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Gospel goes streetwise

Chris Duffett has stopped waiting for people to come to church. He’s started taking church to people.
 
VIP Red carpetLaying a red carpet with a 'VIPs only' sign; constructing a maze with ‘treasure’ in the middle; offering 'pastry and prayer' to shopkeepers; setting down a sofa with a sign saying, 'I will listen'.
 
Those are just some of the ways Chris Duffett spends some of his Sunday mornings. And he wants us all to join in. His hope is that churches up and down the country will do the same.
 
National evangelist with the Chester-based Light Project – and incoming President of the Baptist Union – Chris has started a monthly outreach in Peterborough called ‘Saints on the street’ (St St).
 
The aim is to engage creatively with those who wouldn’t consider going to church. So he uses all sorts of methods to make people stop in their tracks. And just for a moment, they consider God in their busy lives. Maze - Saints on the Streets
 
The idea behind the 'VIPs only' sign was to show people they are special to God. The maze illustrated that Jesus is the real treasure at the centre of our lives. The ‘listening’ sofa worked ‘because people do want to talk,’ he said.
 
Chris has also set up a ‘free fruit’ stall. He displayed nine different kinds of fruit, labelled with ‘love’, ‘joy’, ‘peace’ and so on. People took away armfuls of fruit – engaging with some living theology in the process.
 
‘I moved last year to the east of England,’ said Chris, 36, ‘and I thought, I’d love to start something up that would just connect with people. I spent a couple of Sunday mornings sat in an Asda coffee shop, observing and praying.
‘My conclusions are so painfully obvious, really. If most people don’t go to a service on a Sunday morning – why don’t we go to the people?’
 
Chris realised people needed opportunities to ‘connect and encounter’ something of what it means to be a Christian. ‘People really don’t have a clue about who Jesus is,’ he said. Armed with his degree in art and theology, he put his imagination into gear and came up with a string of creative ideas.
 
Since starting his unorthodox presentations – helped by anyone else who wants to come along – Chris has had interesting feedback. Members of the public who have engaged with the various St St projects have thanked him for helping them to think more about the Christian message.
 
‘It wouldn’t be true to say we’ve seen people pray and become Christians and go to church,’ he said. ‘But I have seen people understand something of the Christian faith – and hopefully grow in their faith journey.’
 
Other church leaders have been encouraging. But what if anyone criticises him for not going to church on that Sunday? ‘Church is more than a service on a Sunday morning,’ he said. ‘Spending Sunday mornings in public places letting others know about this wonderful news of Jesus, is being church!’
 
He is very much part of his local Baptist church – and will serve as the denomination’s president in 2012 for a year. But he urges others to reach out to those who don’t know anything about Christianity. Rather than waiting and praying for a harvest of souls, he wants churches to be planting seeds of the Gospel.
 
For a local congregation, that can start as simply as devoting a couple of Sundays to doing street outreach in creative ways. ‘There’s always something we can go and do – to connect with people – like offering prayer and a free pastry, or giving away bottles of water on a hot summer day,’ he said.
 
For more information, read Chris’ blog at: http://duffett.wordpress.com.

 


Clive Price, 25/03/2011



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