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Diary of a Baptist minister 

 

As part of his sabbatical, Anthony Crawford took part in Mission to Wales, a joint initiative between New Wine Cymru and The Turning team from Reading, UK. This is his diary of those 10 days

 

Day 1

Tony Crawford at St Trillo ChaI am excited in an edgy sort of way following a two hour drive from Lancashire into a sunny-ish Llandudno. My wife, also a Baptist minister, is with me as we walk into a beautifully refurbished granite and limestone Victorian chapel. An extraordinarily smiley young woman greets us and one of the leaders I know directs me to my hosts who I will be staying with over the first part of the week - all good so far. 

Following a swift decaf Fairtrade coffee, we are welcomed and encouraged to 'soak' in worship in our Father God – the image springs to mind of sharing a hot tub with a singing Matt Redman – but this is swiftly dismissed in favour of the reality of sensitive song worship during which I recognise the rush of my spirit in connection with the Ancient of Days. Although we continued for over an hour with simple melodies, harmonies, scriptures and prayers it seemed a lot shorter - a genuine resting and refreshing in the Father's presence.

Then a friendly late-30s trendy guy explained what we were about to do. Well, my beloved and I have more than 60 years between us of evangelistic know-how to call on, and we were both left thinking "Is that it?" Surely a greeting, a statement, one question, three Romans road scriptures and an abbreviated blessing wasn't going to get us to the point of leading a complete stranger in a prayer of commitment to Christ. But hey ho, here we go...

As we leave I smile remembering the mad Oasis Frontline team days of being mistaken in Deptford market as a group of recovering addicts as we performed The Race sketch. Well after an hour of walking round the Westshore boating lake and talking to eight couples we had managed to pray a blessing with six people, two of whom were Christians, but not led anyone in a prayer of commitment. We had decided to be far more gentle in our opening words and introduce ourselves talking about mission and local church, something that now on reflection gave people time to disconnect. Once back I was astonished to find a whole queue of ecstatic ordinary church members at the front telling of how they had led 17 members of the general public to place their trust in Christ.

After waving my wife off and a Providero coffee shop cappuccino with my hosts, I went to reflect on a perplexing but precious day.



Day 2

I woke up considering the words a minister friend who I had stayed with the previous week. "What on earth are you doing, spending 10 days of your sabbatical on a Mission in North Wales, hardly restful".  Yes, I thought, but I am pursuing God, seeking Him, wanting to know what the Father is doing, catch the wind of the Spirit and journey with Him come what may. Upon arrival at the chapel the morning pattern of 'soaking' continued. Happily I thought "I could get used to this". 

MissiontoWales700

Then out for our hour on the streets of Llandudno. I was in a team of three. On the way to our set location we met a lady waiting by the road. We began the set pattern of conversation and it turned out she was on holiday from Beijing. In broken English she prayed there and then with openness and sincerity. We then spent the next 40 minutes talking to three people, but didn't pray with anyone. 

As we began to walk back we stopped to talk to a young Welsh woman who it turned out was working in a hotel. She happily moved through the full conversation, finishing with the prayer of commitment. I hung back so as not to crowd the girl, but was very happy to see her smiling face.

We were heading back when a lady in my group said hello to a weight-watcher friend who asked, "What are you up to then?"

With a gulp, she boldly replied, "We are looking to speak to people just like you."

My mouth dropped open as both the lady and her husband, right there on the street corner, asked Jesus into their lives. We even formed a prayer huddle to pray for the husband's ill health.

When we headed back, my colleague broke into tears: over the past four years she and her husband had been seeking by friendship evangelism to see this couple come to faith. They felt they had been making little progress. Now there was much rejoicing along with the other 25 people who had responded to the opportunity to ask Christ into their lives. 

Even better, the task of follow up, defined as beginning with coffee in a local coffee shop, was obvious... her friend on my team!



Day 3

I had read Proverbs 3:6 that morning and the phrase "lean not on your own understanding" rang loud in my head. As I entered the church to begin a now familiar routine, simply being in The Lord's presence and reminded that I am perfectly loved, was declutteringly empowering. Before I could slip back into the cycle of self doubt, I was out on the streets full of the Father's love. 

Tony Crawford mission to wales

My concern from starting this was attempting to discern who the Spirit was directing me to. In my normal, pragmatic approach I just tried to talk with my team to whoever passed us. We had half a dozen greetings, a couple of conversations, a couple of blessings, and my two team members led an older man in a prayer of commitment.

We said hello to a pregnant lady who was very happy to talk to us. To my astonishment she took the prayer card off me and prayed herself, as though she had been waiting an hour for us to arrive. She then shared her family life concerns and we prayed again for her, leaving her with the Bible Society materials provided for us. The lady on my team was deeply touched by her honesty and sincerity, wanting to affirm her unchurched faith and seek God in times of difficulty.

Again we returned rejoicing!



Day 4

The Sunday found me at the local Baptist church in a queue at the front, smiling at the excited ordinary members sharing stories of salvation with a fervour worthy of any seasoned ministry evangelist. I reflect on the fact that this year sees the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Perhaps a further Reformation is occurring in front of me: the powerful continuing implementation of the Ministry of all believers... Ponder..ponder



Day 5

A wet day in Colwyn Bay and following the morning routine out on the sea front I went off message: instead of seeking the receptive to greet, I got stuck into a theological debate with a lovely lady, a Jehovah's Witness, on the unity of heaven and earth in Revelation. I was reminded by my partner that we were out to sow a seed of blessings, water a seedling of interest or reap a harvest of openess to the Lord, and not show off our knowledge to little or no avail. Sheepishly I agreed and made public confessions upon return to base.

Tony Crawford Colwyn bay seafr


Days 6 - 10

To save on word space, a bit like the Apostle John does at the end of his gospel " if the earth was filled with books...",  I would simply like to ponder a few conclusions:

 
  1. Father, Son and Spirit are amazing in remaining 'unboxable'

  2. The perfect love of God unconditionally accepted and wholly surrendered to provides His Church with all they need to change nations.

  3. The Church, when it lays down its divisional labels and comes together under Christ to have simply Christ conversations, NOT church ones, with members of the public, can be a profoundly good evangelist.


Finally, my highlight of the week: enjoying serving the King with wonderful sisters and brothers while feeling the Father's heartbeat... yes! How is it possible to walk out the door of a church and lead the next five precious people you meet in prayers of commitment to Christ in 21st century Britain?

I don't know, but it happened. 
 


Tony Crawford is a 'bog standard' Baptist Pastor (Leyland Baptist Church) married to a fabulous Baptist Pastor wife (Wigan Baptist Church), with two wonderful teenage children one of whom is doing a degree in youth work whilst serving as a youth worker (Northfield Baptist Church). He is a Chair of Trustees for a local homeless charity (SLEAP), Chair of Trustees of a local community charity (The Leyland Project), a primary school governor, active member of the Labour Party, loves cycling and attends the gym twice a week to do mad 'mid life crisis' Tough Guy events. 



Related: The Turning - first annual review
Organisers of a street mission which began in Reading and became known as The Turning have revealed that more than 7000 people in the UK have responded to the gospel in the last year


 
Baptist Times, 05/09/2017
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