In 2005, the Causeway Coast Vineyard in Ireland started going out into their city of Coleraine in small groups and offering to pray for the people they met—a ministry they dubbed Healing on the Streets. That simple mode of evangelism has been successful for years, and it has been adopted by many Vineyard churches around the world.
But in the last year, something has changed. Causeway Coast Vineyard has seen an amazing increase in the numbers of people coming to Jesus daily. We love hearing about this stuff, so Multiply Vineyard asked Alan Scott, who, together with his wife Kathryn, leads the Causeway Coast Vineyard, if he would describe some of what’s been happening for us:MV: Could you tell us a little about what God is doing in your church and your city, and how it began?
AS: When we packed our belongings in our trailer and headed over the Irish Sea, we never imagined what God would do. As new church planters we hoped for a flourishing church. It never really entered our hearts that we might see the city come alive.
We have been engaging in bringing life to our city for over ten years. It’s been a painful and fruitful process; showing up in the community and telling a different story. This year something has shifted…
In some ways God is doing what God has always been doing; repositioning His church to reach the city. Often we pray for a move of God but God waits for His people to move. This year we have moved a little more. As we moved a little more…He moved a lot more. In the last six months almost 2000 people have come to faith; some in our services, more in gathered environments such as schools, and lots in ordinary everyday moments. Somewhat surprisingly, more than 60 percent of those coming to faith have surrendered their yes to Jesus on the streets of our town and surrounding area.
MV: Did you have any specific guidance or direction from God that led to what’s happening now?
AS: Yes. Several years ago at one of our leaders gathering we collectively sensed God say, ‘If you will go after the lost, I will look after the church.’ At that time I was trying to build His church and asking him to bring in the lost. Somehow it never crossed my mind that I was trying to do His job while asking him to do mine. Really everything we have done since that moment has led to this moment. We created environments that led us towards lost people and lost people towards God. So in some ways it has been a long obedience in the same direction.
At the same time there have been prophetic moments in our outward movement.
Earlier this year we appointed a couple of evangelists; we did so in response to a prophetic word. It was time to invite some catalysts into our process. Their job was simple – lead one person to Jesus each day. Initially that is what they did. Eventually we learned how to move from leading one person to leading a few people. Now on average they lead 8-12 people to Jesus every day.
We would never have had the courage to risk without the prophetic word.
MV: Wow! So, moving forward, do you have a sense of where this all might be leading?
AS: Not really. We’re still unclear about exactly what is happening. In many ways it’s still emerging. Our sense is that people coming to faith is the first wave. There is one scripture, however, that we keep returning to which excites and unnerves me in equal measure.
“Things are going to happen so fast your head will swim, one thing fast on the heels of the other. You won’t be able to keep up. Everything will be happening at once—and everywhere you look, blessings.”
Amos 9:13 [The Message]
I like the idea of things happening fast. The idea of not being able to keep up… not so much. Every time God’s good future breaks in upon us it brings multiplication. It also brings mystery. Everything at the moment is unusual; unclear, slightly uncomfortable, highly unpredictable. The only thing we know for sure is that we won’t be in control. More than once I have taken comfort from the words of John Maxwell:
“it doesn’t matter how deep the water is when you are already in over your head.”
MV: That does sound both exciting and terrifying. Thanks for giving us a little glimpse into what’s going on in the kingdom in your city! To close, do you think you could share a few specific stories of God at work in the last year?
AS: A few months ago a Spanish lady, a French lady and a German lady were visiting our town, (none of these places in Europe are usually considered spiritually receptive). The girls hadn’t set out that day to find God, and like most people who are looking for God, they didn’t look like they were looking for God. One of them was an atheist, the other two were ambivalent. A couple of our guys were on the streets and began to engage the girls in conversation. As they did, the atheist lady withdrew while the other two remained. Within 10 minutes both girls had given their lives to Jesus.
And that would be a stunning story if that’s where it ended…
But a 69 year old man was sitting on a nearby bench with his wife. He overheard the whole thing. He approached our guys – with a beaming smile on his face – and said, “I want to know this Jesus.” In that moment, he gave his life to Jesus, and then his wife gave her life to Jesus, too. That kind of thing hadn’t happened before. It was a gear-shift moment; a new normal.
Another outstanding moment in the process was when one of our evangelists asked his daughter one morning, “how many people are going to come to Jesus today?” (This was back in the day where we only saw maybe 4-5 people come to faith in a day, so for us the idea that we would see more than that in a day was inconceivable). His daughter answered, “you’re going to see ten people come to faith today Daddy” – that was just him, not anyone else. On one level her answer thrilled him and on another level it troubled him. He began thinking, “I’m not going to see ten people come to faith, she is going to be so disappointed”, and no Dad likes disappointing his kids.
At around one o’clock that day he was having lunch with his wife trying to avoid the obvious question – how many people have come to faith so far? Any other day three would have been amazing, but not today. His wife tried to console him pointing out how incredible it was that even one person had given their life to Jesus. It didn’t really help and by three o’clock in the afternoon he found himself wondering what he was going to tell his little girl.
His thoughts were interrupted when he saw a group of seven teenagers. Whilst he is not a gifted academic, he’s not terrible at math. So he counted it up – I’ve seen three… those are my other seven. He walked over to the lads, and this was his opening line – “God told me I was going to see ten people come to faith in Him today. So far I’ve seen three, you’re my other seven.” After a brief conversation, every one of the teenage lads gave their life to Jesus. And Scott went home happy.
Just the most remarkable thing! And I could tell you story after story on that stuff.
But the truth is while stories introduce the kingdom, it is stewardship that makes the difference. Everything we are experiencing is the entirely predictable outcome of showing up in the community over a period of years. We love conversion stories but we are after so much more. We want to connect these stories of individuals with the story of institutions and industries, economies and families, businesses and colleges – until everything, everywhere experiences infectious life.