The Brighton-based vicar Rev Martin Poole has been experimenting with creative forms of outreach. In Church Beyond Walls he explains how others can join him in finding new ways of presenting Christ’s timeless message

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When fewer people than ever are coming to church, how do you take the church to them? And how do you make the Christian gospel relevant to people with little knowledge of Jesus and the Bible?

The answer, according to Rev Martin Poole’s fascinating new book, could be Nativity scenes in beach huts, spiritual trails through town centres, community art in public places and doing theology in pubs.

Poole, a Brighton-based Church of England vicar, is a passionate believer in finding new ways of presenting Christ’s message. He has been coming up with ideas for years and is still exploring innovative ways of getting people to engage with Jesus outside the church’s walls.

In the introduction to Church Beyond Walls, he explains, “The church of the 21st century and beyond needs to change radically if it is to survive and be at all relevant to modern society. It needs to throw off the robes and rituals that were invented hundreds of years ago and devise new forms and festivals that are relevant to a modern way of thinking and being.”

Poole says that the projects that he, and his ‘Beyond Church’ community, devise are the kinds of events that Jesus “who spent most of his ministry on the seashore and in the market square” would have recognised. “This is the kind of church, unbounded by stone walls, oak doors and ancient practices, that the 21st century needs.”

Projects described include an Advent Calendar using beach huts, with each hut decorated imaginatively to convey an aspect of the Christmas story; a Lent trail around local shops, with retailers devising displays that communicated an aspect of the Easter story; and a specially-constructed cross-shaped art installation that invited people to post slips of paper indicating what they could live without.

Another involved using pub function rooms to explore faith with people who might be uncomfortable in church. One session involved using large mirror installations and small glass shards to encourage people to reflect on their identity, how God sees them and how they perceive God.

Poole, a parish priest with a background in media, goes into much detail setting out how the ideas were developed, how support and permissions were obtained from local stakeholders, how volunteers were enlisted and enthused and how publicity was achieved. There are some photos and at the end of each chapter is a helpful ‘Things to consider’ list.


All the ideas are aimed at encouraging engagement with the gospel, arousing interest and curiosity and starting a gentle conversation about faith. It’s a far cry from churches simply presenting ‘four spiritual laws’ and expecting an instant response.

The projects underline how presenting the Christian gospel in the 21st century requires much more than just words. It needs innovative ideas and acts that engage people, make them inquisitive and interested, and draw them into exploring Christ’s message for themselves.

It’s more like the way Jesus used parables to win his listeners’ attention and challenge them to reflect more deeply on his message of salvation.

4 stars



Church Beyond Walls by Rev Martin Poole (Canterbury Press) is out now