It all started in a stuffy church meeting.

We were discussing plans for our church’s 50th birthday. I was 25 years old, idealistic and not particularly designed to sit still in church meetings. Frustrated by the predictable plans for a church birthday celebration involving quiche, a quiz and a few party poppers, without any forethought I stood up and said, ‘What if our celebration wasn’t just for us, but for our whole community?’ So in 2009 we bought 3000 mugs, delivered one to every home in the parish and invited them to Alpha, including to one bloke who had just prayed, ‘God, if you are there I need a sign…’. His doorbell rang and someone gave him a mug. He was still at church this Sunday.

In 2009 we bought 3000 mugs, delivered one to every home in the parish and invited them to Alpha.

As a church, we feel like we have something so valuable to offer our community and are desperate to engage those not in the church with the life changing message of Jesus. We also have a story.

In the 1980s, a criminal gang used to meet outside the church, deal drugs and intimidate the community. The church was determined to be a light in the darkness and stand up for the community so the church family began to pray. Within weeks of praying, this long established gang had completely disbanded and was nowhere to be seen. At the same time, several people completely independently reported seeing angels on the walls outside the church and standing guard. We don’t know why that gang broke up, but we have a sneaking suspicion some angelic visitors had something to do with it.

Jump ahead to 2018, and another round of conversations  of what to do for the 60th anniversary. We were wondering how to top what had happened a decade ago, when someone suggested, ‘Why don’t we do something with angels?’ This question kick started a year’s worth of planning and one of the most significant missional activities we have undertaken in recent years. The vision was that our community would wake up on a Friday morning in June to be met by a host of angels; to be exact, one thousand of them.

We don’t know why that gang broke up, but we have a sneaking suspicion some angelic visitors had something to do with it.

For a full year, church members knitted, crocheted, painted and crafted from wood, metal, and Lego bricks an army of angels large enough to grace the most gratuitous nativity scene. And on a dark, drizzly, damp June night, church members aged 16 to 76 went out placing the haloed creations on garden walls and fences, in trees and bus stops, to be discovered the following morning…

Each angel had a tag on it reading, ‘You are loved’, and a link to the website that we had bought and prepared. On the website was details of all the church activities that people could engage with, and a video inviting all in the community to join the family and encounter Jesus.

We waited with a degree of nervousness on the response from the community. And here’s what happened…

Church members knitted, crocheted, painted and crafted from wood, metal, and Lego bricks an army of angels
  1. It was received better than we could have ever hoped. To date, the video has been viewed almost 6,000 times across social media and the comments on Facebook from community members were astonishing. A local news Facebook page picked it up and almost 100 group members posted pictures of the angels they found. We received not one piece of negative feedback.
  2. Two weeks before ‘angel day’ a teenager was tragically stabbed in our area. Our community was in mourning. In God’s amazing timing and by total God-incidence, the angels arrived on the day of his funeral. Many commented just how timely this was.
  3. Most excitingly, five new families have turned up at church, more have signed up for Alpha, others have engaged with our toddler group and we will never know the impact further and wider. We are praying that those who have engaged will become wholehearted disciples of Jesus.

So my encouragement to you, if you are a church with a heart for your community, is just to have a go! Find any excuse to do something ambitious and audacious, ignite some missional creativity, try to capture the imagination, get the whole church on board, and go for it!

I am convinced we are living in spiritually hungry times where many people are waiting to be invited into community and are way more open than we might think to the message of Jesus. Be brave, think big, and extend the greatest invitation of all time to those around you.