This is a guest post by Sam Anderson, Gospel Worker at Oldham Bethel Church. This blog will carry periodic updates on the work Sam is doing. Views expressed in this article are the author’s.
“So, how’s it going? Are you settling in well?”
Kind of yes and kind of no.
The last 6 months have brought a load of changes for me and my family and yeah, we feel like the ship has finally steadied but things still feel new, weird and different most days. We’re still definitely going through that dip on the change curve, but every valley has its joys and sorrows.
We’ve experienced the hurt when an Asylum Seeker you invest in leaves church suddenly and doesn’t make much effort to keep in contact or let you know they’re never coming back.
But we’re also currently experiencing the joy of another Asylum Seeker coming to faith and understanding of the Gospel. I even had the amazing privilege of baptising him yesterday. This was after many weeks of bible reading and gospel conversation, which lead to real progress and fruit in his life.
In all of these trials and experiences, I rejoice that I can join in the work of the Gospel.
But if I’m honest, much of my Gospel working among Persian people is the equivalent of a tap-in goal in Football. Other people, and ultimately the Lord, have been working in the lives and hearts of these people to bring them to a point where they are willing and ready to hear the Gospel. I don’t have to convince anyone to read the Bible or come to church, they just do it. That’s not normal! At least with every other demographic we’re working amongst. In many ways it’s easy, I invite them to read the Bible with me, they say yes, and I let God’s Word do God’s work by God’s Spirit (see our church vision statement). So, when it comes to our Persian ministry, my human efforts are just a tap-in goal. But I’ll happily be a Ruud Van Nistlerooy for the Gospel, even if he was a United player.
It’s that dynamic that could make it tempting to pour all my efforts into Persian ministry but there are many people in Oldham from different backgrounds that the Lord is going to save too. We can’t forget them, even if it’s harder work.
Our ministry among our local community, which is predominately made up of Pakistani and Bengali Muslims is inspiring to me. We’re really in these people’s lives, as friends and neighbours, so they let us be really bold in sharing the Gospel with them. At our Light Party (an alternative event to Halloween run by the church) our English class attendees, who are almost exclusively Muslim, absolutely packed out our church building, brought along their children and even their relatives! All of them heard a clear, evangelistic talk that didn’t pull any punches and for this I rejoice. They would never turn up if people before me hadn’t slaved away for the Gospel week in, week out, being friends, being reliable, being witnesses to them. That’s why this ministry is so inspiring to me, faithful, consistent witness in a difficult ministry.
A final encouragement among this work has been one lady that I noted had shown quiet interest in the Gospel. She asks questions, she comes back at me when I say Jesus is God, “But, Jesus is a prophet!” she interrupted at my last gospel talk during English classes. Despite what could be seen as opposition to me and the Gospel, we remain friends and immediately after that talk she took a Gospel of John to read for herself. Amongst her people group that is progress, however small, praise God for that.
Despite all these encouragements, there’s still a great deal of work to be done among White Brits in Oldham. In many ways they feel forgotten and sadly I think they have been, not just by politicians but by the evangelical church in the UK. Our planting and evangelistic strategies are not reaching them and it’s not the job of edgy, Christians who grew up on council estates to reach them, it’s ours! It’s our responsibility as churches to reach our local communities and we’re not reaching the working classes who live on our streets, go to our schools and avoid our churches.
Whilst we have been raising awareness about this issue as a church, we don’t have it all sorted and it’s not an easy ministry, especially because of our location and the area’s history of racial conflict. Despite these obstacles, my hope and prayer is that this year we would make real ground in reaching a local housing estate with a work based on the housing estate and to reach others from a working class background who live close to the church in the Oldham Town Centre area.
That’s what I’ve been up to in the last 6 months, it’s been hard, but it’s also been a great joy. Please pray for me, my family and Oldham Bethel Church as we seek to advance the gospel in Oldham.