Church Army researcher Steve Hollinghurst has been spreading the gospel using an unusual method – playing cards.
The Sheffield-based Researcher in Evangelism to Post-Christian Culture started using this method about two years ago at the Mind Body Spirit fair in Manchester, because he was looking for new ways to engage with those seeking to know more about the gospel.
Cards have always been a popular thing in culture; from playing cards to angel and tarot cards, they have proved popular among those exploring spirituality today, as well as family and friends who simply use them for recreational purposes.
So what does a pack of colourful cards with suits Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and two joker cards have to do with the gospel? According to Steve, it has a lot to do with it. The Jesus deck is a new large size set of playing cards, which depict the major events in Jesus life. This new, unique deck, represent a story from each gospel usually with a short accompanying text and Steve has found success with this unusual way of telling the gospel story.
“The thing the cards do well is get people to open up about what's going on their lives, and relate that to the challenges and inspiration of the lessons we can learn from the life and teaching of Jesus,” Steve explains.
“I have had people open up about extra-marital affairs, serious illness, search for life direction and other important topics, all of which I have explored with them using the biblical story represented on the card.
"There was an astrologer on the radio programme I did on LBC who had a church background. His comment was that he felt too often Christianity was all about abstract ideas, but the Jesus Deck made it relevant to people's lives. This is very much my experience from what happens when I use them, often helping people a long way from the Christian faith to see how it might be relevant to them.”
Steve adds that this method aims to attract people who do not usually have a relationship with God, to come together with Christians, and develop an understanding of the faith without feeling they are committing to religion. This way people can feel comfortable learning about Jesus and his work without feeling pressured. These cards are a new way of Bible study; a way which can demonstrate how Jesus’ life is still relevant in present day.
“Many people don’t think Christianity has any relevance to their lives and this is one of the reasons they might be dismissive of the Christian faith,” says Steve. “These cards show that in fact the story of Jesus has enormous significance to people’s daily lives, and this opens up the possibility to talk with people at a deep level, pray for them, and ultimately provide me with an opportunity to talk about my faith and how it effects my life.”
This is not fortune-telling, Steve highlights. The cards do not predict the future or contain ideas for discussions. The cards simply retell the stories as told in the Bible to help people find direction, purpose and clarity and if the state of Christianity today is anything to go by, these cards are indeed a welcome addition to the body of Christ.
So would Jesus approve of these cards then?
“I suspect there would be things about the church today Jesus would not be happy with, especially when we are withdrawn from the world in a holy huddle,” Steve says. “I think he'd be keen for us to be among those who don't normally come near church, just as he spent time with such people in his day. The cards help do this.
"Jesus was also good at using pictures and stories to communicate and the cards are very much following in that tradition, so I think he'd find them almost familiar.”