxed and knew the people I’d brought along would feel comfortable’.
Students turning to Christ
Charlie Skrine (student work team leader at St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate) talked about the opportunities he experienced to share the gospel with non-believing students: ‘The evening events were just stunning. One night I didn’t get away from talking to an unbeliever until midnight and the next night I planned to go home early and sleep. I just couldn’t — there were too many non-Christians wanting to talk about the gospel!’
However, it is the news of over 20 non-Christian students turning to Christ in faith and repentance during the week that has really encouraged those involved.
Michael, a student at UCL, was invited by a course-mate to a lunchbar. He was intrigued by what he heard and befriended Martin, a CU guest. As a result he came to everything through the week. By Wednesday night he said, ‘This is such good news; I just need to know if it is true’. On Thursday night he was bowled over when Richard said: during his talk: ‘It is good news because it is true’. At the end of that evening Michael prayed to trust Christ.
An international MA student has invited her Chinese roommate to various events all year. The roommate said she was busy the first two nights of the London mission, but eventually accepted an invitation and came on the third night. They stayed up chatting until 2.00 am and ended up praying to Jesus for her salvation.
The London FREE project has also been a massive encouragement to the Christian Unions. Students are full of confidence in the gospel and are thrilled at seeing their friends engaging with Jesus.
‘Thank you for truly wonderful opportunities to bring non-Christian friends to hear about God’s saving grace.’
‘Electrifying! The gospel really is the power of God. The atmosphere, etc., was brilliant — I felt very comfortable bringing non-Christians.’
‘My non-Christian friends loved it! And I am just excited that they are actually thinking about the question!’
As with any mission event, follow up is crucial. Chris Oldfield (Christian Union staff worker in London) commented: ‘Bitesize (the London mission week follow-up course) got off to a great start last week [February 1-5]. There were 28 guests, with a great mix of newly professing Christians and sceptical non-Christians. 15 of us went on to the Japanese Canteen for dinner, and a few of us went to the pub afterwards, where a couple of the guests opened up very personally. Do pray for them. I guess we feel a bit like midwives, as the Holy Spirit brings people to new birth — what a thrill, but it’s quite messy!’
Partnership with churches
London churches have been massively involved in the project in all sorts of ways: planning, venues, speakers, changing their weekly schedule to fit around the week, running evangelism training in their churches, organising follow-up courses and sending people to help out as CU guests. Matt Perkins (student worker at St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, and CU guest) observed: ‘The advantage of doing things together meant the week grew in excitement, vitality and energy. As Christian students grew in confidence, and as non-Christians grew in curiosity, each night became more exciting. The fact that we had to ask people to move their conversations outside All Souls on the final night clearly showed how the week worked together’.
Ben Mandley (All Souls student worker) added: ‘The central events were excellent — I thought it was a great success and definitely worth doing again in the future. Getting churches and UCCF together was great, a real move forward’.