The DTS Gathering is always a big event—all the different YWAM Discipleship Training Schools in England and Wales (and often Scotland too) joining together for a week of evangelism training and outreach. And its usually in a city where YWAMers are just beginning to dream dreams and see visions of pioneering possibilities. I’ve been to DTS Gatherings in East London, in Glasgow, in Derby—and now in Bristol!
The vision for YWAM Bristol has long been in the hearts of Kyle & Rossie – who used to be the vital force within the ‘Forever Team’, organising DTS Gatherings in all the Olympic cities of the country. But the team has only recently actually come into being, as the Forever Team’s work was finally completed and the two were thus released to move to Bristol and begin the rough but rewarding work of pioneering. And their team now includes three others: Phil & Abbey, and Marlen.
We took the long-distance bus from Cambridge—and before we even reached Bristol, Connie had sat next to a university student and led her to the Lord. So we arrived full of faith for all that the week had in store for us, and found our way to St Paul’s Church, which was hosting us for the week.
Monday began with Yan Nicholls imparting his heart for sharing the gospel:
“Evangelism isn’t an activity, it’s a question! And the question is, how big is your heart?” [Tweet that].
Typically for a DTS Gathering, the schedule each day included worship and teaching each morning and then outreach in the afternoons. Outreach the first day meant heading out to various parts of the city to prayer-walk, asking for the kingdom of God to come in power over the following days. I somehow found myself in the team going to Clifton Suspension Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in the world and a beautiful viewpoint for looking out over the city.
Then in the evening I had the chance to do some simple Gospel Bracelet training, sharing a few of the stories from our recent street evangelism, equipping people to actually share the simple gospel message, and inspiring people with a vision for the power of the message of Jesus impacting people’s hearts and minds.
Tuesday afternoon was the first scheduled time of evangelistic outreach, and I partnered up with Tim, a young American doing the DTS at Harpenden. He’s eager to share the gospel but just beginning the journey of learning how to do so. We had a number of conversations with different people, and finally met a couple of teenage girls. I introduced myself: “Can we talk to you? My friend Tim has come all the way from the USA to share the message of Jesus with you!” And Tim used the Bracelet to share with them. It turned out one was already a joyfully confident Christian—and after Tim had finished she turned to her friend and, grinning, said “Now you have to become a Christian!” I was able to explain that becoming a Christian is a simple matter of faith and repentance. “Just say sorry for the things you’ve done wrong and then thank Jesus that he died so you could be forgiven and tell him you want to trust him and follow him! I could lead you in a simple prayer like that right now.” And so she took that first step of faith – at which all of heaven rejoices!
On Wednesday, YWAM Cambridge’s own Connie Taylor was teaching on Fear of God and Fear of Man – pursuing the former and breaking free from the latter. The session ended with a powerful and extended time of people coming to the front to take the microphone and declare their commitment to walk free from whatever lie of the enemy it was that had been holding them in bondage. Afterwards, Inga May (a fiery young Norwegian missionary who had been on my team doing street evangelism the afternoon before) comes to me and shares her desire to respond by doing some open-air proclamation of the truths of the gospel.
So rather than just using the Gospel Bracelets in one-on-one conversations, that afternoon we took the amp and mics out with us into the city. The place where we’d been told to go was very close to the site of the very first ever Methodist Chapel to be established in the Wesleyan revival, so we took the opportunity to go there before we began, thrilled by the inspiring heritage of that great movement that began with the open-air proclamation of the truths of the gospel.
There’s actually a statue of Wesley on horseback just outside the Chapel, and around it written various Wesleyan quotes – “An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge!”, “The whole world is my parish!” — so we stopped there to pray for that same revival fire which ‘strangely warmed’ Wesley’s heart to come upon us.
It was a lot of fun having two mics, as it meant that I could intersperse the preaching with a less intimidating and more conversational approach, asking Inga May her story and giving her the chance to share to those passing-by why it was that a Norwegian would be on a high street preaching in Bristol.
The next evening we again used the amp – this time to do some street-corner hip hop. I’d discovered that Andrew, who is doing a nine-month DTS in Derby, is an enthusiastic rap lover and performer. And since I also have a little gospel rap, we decided to see how it would work using it to help us share the love of Jesus. And it worked a treat! We even had a guy passing in his car, turn round, park, and come join us. He was a black Pentecostal who himself did some rapping, and when he heard the lyrics of Lecrae (well-known Christian rapper who appeared on the recent Billy Graham film, The Cross), he immediately decided to join in.
The DTS Gathering came to its official end on Friday morning with a time of praying specifically for all of those who felt God calling them to “do the work of an evangelist”.
But for those willing to go the extra mile there was the option of staying an extra night to be involved in some extra outreach—particularly since it was Halloween. For the last few years Halloween in Bristol has involved hundreds of people donning (fake-)blood-splattered costumes (see this video) for an hour-long ‘Zombie Walk’ through the town.
As we walked, I got chatting to a zombie nun (!) whose name turned out to be Adam. “I wasn’t expecting to have such a profound conversation when I came out for this!”
The official Zombie Walk finished, and the costumed undead scattered into the town to continue with whatever their plans were for the rest of the evening. For us, we stayed out on the streets giving away free hot drinks, blessing Bristol with the love and explaining the message—of Jesus!