There’s a game you can play when Andy Hawthorne is speaking. It’s imaginatively called the Andy Hawthorne game. As he speaks, count how many times he says the words Manchester. He is slightly passionate about the place. Last night he averaged a Manchester every minute, and even when asked to speak on a project started and developed on some of the worst estates in Manchester it’d get old quite quickly if he didn’t talk even more about Jesus. Because if the guy’s passionate about Manchester, it’s only because he wants to see it won over for Jesus.
If you’re not familiar with Eden and their parent charity The Message Trust then this is what you need to know. In setting out to reach the youth of Manchester, they recognised that Christians had to go and live in these council estates where the young people were. If you think God is calling you to do this, applicants were told, find a job in Manchester and come commit your life to a sink estate and it’s local church. And people responded to the call, moved into these estates and promptly had their cars vandalised or their windows knocked in. But people heard the gospel and people became Christians. And so, they said, maybe this model is worth spreading around the rest of the country. And this is why on Thursday night this week, two hundred people turned up to hear them officially launch Eden in London.
For a launch night, it was quite light on information about the projects themselves (we learnt that it’s starting in four estates in four spread out parts of London, from the East End to halfway to Wembley) but that wasn’t really the point. The point was to get people excited and praying. And it wasn’t because they made the projects sound important, again this was the glorious thing about it all, it’s because they made much of what God could do, and had done, and will do again. The emphasis was that the power of God was to transform the lives of broken people into those who would sing His praises, and that He was still eager to do that in crappy, run-down, hopeless, council estates so that he would be glorified. Andy Hawthorne showed where the emphasis was when he spoke at the start, talking about why any of this got set up in the first place; “it grieved my heart that these young people did not know Jesus.”