Today marks the start of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The Commonwealth is an association of countries whose primary relationship is historical through the British Empire and the Queen. When countries gained their independence the empire evolved into this voluntary association and in that respect provides evidence of how positive relationships are possible despite that colonial past.
The Games bring together 72 territories and countries for a festival of sporting competition and so take on a similar format to the Olympics. Whilst obviously not as big as the Olympics, they are big. There are over 4000 athletes taking part and then thousands of spectators at a range of venues across the West Midlands. We live very close to the main venue, the Alexander Stadium which will host the athletics and where the opening and closing ceremonies will be hosted. We’ve been treated over the past few weeks to the sound system being tested with music blaring out and on Tuesday we were given the opportunity to go into the stadium and watch the dress rehearsals for the opening ceremony. I’m not going to give away any spoilers for that except to say that it is brilliant, of exceptional quality and a credit to the creators and the many volunteers taking part. Oh and there may be some insights from it into our culture and the ideologies/worldviews that drive it – more to come in next week’s podcast on that!
So, this evening the actual opening ceremony will take place with real royalty present. Then follows 10 days of running, jumping, swimming, cycling and shooting. We’ve also managed to get hold of some tickets to events as well which we are looking forward to enjoying. During that time, I and a few people from our church are going to be involved in some evangelistic outreach to people coming into the games. This will be very gentle and low key. Our plan is to:
- Give out copies of Luke’s Gospel with a link to First Look to people attending the games
- Visit some local homes with a similar free gift of a Gospel
- Invite people to a special evangelistic Sunday which will feature a family sports day.
So, I wanted to say a little about why we are doing this. First of all, we are using the opportunity to connect with local people in the neighbourhoods around where our church meets. The reasoning here is fairly obvious. We hope that this will form part of our ongoing local witness and that this will be one stepping stone as people come to faith and join us. Further, we are aware that for many local residents, the Games are an inconvenience and nuisance. They’ve suffered road works, congestion, the noise of building works and then of the rehearsals. Their roads will be blocked off and they may not be too thrilled at the crowds passing by. Many feel taken for granted as politicians pursue prestige. They are not optimistic that promises of a lasting legacy will be realised. So, we want to connect with people to tell them that they are not forgotten about, that they are loved. That there is a local church that cares about them and more importantly a God who loves them and sent his Son to die for them.
However, most people we have contact with will have travelled in from all around the world. We are unlikely to see them again. We will never find out if they read the Gospel, tried First Look, professed faith or found a church back home. We are sowing seed in hope but knowing we are unlikely to see the fruit of the harvest.
Yet, I believe it is important to do this. Why? Well because our concern is for the wider kingdom, not just building our own local church. God has called us to work in his harvest field and for the next two weeks, this harvest field for those of us living in Birmingham is the Commonwealth Games. We won’t grow our own churches but we trust God to bring people to salvation and into his kingdom. We hope, dream and pray that churches around the world will be blessed as people come to faith and join them. Furthermore, it could be that some people will trust Jesus and go back to places where there is no church, there to share Jesus with family and friends and so to see new churches planted.
As it happens, I also believe, from experience that God does encourage us when we step out in this kind of work. Even if we don’t see the direct fruit from our sowing here, there does seem to be something whereby those sowing Gospel seed often end up seeing the harvest fruit of where people have sowed elsewhere in return.
So, please pray for us over the next few weeks as we seek to share the good news to those coming to Birmingham 2022.