‘On the way to the match’
Crete Gospel Hall in Anfield, Liverpool stands just a stone’s throw from Liverpool Football Club’s stadium, the sixth largest football stadium in England, with a seating capacity of 54,000. It has been the home of Liverpool Football Club since 1892, long before the assembly at Crete Gospel Hall occupied the building.
On a match day, the area is gridlocked with cars and hordes of people mill around the streets, all in very high spirits! For many years the proximity of the Gospel Hall to the ground was seen as an inconvenience, with great difficulty parking on a Sunday when a match was being held and meetings having to be rearranged around football matches.
In early 2010 it was realized that, rather than a hindrance, this was actually a huge opportunity. All these people are literally on our doorstep. The idea was raised and, after much prayer and consideration, a group of local Christians from the assembly, together with others, decided to take action and seek to reach these people. A bright and attractive ‘LFC’ (Liverpool Football Club) leaflet with a clear gospel message was produced. Many thousands of this leaflet have been given out over the years.
The format is the same now as it was then. About an hour before kick-off, a table is set up outside the hall serving tea, coffee, biscuits and sweets – the deal being that if a tea or coffee is taken a gospel leaflet must be taken as well! The table is manned by a few friendly believers so as not to be too confrontational and so that people feel comfortable to come and take refreshment.
We have found the table to be very popular with the crowds, and we have many regulars who come along for a drink and a chat and who freely take the leaflets. We’ve also become very friendly with the local unofficial ‘parking attendant’, Mick. He always grabs a handful of leaflets and insists on giving them out!
At the same time, others will stand in certain strategic positions around the ground handing out leaflets. Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with the demand when handing out the leaflets, although when one person refuses, it is very common for everyone in the stream of people behind that person to refuse too! If this happens, we have found that it is best to pause and restart a short while later.
Since 2016 we have produced a gospel ‘postcard’ style leaflet for every match, with a picture on one side (to grab the attention of the fans) and a message on the other. We are very careful to ensure that any images used are licensed correctly as, on occasions, officials from the club do come and take a leaflet, presumably for inspection.
The text on the reverse of the card essentially contains three sections, the first being a commentary on some situation at the club; examples recently were the new stadium and its benefits, the £142M transfer fee for a player, or ‘Last Match Victory’ when Liverpool were on the verge of qualifying to play again in Europe. The middle section then builds a link to enable the gospel to be presented in the last section. For example, for the £142M transfer fee for a player, the middle section discusses the value of a human life and the final section brings in the gospel with the death of the Lord Jesus being proof of our value to God.
The leaflets are designed to be read in less than a minute and to be easily understood by the supporters. On a typical match day, we can give out around 1500 leaflets. Many leaflets are put straight into pockets, so we always pray that when they are brought out later they’ll be read. A result of producing a leaflet for every match is that some people actually seem to be collecting them! We heard a story of a man who took a handful and gave them out in one of the local pubs and compared their collection, not the method of distribution we intended! On at least one occasion, players have received a leaflet as well.
We have heard of the leaflets reaching many parts of the country and, indeed, the world. There are also many visitors from Northern Ireland and with a strong Northern Irish representation in the Liverpool assemblies they always hear a familiar accent! We appreciate the support of local believers from the assemblies in Liverpool, Warrington and Manchester in this work.
We hope that our experience may help others in looking for different avenues of service when it is difficult to encourage people to come into a church building.