200 Years of Sharing Christ
When Pontrhydyrun Baptist Church in Cwmbran, Wales, reached its 200th birthday, it would have been easy for the celebrations to have an inward focus. Instead they decided to carry on doing the same thing they have been doing for 200 years – sharing the good news of Jesus. Pastor Jonny Raine explains.
Our church started when a man, George Conway, came to the little village of Pontrhydyrun to open up a tin works. He realised the need for a gospel witness and used his business premises to share the good news.
Since then it’s seen two buildings, thirteen pastors, plenty of renovations, a new town (Cwmbran) and an increase in population by around 100 times over. But despite all that change, we’re still concerned with the same need to share the gospel.
So to celebrate our 200th anniversary, we decided to hold a weekend of mission.
We booked evangelist Glen Scrivener as speaker and actually arranged for him to come to us six months before the celebrations. Glen preached in our morning service – to familiarise our church with the way Glen speaks – and then he did some evangelism training in the afternoon. We followed that up a couple of months later with a four week preaching series on evangelism.
We wanted to prepare our hearts, ready to go out, meet people and share something of our faith with them – which is what we should be doing anyway.
Next job was to start publicising the celebrations. We nabbed the website 200years.co.uk and set it up to advertise our events, as well as to tell the life stories of some of the members and the history of our church. We had some nice booklets designed as a little memento, these being delivered to houses in the area. And of course there were flyers and personal invitations.
At each celebration event the gospel was shared faithfully and engagingly by Glen or by one of his team. And at each event, there were those who aren’t yet Christians taking in what was being shared.
Reaching the community
We began with a Quiz Night. Much like a pub quiz, but without the pub! We were scrambling around for extra chairs at the start of the night with more turning up than any of us expected. Before we gave the final scores, Glen got us all to pick up a John’s Gospel as he explained Jesus to us.
The next morning we tried a Coffee Morning that also featured guided tours of our Grade II listed building. Again, more came along than anyone expected. As the tour went around the interesting facets of our building, the final part brought us to the pulpit. To give those on the tour a feel for preaching, Glen gave a three minute sermonette explaining the gospel.
Friday night was an Open Mic Night. We’d never done one before, and weren’t sure exactly how it would go, but it went very well, with our final act even being a professional guitarist. In between sets, Glen once again got us to open up our John’s Gospels and led us to see Jesus again.
Saturday involved a party for primary school age children and a meal in the evening with fancy food. Then Sunday was our normal services but with an evangelistic focus, a special celebratory tone and some local dignitaries came along too.
At every event we had a pile of gift bags for people to take home. Inside these were Glen’s book, 321, a booklet by Michael Green and a pen with our church logo and contact details on. In addition, since people had already opened up a copy of John’s Gospel, and therefore bent the spine, they were encouraged to take them home with them!
The question we could dwell on is whether it was a successful mission. If it was measured in terms of people converted and added to our church then, no, it wasn’t a success. But if we measure it in terms of whether the gospel was preached clearly, then yes. If we measure it on whether there were those present who aren’t yet followers of Jesus, then yes.
Since our anniversary weekend was part of the ongoing life of mission for the church, we don’t need to judge it in terms of immediate fruit. Instead we continue to work on in mission and pray for fruit in the future.
Join us in praying that some of those who have heard the gospel will respond, even as they read what we’ve given them and are followed up by those who invited them.