Let's pass on the passion
March will see an explosion of missional activity carried out by Christians around England.
Under the banner of A Passion for Life, hundreds of churches are conducting evangelistic programmes until Easter. Well known speakers and evangelists, such as New York’s Dr. Tim Keller, Australia’s Bishop Al Stewart, Rico Tice and Roger Carswell, will join in with church missions in major cities and regions. A Passion for Life could be the biggest evangelistic push in the UK since Billy Graham visited in 1984.
A Passion for Life’s organisers, the Gospel Partnerships network, define it as ‘a nationwide initiative that is drawing together local evangelical churches to plan a fantastic variety of missional initiatives culminating at Easter 2010’. The mission reflects aspects found in other outreach programmes such as Hope 08, the Alpha course and Christianity Explored. But it puts more emphasis on empowering churches to conduct their own outreach programmes, tailor-making them to their unique demographic and culture.
Dr. Keller is an American church planter, pastor, author and evangelist. In 1989 he helped found Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, where he ministers. Redeemer now has sister congregations in New York, California, Canada and Europe. Dr. Keller became involved with A Passion for Life through speaking at the annual Evangelical Ministry Assembly in the UK.
He also wanted to participate, as he says he owes a ‘debt’ to UK evangelicalism. ‘As a young Christian, and later as a young pastor, I was spiritually formed primarily by the books and preaching of Stott, Packer, Lucas, by Derek Kidner’s commentaries, and by a host of other influences that came to me over the Atlantic’, he told EN. ‘And, being Presbyterian, my theological roots go back to Scotland. So I feel a love and a responsibility for the work of the gospel in Britain.’
On March 13, Dr. Keller will be joining Rico Tice and Al Stewart at the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands for A Passion for Life’s flagship event, The God Confusion.
The day is a combination of both the London Men’s and Women’s Conventions, forming a one-off special occasion. It has been billed as a chance to ‘clear the fog around God’ and is expected to attract thousands. It will tackle science, the existence of God and the uniqueness of Christ.
Christians and sceptics
The event, Dr. Keller explained, will help both Christians and sceptics alike. ‘Over the last few years, secularism has become much more combative’, he explained. ‘Instead of just ignoring and dismissing Christianity, it has gone on the attack. Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, it is said, “poisons everything”. Increasingly, Christians discover that they don’t even have a vocabulary for expressing their faith in a way that is understandable and plausible to the dominant culture.’ He added: ‘The God Confusion can therefore accomplish two things at once. I think those present who are sceptical about Christianity will find themselves surprised by how cogent and compelling Christianity really is, while believers at the event will learn new, fresh ways to talk about their faith to their friends.’
Dr. Keller will also speak at the Lords Cricket ground on March 8. Other events happening in London include two evenings with American jazz singer Ruth Naomi Floyd at Battersea Arts Centre and Christ Church Spitalfields. Al Stewart will be speaking at a number of events, including a night with baritone Jacques Imbrailo at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, on March 10.
Around the country events are taking place in all the main regions. The North West has invited Roger Carswell, Vaughan Roberts and Rico Tice to speak at gatherings. Carswell will spend five evenings from March 3 at Winsford Lifestyle Centre in Cheshire, speaking with guests Fiona Castle, former UVF terrorist David Hamilton, former international Zimbabwean cricket captain Henry Olonga, and Robin Oake, father of policeman DC Stephen Oake who was murdered in 2003. He will also help with similar events in Cheadle and Liverpool. Tice will be preaching at the Lever Hulme Hotel in Port Sunlight between March 15 and 20, and Roberts is speaking at events in Manchester.
Meanwhile, Australian author Philip Jensen will help with three main events in the North East, including one evening at Newcastle’s main football ground, St. James’s Park, on March 11. He will also speak at a men’s breakfast at the Northern Rugby Club, Gosforth, on March 13.
In Sheffield, South Africa’s famous Bishop Frank Retief will speak at the city’s Octagon venue on March 26. Retief is the presiding bishop of the evangelical Church of England in South Africa. In 1993 he dealt with the aftermath of a dreadful terrorist attack to his church.
In the Midlands, a weekend of events will take place at Birmingham’s Town Hall from March 26 to 28. Rico Tice will give a talk after the band Phatfish has performed and again speak with Henry Olonga on Friday and Saturday. Tice will also be speaking at events in Coventry and Leamington.
In the South East, among many other things, Rico Tice is speaking at a men’s curry night at Chertsey Street Baptist Church, Guildford.
Down along the West of England Peninsula, evangelist Pete Woodcock will speak at big town events and lesser known venues in conjunction with Vaughan Roberts. A ten-day mission programme has been organised for Sidmouth.
Many events around the country will be on a smaller scale. St. Luke’s Church in Wolverhampton, for example, plans to do some straightforward evangelistic door knocking. Meanwhile, a few Christians in London are organising a five-aside football tournament. Peter Mobin, behind the tournament, said: ‘Hopefully, we will have five to six teams with about 25-30 people in all. We are thinking about having a slot during the tournament where we can highlight information about A Passion for Life’.
As with all missions, A Passion for Life will have its highs and lows. Some missions will hopefully see many people coming to a saving knowledge of Christ, while, with other events, success will be in the knowledge that seeds have been sown. However, A Passion for Life, will certainly serve — and is already doing so — to form stronger bonds between churches and discover new workers for the gospel. As Tice has said, we need more evangelists.