Last night (Monday 12 July), nearly 40 people representing around 16 churches from across Thurrock, gathered at Grays Baptist Church to discuss the proposed “Epicentre” mission to young people, bringing empowerment to young believers, and salvation to young not-yet believers.

PICT17882Presenting the vision were Anita Darashah-Borman and Gary Cobb from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Anita is the UK Youth Project Manager and lives near Luton. Gary is responsible for evangelism training, counselling and follow-up across the globe for the BGEA, and is from Charlotte, North Carolina – he’d only flown in on Sunday.

(Left: Colin Baker with Gary and Anita from BGEA, and Edwin Hughes, the man behind the vision for ThurRock the Borough!)

Anita began by reminding us of Psalm 78:4, which says:

We will not hide them from their children; ?
we will tell the next generation ?
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, ?
his power, and the wonders he has done.

She explained that 75% of all believers give their lives to Christ before the age of 18 – thereafter, it is much more difficult, owing to other influences in life that come in at the onset of adulthood. In the UK, some 1 million young people have left the church since 1985. This is why reaching the younger generation is so important.

The Epicentre programme has been well received because of the perceived value of working with and high reputation of the BGEA. “It’s time to share God’s love,” said Anita, “and to focus on Jesus”.

Gary then talked about a similar BGEA programme called “Rock the City”. This programme runs over a shorter time but can be adapted to include aspects of Epicentre – namely, small group discipleship and leadership mentoring – according to local requirements. Rock the City has never been done in the UK and Gary was keen to promote it.

Essentially, the proposed programme looks like this:

  • 1st month – launch event: start of “Operation Andrew” and foundations (prayer initiatives continue through the 6 months and beyond)
  • 3rd month – community action projects
  • 5th month – evangelism training (using the FM419 programme)
  • 6th month – Rock the City event (a big Christian gig somewhere)
  • 7th month and onwards – discipleship and follow-up courses running into the future

Gary also told us that it is highly likely that Franklin Graham (son of Billy) will be coming to London and the UK in 2013.

Anita then shared the vision and prophetic impetus behind Epicentre and Rock the City:

  • to rebuild the walls like Nehemiah
  • to see broken communities become ‘beautiful cities’
  • to build up a ‘domino effect’ momentum of interest and young people receiving Christ
  • to equip the young people across the nation

The key strategies are:

  • to find neutral ground for events and ‘the’ event
  • to provide a social ‘hook’ (something to draw young people in)
  • to use relevant music (the ‘language’ of the young)
  • to hear young voices (telling their stories)

PICT17872The point was made that “the message doesn’t change, but the method must change” in order to reach young people in this current period and culture. Apparently, Billy Graham’s wife once said (in her Southern drawl) when she was asked why there had to be bands at young people’s outreach events, “Those bands stock the pond so Bill can go fishin’.”

This will require networking, facilitation and equipping on the part of any local team making Epicentre / Rock the City happen. The emphasis has to be on PRAYER and RELATIONSHIP.

As if to emphasise the need to reach the young people of the area, on the BBC London news later in the evening there was film of police in Grays park and the town centre pouring away bottles of drink while a group of drunken youths watched on.

Is the Lord bringing Epicentre / Rock the City to Thurrock for such a time as this?

A meeting has been provisionally booked for 7.30pm on Thursday 16 September at Grays Baptist Church to take this vision a step further.

Transformation Thurrock is supporting this united and uniting mission.

Bottom picture shows Pastor Alan Field from Aveley Christian Centre; Fr Alex Gowing-Cumber from All Saints, Chafford Hundred; and Colin Baker, pastor at Grays Baptist Church.