In the run-up to Easter, churches in East London are taking the gospel onto the streets with a simple, simple message: ‘Believe in Jesus’
In the run up to Easter churches in Newham and Tower Hamlets came together to run evangelistic book tables, urging shoppers and passers-by to consider the claim of Christianity and to ‘Believe in Jesus’.
London City Mission lent expertise and oversight to the churches’ commitment, prayer and readiness for action.
It was the third time that Newham churches have taken this on, and the first time for Tower Hamlets churches.
At a vision night in February, the Tower Hamlets churches gathered to train.
Cathy was among those preparing for action in Whitechapel Road Market. She already had some experience of manning a book table, and she said that the experience is very different to the anticipation. ‘It’s so interesting’, she enthused. ‘You get to meet so many people – Muslims, people who are homeless, atheists, artists.
The market is in a largely Bengali area, with a real mix of people coming through – the whole of East End cultures from young affluent to immigrant communities.
‘It’s great being in the middle of the market,’ she said. ‘There’s all sorts of interactions, and you never know what the next conversation will be like.
‘One time as we were setting up, a woman came up to us out of the blue saying, “I want to know how to be born again”’. She was a traditional East-ender and the book table team happened to be the right place at the right time for her.’
Many of the people who show an interest come and take the gospels and tracts are Muslims, Cathy said. And the atmosphere is generally very positive.
‘If you like meeting and getting to know people, it’s a great way to do that. We want to be having conversations take about Jesus. That’s the most important thing, to lead people to eternal salvation.’
The churches ran booktables for three weeks before the government issued guidance on social distancing.
Says missionary Matt Brinkley: ‘In my location in Mile End, everyone would come back with an encouraging interaction to share. They were really getting into it and it was amazing to see their confidence grow week to week as we worked together.
'We had to put a stop to the final Saturday evening event where we were opening doors to host a Q and A with food. Over a thousand invitations were given out for these events, and it was sad to not see them take place.
‘Churches realised and envisaged their new found confidence as something they could do in future and make an impact with the resources they have. There was a feeling in the air that this was something we could really achieve together as the wider church in unity.’