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.
What a year.
I can honestly say it’s been the weirdest and the hardest.
How do I share the gospel, how can I disciple believers, when we can barely see people?
Throughout this year, it’s been a great comfort to remember that Jesus is building his Church. Just like it says in Philippians, the gospel can’t be chained, even situations that seem like the worst thing that could ever happen for gospel ministry are tools in the hand of our great God.
Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t often feel that way. I’m tired of using Zoom and often feel pretty lonely. But I do find comfort that God has a plan in the chaos.
We’ve been blessed at Oldham Bethel Church to see God’s plan for Oldham in action throughout the pandemic in small but significant way.
During the last year we’ve started a church YouTube channel from scratch, live streaming services and uploading ‘Big Questions’ videos. We put a couple hundred quid into Facebook ads so that Oldhammers would see, and hopefully engage, with the apologetics videos. It was a new thing for us, a big learning experience and totally worth the work. We roughly estimate that 20,000 individual people saw our ads over the last year and we’ve had lots of engagement in the comments with some of the videos. We followed up comments, addressing common myths and defeaters that people have about Christianity and the Bible and it has really raised the awareness of our church across Oldham.
Our reach has been extended in a way that we couldn’t achieve physically. We hope this online outreach will be a catalyst for new contacts and relationships with the church that will bring gospel opportunities in our community. We’ll be continuing this new work in a less intensive way as we transition into more regular in-person outreach and activities as a church.
New Relationships in Our Community
Our Asylum Seeker football project wasn’t able to meet for most of the last year because of the restrictions. This was a mixed blessing as it meant that I could dedicate more time to the administrative side of the project. I’m thankful to God for the help of the local council in finding funding opportunities and by God’s grace we’ve secured a major funder for the project. Serco will be funding the project for a whole year covering all our costs, including new kit for attendees to be able to take part. They seem keen on supporting the project long term and referring local Asylum Seekers in Oldham to the project. It’s a strategic partnership and we’re so thankful for this opportunity.
In addition to Serco, we’ve also officially partnered with Oldham Athletic Community Trust (OACT) which is the official foundation of Oldham Athletic Football Club. OACT do great community sports work in Oldham and we’re partnered with them to improve the quality of our sessions and provide training opportunities for some of our attendees who are interested in coaching or other roles in grassroots football. OACT are also well connected in Oldham raising the profile of our project and enabling us to tie-in with other charities who might provide some benefit to our attendees.
Alongside our football project I’ve been running our WhatsApp group and socials so that we can further build relationships with players and share our Christian faith with those who are interested. We hope to run an end of season awards night, depending on how restrictions develop, so that we can celebrate the project together, celebrate a few players who have improved or played well and say something meaningful about the Christian faith. Whether it’s a gospel talk or an invitation to a tailored event we’re not sure yet. There are language difficulties (with half our players speaking little or limited English) and we appreciate prayer as we think that through in the next month or so.
Evangelical & discipleship
Please also pray for boldness and opportunity to share Christ with new Asylum Seeker contacts I’ve made. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ at Oldham Bethel Church are Iranian Asylum Seekers but more recently I’ve made contacts with people from Sudan and Palestine seeking Asylum locally. Pray they would be open to reading the Bible with me or my wife and hearing more about Jesus.