Why We Need A Plan: 5 - Pushing The Boat Out

Now that the engineering works are over, and I can walk round Clowbridge reservoir once more, I note that there are changes afoot at the Rossendale Valley Sailing Club. The car park is being enlarged, along with the area where the dinghies and other small craft are laid up. The sign above suggests that they are actively involved in the search for new enthusiasts.

It’s not a large club, but the website boasts that their clubhouse “was designed by the Pozzoni Design Group Architectural PracticeIt provides an innovative external appearance incorporating a nautical theme within a completely modern layout. The distinctive curved profile of the roof is designed to present the minimum obstruction to wind flows from this dominant wind direction.” A substantial amount of the money for this was provided by the Sport England National Lottery Fund, we are told.

The list of amenities on offer suggests that it is pleasant place to spend some time, looking out over the water and up to the surrounding hills. Perhaps that’s why, when I walk around the reservoir or on the heights above it, I never see anyone actually sailing! From the footpath behind the premises, I took a closer look at some of the small craft. These examples at least didn’t seem to have been out on the water for quite a while.


We’re still considering what R. A. Torrey has to say about the importance of “personal work”, also known as “personal dealing”, or “personal evangelism”. Here’s what he has to say next.

2. It can be done anywhere.
There are but few places where one can preach. There is no place where one cannot do personal work. How often, as we pass factories, engine houses, lodging houses and other places where crowds are gathered, do we wish that we might get into them and preach the Gospel, but generally this is impossible, but it is altogether possible to go in and do personal work. Furthermore, we can do personal work on the street, whether street meetings are allowed or not. We can do personal work in the homes of the poor and in the homes of the rich, in hospitals, workhouses, jails, station houses, and all sorts of institutions—in a word, everywhere.

"How often … do we wish that we might get into them”, these “places where crowds are gathered”. That was written in 1902. If I may be so bold as to ask, do we wish to do the same today? As for personal evangelism in the places he mentions, well, perhaps the professionals can cope: chaplains and clergy in the hospitals and jails, street pastors for Saturday nights, food bank providers for the poor and get-togethers in pricey restaurants for our prosperous friends, to hear a guest speaker who will keep it light and bright and who won’t overrun. Job done? No, of course not.

I’m also reading a reprint of a book by Edwin Hallock Byington, first published in 1892. His main topic is open air preaching, but here is how he begins a chapter towards the end of the book, entitled “Who Will Go For Us?”

"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’” If Christ were here in visible presence, as eighteen centuries ago, He surely, as then, would be found going to the people in their houses of worship, at their social gatherings, on the hillsides, by the seashore, and in the streets. Who will go for Him? Plenty volunteer to represent Him in our churches and chapels; but who will represent Him on the streets? If the force is to be commensurate with the task, laymen and women must volunteer as well as ministers.

After speaking of those who labour in Sunday-schools and prayer meetings, he asks a question.

Why should laymen, so widely and wisely employed in these two directions, so generally remain inactive in evangelistic effort? Why should the vast multitudes, found neither in Sabbath schools nor prayer meetings, be deprived of their spiritual influence? … Let our churches as such, under the leadership of their pastors, engage in this work, showing the world that the church is in earnest in its search for the lost.

I wonder what they’re saying today at the Rossendale Valley Sailing Club, as they settle back and sip their drinks and gaze out over the water? “I suppose I really ought to get out there. After all, my membership’s paid for, and that’s why I’m here, and it would do me a power of good to get some fresh air and exercise. Perhaps when the winter’s over? It’s certainly warm and comfortable in here, though, and it’s cold and wet outside, and I seem to remember that it was hard work, the last time I went out, whenever that was. But I’ll get around to it, all in good time, you see if I don’t!”