Thousands of churches have fresh confidence thanks to the success of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. That’s the view of David Willson, CEO of More Than Gold, the parachurch organization that coordinated churches’ response to the Olympics.
“Churches across the U.K. have stepped out to run events, large and small. And time after time, they have experienced outstanding success by way of the quality of what they have done and the numbers that turned up,” Willson said.
“The impact has been to raise the profile and credibility of churches in their communities, especially where they have joined hands to work together. This has given many a fresh confidence to take into the future.”
The experience of Gold Hill Baptist Church in Chalfont St. Peter, a village of some 13,000 residents just northeast of London, which organized a two-week festival called Run the Race, appears to confirm Willson’s view. More than 7,000 attended the church’s Olympic opening ceremony celebration.
During the Olympic fortnight, there were daily events including a children’s holiday club, vintage tea party for seniors, men’s and ladies’ nights and a competition for local businesses.
More than 600 volunteers helped run the festival. Some were from local churches, and others were from churches in the United States with which Gold Hill Baptist is linked.
Attendance at all events exceeded expectations with more than 100 people making commitments to become Christians, according to Malcolm Duncan, Gold Hill Baptist’s lead pastor.
“The Olympics gave a great impetus to people to engage with the community, to celebrate their community in a way I haven’t experienced previously,” he said.
“Literally thousands of people came up to me and said they had never seen anything like it and it made them proud to live in Chalfont St. Peter. We were unapologetic about having Christ at the center of the event and that had a real influence on it.”
Before the Olympic men’s 100-meter final on Aug. 5, Gareth Wilde, from BMS World Mission, spoke to 400 people at a Run the Race Cafe Church meeting about Undefeated, the Paralympics resource from BMS.
“Hearing Gareth talk about the Undefeated resource and campaign and then watching Usain Bolt win the 100-meter final was a real juxtaposition that spoke powerfully to many about how we discriminate against disabled people,” Duncan said.
Wilde is encouraging churches to now focus their attention on the Paralympics and feature it in their services during those games, which begin in London on Aug. 29.
“The Olympics were just a warm-up for the Paralympics. I would encourage churches to get involved in this exciting event through the Undefeated resources and campaign,” Wilde said.