Big Church Festival
By Tiffany Atkins
A few weeks ago, most of the UK Agapé staff joined with over 30,000 others in the beautiful Sussex countryside at Big Church Festival.
For the novice and experienced campers amongst us (and the reluctant and keen) the brilliant sunshine on arrival was welcome, and concerns of ‘did we pack enough raincoats?’ soon turned to ‘did we pack enough sun cream?’
As we set up our Agapé village on the main thoroughfare, there was a tangible sense of anticipation and excitement at what God might do at something we, as Agapé, had never done before.
And we weren’t disappointed.
Despite the night of heavy rain, a few leaky tents and the relief of packing those raincoats, waking up to the smell of sizzling bacon in our hospitality tent followed by a time of prayer was enough to set us into action! Donned in our customised “so what is it about Jesus?” t-shirts and FOUR wristbands, we were off.
Our vision for being at BCF was to inspire, encourage and enable Christians to talk to others about Jesus, using our tried and tested tools and resources.
Resources & Stories
One such resource is the Jesus Film. Made in 1979 and translated into almost 2,000 languages, this is the most-viewed film in history. What better way to give people a taste of the film itself and the wealth of other video resources developed by the Jesus Film Project (JFP), than to have a 100-seater old-school cinema truck! We had regular viewings of our 15-minute film across the weekend and an estimated 2,200 watched it, complete with popcorn and the luxury of comfortable seats (not a camping chair in sight).
Maureen, Agapé Well-being Team member, writes:
I was mostly serving outside the cinema truck which was great fun. It was so special to have people walking past being really interested in what we were offering. Just before we closed a lady from Manchester came running up asking for leaflets about Agapé. I let her in to see the last half of the last film showing and she was so excited when she came out that she insisted on praying over Daryl and me.
Agapé Field Ministry Director, Jude, told us of a man he was able to reconnect with. Jude had discipled him as an art student in London. He had a special interest in animation and was blown away by the animation trailers he’d just watched in the cinema truck. He was excited to know that the Jesus Film Project is part of Agapé and is now exploring what it could look like to work with JFP.
Jude also met a guy who had recently come to faith while recovering from overdosing on drugs. God had completely changed his life, and he was trying to figure out how to share his faith with his old friends. “It was amazing getting to experience fellowship with him, to share our resources, as well as some of the skills and techniques Agapé does so well such as asking good questions, listening well and being prepared to share your testimony.”
In the Expo Tent, where hundreds of Christian organisations came together to share their vision and resources, we were there specifically to inspire, encourage and enable all Christians to grow in confidence in sharing faith in Jesus as a way of life.
Ceri, FamilyLife staff in Newcastle, eagerly told us about how she started a conversation with a lady who was fairly new to her faith and excited about Jesus, especially because she hadn’t drunk any alcohol since she had committed her life to him. She really wanted to know how to share Jesus with everyone and be built up in her faith. She went away armed with lots of resources and signed up for follow-up care.
Sarah was a church leader who wasn’t confident in sharing her own faith, but wanted to grow and help others in her church grow in that area. She loved the simplicity of the Biscuit Trail and also took away a Living and Telling manual to talk about with her church leadership team.
One couple who were leaders in their church, were lamenting how, so often, churches are good at doing marriage prep but then only step in again if a marriage is in crisis. They were so encouraged to hear about FamilyLife’s great resources for building into marriage along the whole journey of life.
And then there were those who were already taking the initiative in sharing their faith and encouraging others to do so. For example Bob, who meets monthly in the pub with a group of Christians to talk about sharing their faith. They are then joined by a bunch of their friends across the spiritual spectrum. They were actually meeting the following day and Bob was really hoping to find something he could share in both groups. He loved Soularium and took a pack to use the following day, as well as ordering some Biscuit Trails to use with his group of believing friends.
These are just a few stories which echo similar conversations we had with hundreds of people throughout the weekend.
Paul Cheesman tells this story of how he got to chat about this with Nathan.
Nathan and his friend bounced up to the stand specifically because Nathan wanted a FOUR wristband. We chatted about the festival and his highlights so far. He asked about Agapé and I explained we were here because we just love chatting about Jesus and asked what it was about Jesus that intrigued or excited him. He wasn’t really sure – he knew a lot of the stories about Jesus but had never really thought about who he thought Jesus was.
We talked about the wristband he’d picked up and I asked if he knew what the four symbols meant. He didn’t – he just thought it looked cool – so I had the fun of talking through each point with him. When we got to the end, he knew that he needed to decide about Jesus but wasn’t ready to do so there and then. We prayed together and I asked that Jesus would continue to make Himself known to Nathan. His friend Steve (who was wearing a “4 points” t-shirt) was really grateful for Agapé being there.
So did we see our original vision for BCF met?
The simple answer is yes, and here’s why: Agapé’s vision has always been to fulfil the great commission, to make disciples. We love telling others about Jesus and we love seeing those who come to faith go on and do the same thing. The resources we had the joy of sharing are born out of being practitioners. The conversations we had were born out of a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ and equip others to do the same (even if the camping was not everyone’s cup of tea).