Love of cricket meets love of Christ

St Columb's different sort of evangelism

By Chris Shearer

May 5 2018 

The cricket ball clips the edge of the bat, hurtles past the wickets and crashes into the wall behind as the fielders cry “HOWZAT?!” as one voice. From his position above the action, Pete Horsford takes a fraction of a moment to analyse the play before delivering a crisp “out” over the PA. It’s a scene that many around Australia would be familiar with, but with one unique twist: this match is being played within the walls of a church building.

St Columb’s Premier League, now in its eighth year, certainly seems something special. The old Sunday school building now sports a full indoor cricket pitch, tiered seating (converted pews, of course), and even a decision review system, like the ones used at the international level to double-check controversial dismissals.

But more than just a five-nights-a-week indoor cricket league serving some 30-40 teams, the set up at St Columb’s Anglican Church is integral to their mission.

“St Columb’s is in a prominent position so they want to use their buildings and their sites to work with the community,” says Pete, the former youth pastor and cricket tragic who runs the league. “Part of the commission is to go and tell people about Christ, so we want to develop the site as a place that welcomes people to the site but also gives them the opportunity to meet with Christ [and] Christ’s people.”

“We try and have a well-organised, well-set up, dynamic, exciting game, and create an environment that they make friends in and want to belong to and all the time that they’re here – which may be a matter of five, six, seven years in some cases – at particular points in the season we’ll express the Gospel quite clearly and invite them to know more.”

Pete says this formula’s success comes from the fact that getting ‘posteriors on pews’ on Sunday isn’t seen as the be all and end all of their efforts. Instead, it aims to foster a community environment that becomes “a very bright place in people’s weeks”.

“When you engage with people once a week for the year, you’re living with the highs and lows of someone’s life, so there are opportunities to pray for them, try to help them and so live out your faith in relationship with them,” he says.

“I think when you try and link that experience with the Gospel message, that’s where a little bit of rubber hits the road because they can see that this experience that they’re having in a Christian community is really valuable and they treasure it.

“They may come in quite anti-church, anti-Christian. Now after a few years of being here and being a part of this community, we see that attitude soften significantly. So from a point where they kind of turn up their nose when we say a prayer, maybe three or four years later they’re actually accepting that.”