The key to heaven
An umbrella, rope, keys and a very small door – four props used by evangelist Chris Duffett to explain the concept of heaven and God’s love to strangers
Chris set himself a challenge this half term: to get people passing through Peterborough town centre to understand that the cross of Christ is the key to heaven. He went about his task in typically creative and experimental ways.
Chris bought 240 metres of rope, cut them up into two metre lengths and then bundled each piece of rope into a knot. At the end of each rope he put a piece of coloured blue tape to signify the small time we are on earth in comparison to eternity (the rest of the rope).
Chris has collected over 500 keys over the last two years that were going to waste from a local key cutters. He sprayed the keys white and put a keyring on each which had a Bible verse on one side and on the other, ‘The cross of Christ is the key to heaven’.
Arranged in a cross shape on a large key, Chris used them to reach out to passers-by. “People came and helped themselves to a key which took their eye,” says Chris.
Many asked the meaning of the Bible verses on the keyrings. “It was encouraging to engage with people,” he adds. “Most haven’t heard anything relevant about Jesus and their life.”
The small door Chris created and encouraged people to step through was inspired by Jesus saying: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
“Surprise, surprise – hundreds of children walked through the door and very few adults did,” says Chris. “It felt like a prophetic telling of that verse.”
One man who did walk through the door said he found it a humbling experience. Chris asked him why and he replied: “I had to bow down to walk through the door.” The answer opened the door (pun intended) to a conversation about the experience of becoming childlike and what that meant.
I will give you shelter
Chris used an umbrella to re-enact Psalm 91:1. For this experimental street evangelism to work, Chris needed good weather and he mostly got it, except one day when the heavens opened.
That didn’t stop Chris as he got a tip off beforehand of the upcoming deluge from street sellers and so was prepared. He stood outside the shopping centre holding an umbrella with a sign saying ‘I will shelter you’ and he offered to protect people from the rain and walk with them to where they needed to go.
“That really worked as a demonstration of what God is like,” says Chris. He walked with one man from the city centre to the train station and explained he was re-enacting Psalm 91:1 to show that God is a shelter.
“I really get that,” the man replied and he was one of many that responded well to the prophetic demonstration. “I had great conversations and people were just grateful not to get wet,” Chris says.
Part of God’s global mission
Chris sees what he did in Peterborough as part of telling people about God and his love for them in ways which encourage them to engage and ask questions.
“The Church worldwide – we’ve got this commission to let the nations know what it means to be a follower of Christ and still the majority of people haven’t got a clue,” Chris says. “All of those 350 people came up to us – we didn’t come up to them – asked what we were doing or they said ‘can I have a key?’ It felt like most of them wanted to find out something about what we are doing. This was a drop in the ocean to let people in on what it means to be a follower of Jesus.”
Chris, a BMS World Mission-supported partner worker, sees a link between what he is doing in the UK as a street evangelist and what BMS workers are doing worldwide.
“What blows me away again and again is that the role of the mission worker is to prompt that question of ‘why’,” he says.
“As soon as someone asks that question, it’s almost as if their hearts are open to receive an answer. What they do with that answer is up to them. If I went up to people and said ‘I need to tell you about the cross of Christ and you need to know that it is the key to heaven’, people just wouldn’t be open to engaging with it.
"But as soon as people ask ‘Why are you the way you are? Why are you doing that? Why are you helping us?’ and ‘What does that mean?’ it is permission to say that ‘this is about Jesus’.”
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.