Salford will in August be shaken to its core by another groundbreaking mission. Tony Cummings went to the offices of THE MESSAGE to find out more.

Andrew Belfield
Andrew Belfield

For those who hold to the belief that there is, or can be, a profound connecting point between the aesthetic realm of the arts and the spiritual realm of Holy Spirit ministry, Soul Survivor The Message 2000 was the pivotal event where music and ministry met with shattering impact.

Those privileged to be present in the Arena in that week in July would have witnessed the zenith of pop gospel evangelism. Pooh-poohed by religious critics from the straight jacket of traditionalism (in the same way that they had rubbished D L Moody and Ira Sankey a century earlier) and sneered at as low art evangelistic utilitarianism by those living in lofty liberal towers, the event was a huge success. God moved powerfully by his Spirit each night. And as the Gospel was preached, sung and modelled, hundreds upon hundreds of young people, who, before the mission began only recognised the name Jesus Christ as a swear word, flocked forward to ask him into their lives.

The key aspect of Message 2000 was, of course, its social dimension with hundreds visiting the evening concerts as a result of what they saw of "the Gospel in action" on the streets.

Now The Message, the groundbreaking ministry which for 10 years has been the platform for the Tribe's evangelistic sorties into the schools of Manchester, are stepping forward, this time into the nearby town of Salford, where, aided by 1,000 volunteers, a mission will rock the town to its foundations. 2K1 - THE URBAN ADVENTURE takes place on August 25th - 29th.

In the crowded offices of The Message on a Cheadle industrial estate I met a bespectacled, casually dressed man called Andrew Belfield who has the unenviable task of holding the 2K1 - THE URBAN ADVENTURE vision together. Before he came to Manchester, Andrew had been one of the leaders of a 1,500 member church in Nottingham. He has already walked through the fire of coordinating the huge The Message 2000 mission. Now he's again enveloped with the minutiae of mission.

"The strap line we had for Message 2000 was 'No more hit and run/" explained Andrew. "In the past the Church has sometimes gone into an area, done big evangelistic meetings, then left. But we were very careful that we were building on foundations that local churches had built, and that building on those foundations should continue."

All the huge effort with the dozens of organisations, hundreds of local churches and thousands of Christians in the run up to Message 2000 came to a head in one astonishing initiative on a Salford housing estate. In the words of Andrew, "We worked hard to get everything done before hand. Then six weeks before the mission it was like God said, 'Okay guys, you're doing okay, now this is MY contribution." It was called the Valley Project. The Greater Manchester Police came to us and said, 'We've got an initiative we'd like to do but the one thing we're lacking is man power. We need people to help us. 'And, of course, we had an ABUNDANCE of people. So when the mission started we were able to put about 1,000 delegates onto the run down socially deprived estate in Swinton in Salford. They painted houses, cleared rubbish, cleaned graffiti and did all those things while laughing and chatting to residents. We saw some amazing things happen. It was probably the closest we've seen in recent years in Britain to revival in a contained period of time. It was amazing to see people walking around the streets singing and praising God and the residents coming out and welcoming them. We had grown men who were hardened criminals crying, saying, 'How do we thank these people who are changing this estate?' Subsequently the police have put out official figures, these are police figures not evangelically manipulated figures, that key categories of youth crime have reduced on that estate by 45 percent! Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, came up a few weeks ago and visited the area, met us and talked to us about the different things that are going on and said, 'You must keep working like this. You must keep this package together.'"

2K1 - THE URBAN ADVENTURE is the next expression of the get-your-hands-dirty social Gospel coupled to the big evening pop and evangelism celebration. Explained Andrew, "After Message 2000, Andy Hawthorne and I got together. We talked to a few people and we prayed. The two major expressions we wanted to carry on from Message 2000 was the Eden Bus and the Life Centre which had been established in Salford. We couldn't duplicate Message 2000, that was a very unique situation, especially the year after, it would have blown us all away completely. But we recognised we could do it in part, hence 2K1 -THE URBAN ADVENTURE. We are going into an area called Seedley in Salford, because we've got so much favour from the police and the Salford City Council. Together we decided to do something similar to the Valley Project, in a concentrated area with all those dynamics together actually helping and blessing the residents of Seedley. It's a housing estate in Salford, a part of where we are based already. There's an Eden project going on in Salford plus our LifeCentre facility. So we've got things on the ground already and because of the favour we have with the Police and the Salford City Council it's an ideal place to target for the Gospel.

"A pivotal factor in making 2K1 - THE URBAN ADVENTURE work will be the 1,000 delegates converging on Salford. We want people who really caught hold of Message 2000, giving them an opportunity to model the Gospel, and others new to mission. Organisationally, it will be a little different. We are not going to provide any sort of accommodation. We'll recommend bed and breakfasts or people can travel from their homes each day. Transportation they will have to provide for themselves. There's much more responsibility on the individual but the actual dynamics of what we had in Message 2000 is going to be exactly the same. We're going to have a big 2,500 seater marquee in Buile Hill Park. It's going to be rocking in the mornings, 10 o'clock we're going to have worship, teaching, ministry again with people like Matt Redman, Phatfish, the Heat band from Salford. In the afternoons when we hit the streets again there'll be action in the community, doing sports, loads of different projects in teams of 25. In the evenings we're going to come back hopefully with visitors we've spoken to that day and have a massive time again with people like Shine MK, The Tribe, MIC, V*enna and a whole load of others."

Andrew urged all Cross Rhythms readers to pray for the mission. He concluded our chat by enthusing about the unprecedented support from the Police. "They are so much on our side it's embarrassing! In the past we've had to fight for everything but suddenly it's turned around and they are actually helping us - they are even giving us money for this! This is unheard of. Because they are so convinced about this, the Crime Reduction grant people said, 'How can we help you?' They've given us thousands of pounds towards the actual mission. And people want to donate - the Salford City Council are saying, 'Yes, we can give you this, we can give you that.' Everyone is bending over backwards because of what they have seen can happen when people work together."

The Tribe
The Tribe

The founder of The Message, ANDY HAWTHORNE, was quizzed about the 2K1 -THE URBAN ADVENTURE initiative.

Tony: For thousands of young people Message 2000 was a pivotal experience in their spiritual growth. How difficult do you think it is going to be to motivate young people for another major evangelistic initiative?

Andy: The focus of 2K1 - THE URBAN ADVENTURE is Salford and we're hoping the vast majority of delegates will be from the North West. God's really on the move amongst young people round here so I think they will be really up for it. The exciting thought is that some of those who became Christians at Message 2000 will be the workers for THE URBAN ADVENTURE.

Tony: In the evening concerts what percentage of non-Christians would you be looking to see inside the tent? And is there a tension between the need to conduct effective evangelism and the need to be a source of encouragement and entertainment to believers?