I found a church in England, not far outside of London, in a very densely urban community, a congregation that took up every seat in the sanctuary. What’s more, they had to have multiple services in order to hold the crowds.
When I preached there, my driver couldn’t find a parking place. I asked the pastor, “With so many people, what room do you have for parking?” The pastor told me that almost everyone in the church came from walking distance. That amazed me because I wondered how a church could get so many people from such a small area.
The pastor explained to me that every other Saturday night they make arrangements to rope off a city block. The police cooperate. They bring in a barrel of beer and a barrel of wine. They add to this a good band. He then went on to say that a hundred of his young people come to this block party and start dancing. It doesn’t take long before people come out of their houses and join them. After a night of dancing and having a good-time party, these young church members say to the people they have been partying with, “How about coming to church with me tomorrow? If you are willing, I will stop by and pick you up.” In reality, it happens and the pastor said, “Every week we pick up about 30 or 40 people who come to our church for the first time. Church growth goes on easily from that point.”
Some may see this as a dangerous outreach method for a church to utilize. Questions like surrounding the image of the church in the public eye or “Won’t people drink to much and get drunk” are sure to arise. But the beauty of this is that people are being met where they are at and told about the life changing relationship they can have with Jesus Christ.I say Praise God!
Tony Campolo is the Founder and President of EAPE and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Most recently he co-authored Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said with Shane Claiborne. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.