Peter Adam reports on lessons learned from Don Carson’s mission in Melbourne.
Ridley Melbourne was founded in 1910. As one of our Centenary Celebrations, we decided to run an evangelistic mission to Melbourne from 23–27 August.
We booked Don Carson four years ago. We brought together a loose coalition of churches and ministries to support the mission, to be run over five week night evenings, in one central city location, close to public transport and easy parking.
Each night Don spoke, and expounded a passage from John’s Gospel. Each talk stood alone, but the five talks also progressed through the Gospel.
Each evening we began with live music at 7:00 pm. People were welcomed at 7:30. Don was briefly interviewed, then we presented a pre-recorded interview with a believer. The musos sang, then there was a dramatised performance reading of the Bible passage.
Don spoke for 45 minutes, with the Bible passage on the screen behind him. People texted in questions during the talk, which were answered by Don afterwards.
Then we explained the response process and people filled in their cards. There was a final, familiar hymn like Amazing Grace, and the evening ended with advisors ready to talk with enquirers at 9:00 pm.
People from many churches—not just Anglican—came and brought friends. Here are the numbers from each night:
This was a remarkable event, and will have a long-term impact in Melbourne, not least because Don reckons that most people converted through his missions come to faith in Christ in the six months after the mission.
It is worth reflecting on the Mission’s significance:
Don provided a remarkable model of using the Bible to do evangelism in a way that clearly communicated with people, and resulted in conversions.
The reinvention of the public meeting style of evangelism in the age of Alpha provides a useful alternative which I hope will be picked up by others.
A number of Christians at Christ-expo commented on the fact that he used the exposition of the Bible to do evangelism: a model that they felt they could copy.
Many commented that Don engaged well with the audience, that he did not speak down to non-Christians or people of other religions, and in fact addressed their concerns respectfully, and that his evangelism was theological, Biblical, personal, emotional, and practical.
The evenings were well run, the hall was full, and there was a great atmosphere. The great majority of those who came to Christ-expo were aged between 20 and 35.
Christ-expo was a great example of the value of cooperation in evangelism. I hope that others will pick up this idea, and plan cooperative public evangelism events elsewhere in Australia.
One Muslim woman came reluctantly and was converted on the night. One student came one night, and was led to Christ by the person who brought her two days later. We have heard of several people converted since coming to the mission.
That those who made decisions will be followed up and integrated into a fellowship.
That those who asked for more information and follow-up will be effectively followed up; that they will come to saving faith in Christ.
That both groups will be quick to change the way they live, quick to witness to family and friends about their new faith in Christ, and will remain faithful to Christ till the end.
That those who heard and have not yet responded will do so over the next few months, and that those who have already spoken with them and prayed for them will continue to do so.
That Christians will see the possibilities for a variety of styles of evangelism, and cooperate with others in preaching the gospel of Christ across Victoria.
And please praise God for all who helped and all who heard, and for Don’s faithful ministry.
Peter Adam is a past Principal of Ridley Melbourne and Vicar emeritus of St Jude's Carlton in Melbourne.