Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

ChangingLondon

Missionary work has never been easy.  Jonah faced drowning and heart break.  Paul defends his mission work by boasting, not of his achievements of church planting, but of his floggings, imprisonment, and beatings. In a world of impostors the Lord authenticates genuine gospel service through the suffering of his servants (2 Tim 1:8). A history of the Church Mission Society’s first overseas work states, “There were few events of a striking or remarkable character. Missionaries and schoolmasters died, and their places were supplied by fresh arrivals from England. Thus the work suffered no interruption”.  A similar account can be given of the early work of London City Mission.  The journals of many brave missionaries came to an abrupt end in the 1850s when missionaries continued providing medical and spiritual help to needy Londoners throughout the cholera epidemics.

Today we have fewer martyrs at London City Mission and even mission agencies have health and safety officers.  There is no avoiding the fact though that working for London City Mission is not an ordinary job.  We expect missionaries to face mockery and rejection.  We make best efforts to ensure those working with the marginalised are kept from harm, but this work is never “safe”.  Missionaries will make sacrifices of life’s comforts. Hours are based around the needs of our community, not our convenience.  It is common for missionaries to labour for years in difficult parts of London seeing only a handful of professions of faith, and there is nothing more heart breaking than seeing a young person you’ve invested years of life into, slipping back into addiction and despair.

How are ordinary men and women able to do this extraordinary work without falling into despair? Paul describes the missionary’s source of strength in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal

The Lord puts his glorious gospel in jars of clay so that it is clear that the good news is the work of the Holy Spirit within.  The same Spirit at work in Paul is now at work in us.  The same Lord who raised Jesus from the dead is now strengthening us.  The same wonderful hope that Paul had of eternal glory, is also our hope, and so we don’t despair. 

Each week we hear wonderful news from around the mission of God’s word proclaimed and lives transformed, but our strength and hope isn’t dependent on that.  The gospel that we preach to London is the gospel that we preach to ourselves.  We marvel at the grace of God to us, and are excited about His name being glorified. It is as we look forward to the hope of eternity that we have the strength to carry on.  The gospel perspective is vital to our ministry. 

If our focus was on human success then we would behave differently.  If our aim was for a comfortable life then we would place our missionaries in areas with the best schools for our kids, not the neediest places.  If our aim was to prove how attractive we are then we would build outreach centres in areas with large numbers of existing Christians and we’d win them over with better music or child care so we could shout of our numerical triumph.  If our aim was for a ministry that won worldly acclaim then we might still work with London’s poorest, but we’d put pictures of them all over our literature and win accolades for our social work, quietly forgetting about Jesus. 

Our desire is to see the Lord’s name glorified in every part of London; in Forest Gate and Kilburn, in Brixton, Dagenham, and Ilford.  We don’t focus on the places with growing house prices, instead we’ve surveyed London to find the places with the lowest density of churches.

Our missionaries do extraordinary work, but we are ordinary Christians.  All Christians are called to the extraordinary ministry of proclaiming Jesus in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.   All of us should have the same gospel motivation.  I pray that more Christians in London would have a missionary perspective on where they choose to live, how they use their time.  The church of London has plenty of resources to reach the neediest parts of our city with the gospel, but we often lack the gospel perspective to fully engage with the mission before us.  I give thanks for the missionaries who have taken up this extraordinary task but I pray for many thousands more ordinary Christians who will reach out with good news, even if they are not on the London City Mission payroll.

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Christians have a message of Good News and hope that needs to be heard. It is an amazing message which transforms us and sends us back out into society with distinctive love and generous actions.

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Society, however, can be wary of Christians when we want to both help the needy and bring the Christian message, and it is easy to be intimidated. Our response though should not to keep our heads down and pretend we’re not Christians. We don’t need to hide the message about Jesus to fit in with some people’s views of what is acceptable in a pluralistic society. We care about people’s needs – about their deepest needs, material and spiritual.  London City Mission have been meeting those needs for almost 180 years and we are not about to stop.

In our imagination we may look back to a golden age when the Christian message was popular and acceptable, but that is a fantasy. Reaching out with the Good News of Jesus has always been unpopular. The New Testament describes the gospel about a forgiving, risen Christ as a stumbling block for the religious, and madness for the intellectuals. We shouldn’t expect to be popular, but we press on because we have a message of Good News and hope that needs to be heard.

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 In British society we too often emphasise the individual ahead of the group. We have a society full of lonely individuals, a society where old people go the doctor to find someone to talk to. The answer is not to employ more doctors (although that wouldn’t be a bad thing). Part of the answer is to have people throughout society, radically transformed by the Good News of Jesus’ love, grace and forgiveness – ready to reach out with love to their neighbours, in word and action.

 Churches have a vital role to play in London’s most needy communities. That role is more than just holding the community together though; Church is more than just a place to provide a Foodbank for the poor, or company for the elderly widow. Church is also more than just a place where people hear a stimulating talk followed by a chat with friends over a cup of coffee.

The transforming, life-changing message about Jesus flings Christians out into a world with hearts full of grace, sacrificial love, forgiveness, kindness and joy.

 As we think of the Christians’ place in society, it seems there are two extremes we can tend to. One is to say that the church is primarily a religious organisation for the betterment of its members. In that case we will stay behind our stained glass windows reading the Bible without acting on its teaching about love, mercy, justice. The other extreme is to say that church is a social service whose main purpose is societal justice, in which case we are likely to be co-opted by a needy  government into a professionalised social welfare organisation, filling the gaps in the government’s leaky social safety net.

 We have a much more vital role than that. We show Christian love, we share Christian hope, and we do so without conditions. And we don’t just show it to people exactly like ourselves.

We have a message of Good News and hope that the whole world need to hear. Good News of sins forgiven, of grace to the undeserving, of love for the unlovely, freedom for the prisoner, hope of a new beginning for the addict.

 It is as we live as 100% Christians, proclaiming the Good News of Christ and showing his love to the lost and needy, that we will play our role as salt and light in the dark and tasteless corners of this land.  Salt that has lost its taste is worthless, but distinctive Christian action, centred on a declaration of the good news of Jesus is of very great value indeed.

Based on a speech to Christians on the Left on February 18th2014

This is why London City Mission loves London
We seek to share the transforming love of God with the people of London. The Bible tells us that loving others is going to be hard and costly. It tells us that our love shouldn’t discriminate on any grounds but be open to everyone, regardless of any distinction.
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This is one of the reasons we run Webber Street, our homeless day centre just a stone’s throw from Waterloo station. Here we give hot meals and new warm clothes to some of London’s most marginalised and unloved individuals, as we practically share God’s unconditional love with them. But we also want to see a change in the choices our guests make. We want to make a practical difference in their lives, but we want to make a personal and eternal difference as we introduce them to Jesus.

London is full of people who’ve come here to forge careers for themselves, people who stream through stations like Liverpool Street. Millions of people use London’s transportation system every day. While many of them don’t live in material need, we know that they have a great spiritual need. Despite outward appearances many here are hurt, broken, isolated and lonely. Jesus came for people like this.

At Departure we want to share the good news with those from other parts of the world who have settled in London. This area is typical of many in London where large ethnic communities have congregated together. They add colour, vibrancy, culture and language to London, making this one of the most diverse places on earth. The world has come to us! What an opportunity we have to share the love of Jesus with people as they settle in London.
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Our commitment to ministry in London is steadfast, just like the love we want to share with Londoners. We do this through committing to specific geographical areas for the long-term.
Sticking with people through thick and thin, whatever life throws at them, regardless of the decisions they make. Through our work right across London we want to create environments
where men and women can enjoy being with one another as they search for Jesus. We love because he first loved us.
Will you join with us as we seek to share the love of Jesus Christ with the people of London?
Whether through our centres, our cafés, or our marginalised, ethnic, compassion or workplace ministries.
Will you partner with us as we love London?

Charles Marnham at London City Mission day of prayer 8th January 2014
Acts 26:12-32
Rev 12:7-12
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We live in a society which is increasingly ignorant of the basic facts of the Bible. The bad news is that Christians will be misunderstood and attacked. The good news is that we have more people asking questions.
Rev 12 pulls back the curtain and gives us an insight into the spiritual battle that is going on. Satan had been defeated but he continues to make war. We must remember that the result of the war is certain. Christ is victorious, despite ongoing skirmishes.

Paul tells his remarkable story 1-18
The orthodox zealot turns from persecuting and killing Christians to leading them and spreading their message.  Even the least likely person can be saved! Paul had been kicking against Jesus for some time. His Damascus moment was the culmination. Paul’s testimony is powerful. He is able to share his own story which shows that he is orthodox and can be taken seriously. The blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony prevailed. Giving our testimony is a powerful way of overcoming Satan’s lies. We share our story, we open the Bible, we point people to Jesus. Our story plus prayer is a powerful witness.
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Paul gives a life changing message
He preached that people need to move from darkness to light, to repent and live for the Lord forever. Death for Christians is very different because we have hope of eternal life. A radical liberation from the power of Satan and a liberation into the kingdom of heaven.  Bonhoeffer complained that repentance was left out of the church in Germany and it became full of “cheap grace”. Cheap grave is grace without Jesus, grace without genuine repentance. We fall into the habit of only needing to repent of the things that the world finds offensive but fail to repent of sin, but Paul preached the true gospel.
Paul takes his opportunity and gives the true gospel message short and succinctly. We also need to be able to share the Good News in a brief, understandable manner.

Paul has an unending passion
Paul faces opposition, but doesn’t give up easily. He says, “do you believe the prophets?” Paul sees what the issue is that his hearer has and he deals with it. Sometimes people have hoax issues as a shield against God but some have genuine issues. We need to be ready with an answer. That may mean we need to read some books, but we must be prepared with an answer. It is the Spirit’s work but we must be bold. LCM recently received a donation from an anonymous donor in memory of one of our missionaries, Charles who worked with bus drivers. He worked for years and was often treated with contempt by the drivers but one man at least was persuaded to listen to him. That man became a Christian and so did his wife and children and his mother. Subsequently so did his grandchildren. One of his children wanted to show gratitude to the missionaries who continue to patiently share the Good News. Paul persevered because of an unending passion for the gospel. So must we.
Changing London

Today in London and in most of the Western world it is easy for Christians to feel they are labouring under a cloud. Church attendance is falling, the media has an anti-Christian bias, our politicians are for the most part self confessed atheists, and our churches are dumbing down the Good News in search of worldly approval. But we need to be careful that we are not falling for lies from the pit of Hell. In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien describes several great leaders falling for the deception that Sauron is unstoppable and therefore despair is the only reasonable counsel. This Epiphany I believe the Lord wants us to remember that, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”. We have a King who is enthroned in Zion who laughs when he sees the enemies of his people. His victory is assured.
At the arrival of the Messiah, his people were caught on the hop. Only a couple of aged prophets at the temple were expecting God’s redemption. So God sent outsiders to make it clear that there was good news. At Epiphany we remember that God sent wise men from overseas to announce news of glad tidings to his people. Today it seems we are still in need of good news from overseas. Our churches in England may be struggling but there is revival going on in China and many parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, even Iran has seen a resurgence.
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The London City Mission church census last year shows that church attendance in London isn’t actually falling. There has been such growth amongst the Nigerian and Ghanaian churches that over all attendance is rising. Praise the Lord!
So it is with great joy that I welcome Jonathan Oloyede to London City Mission today to encourage us from God’s Word. There is a wind blowing through London today and it isn’t only a winter storm. God has not given up on the battle in this land. His King is enthroned in Zion and he will accomplish his desires. He laughs at his enemies. If we are wise then we’ll hear the Good News and respond in humble obedience and declare his glory!

Quotes from Jonathan
“As a Muslim I sought the Lord but Allah did not speak to me. Instead I found Jesus Christ whilst studying at medical school”
“London as a city desperately needs the gospel”
“We need to raise up a cohesive army of men and women who submit to Christ’s Lordship and reach out to the lost with the gospel”
“Nobody is to far from Goods for him to touch”

John D Manwell's Blog

    8 Representatives Together

You Tube video of 8 leaders prayer together 

With all that has separated the Body of Christ over hundreds of years there is a mountain of disunity that we need to deal with. At Saints in the Stadium thousands of Christians from all traditions and backgrounds came together to call on God to seek His help for the United Kingdom. Eight people from different denominations of the Church stood and prayed for Oneness in the Body in the United Kingdom.

There is only one God and Father. Centuries of separateness amongst believers for countless reasons does not change the unity of God. Standing together and singing or praying does not change the separation in our hearts. Issues of truth do not become flexible with us simply holding hands.

We can, however, take heart from the increasing number of leaders and church representatives who want to see a change…

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London City Mission has always had a heart for sharing the love of God, the Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord with all of London. We have a particular emphasis on reaching the harder to access groups; the poor, the elderly, the sick, the immigrants, the prisoners. It’s not that middle class people don’t need to hear the gospel, but we have a calling to help the Church of London reach beyond its fringe to the 92% of people who would never walk into a middle class church. Brixton prison is just the kind of place where we want to reach out to the needy and we’ve been working there for many years. This week I was privileged to attend the HMP Brixton Christmas service and was filled with joy to see what was going on there.

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From the start the chapel was packed out. It has a capacity of 140, but with the men standing at the back I’m sure we had over 150 prisoners in the room (from a population of 700). The singing was terrific. I felt I was in the middle of a Welsh choir as we belted out, “O Come All Ye Faithful”. When a chorister stood up to sing a gospel number the room broke into pandemonium. There were men clapping, raising their hands in the air, even a couple of shouts of hallelujah. And it wasn’t all in jest, it was obvious that among the inmates there are men who have faith in Christ, and others who show a deep interest. How did Christians end up in prison? Chatting to the men there was a pattern to the stories. Often there was a damaging event; a return from fighting overseas, a divorce, childhood abuse, which then led to depression. The depression wasn’t dealt with well and soon became alcohol or substance abuse. The addiction led to other crimes either theft, violence, or trafficking of drugs. Prison hopefully called a halt on the downward spiral of these men’s lives. I am not trying to explain away the crimes. The prisoners have all made bad decisions and are guilty of hurting others through their actions. What did impact me was though how possible it is for all kinds of people, even Christians, to fall off the “straight and narrow” path and end up in a mess. There, but by the grace of God, go I. Just as I have met Christian men in LCM’s homeless centre, I have met Christians in prison who should have been given greater love, help and support by their churches during their spiral down, but we live in a society which is time poor, and where we have little time for the mentally ill, and the needy.
The Bible though challenges our behaviour and if we have ears to hear the challenge will come loud and clear. Hebrews 13 urges us to treat prisoners as our brothers, and Matthew 25 warns us that those who fail to show love to their brothers and sisters in prison will be turned away on the day of judgement. Can this really mean that we need to do acts of charity to prisoners to earn our way to heaven, surely that goes against the gospel of grace? Matthew 25 and James 1 are entirely consistent with the gospel of grace outlined in Galatians and Romans. I think rather that these good deeds, showing care for the prisoner in Matthew 25, or care for the elderly widow in James 1 act as a litmus test for true Christianity. Lives transformed by the gospel of grace will always show the fruit of love. A church which has lost its love for the prisoner and the elderly is almost certainly a church in which the gospel of grace has been left behind.

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Praise the Lord that the gospel message preached by London City Missionary, Rob Hooks, at the service will be going out to every prison in the country on Christmas morning on National Prison Radio. The opportunities to work with prisons are amazing. We have an open door to work with the prisoners preparing them for release and we regularly run courses like Christianity Explored and the Christians Against Poverty budgeting course at Brixton. Right now there are no volunteers to support the Christians Against Poverty work but we are hopefull we’ll get it back up and running soon. If you feel moved to get involved in the outreach to prisoners then there are several ways to help. If you are ready to make a regular commitment of time then there are opportunities to volunteer to assist in prison chaplaincies http://lcm.org.uk/Groups/9917/London_City_Mission/Join_Us/Volunteers/Volunteers.aspx
Another way of getting involved is to support Rob Hooks in his work by donating at JustGiving and mentioning your support for Rob https://www.justgiving.com/londoncitymission
For many the best involvement will be to pray for the work – you can sign up to pray for any of the London City Missionaries. We are desperately in need for more prayer supporters right now http://lcm.org.uk/Groups/9350/London_City_Mission/About_Us/Prayer/Prayer.aspx

That Happy Certainty

I’ve since produced an updated list for Christmas 2014, here, and Christmas 2015, here.

A friend asked me the other day if I knew of any short ‘make you think’ type-of-films related to Advent or Christmas to use at school. I’ve seen a few used over the last couple of years, but after I emailed some friends and asked around on Facebook a whole load more surfaced.

And so it seemed to make sense to compile them here. The caveat is they do vary significantly in spiritual-content, cheese-factor, and apologetic value, but you can decide for yourselves…

(To download full versions or play in church, you may well need to pay for some of these – details should be on the various links below)

1. Someone is Coming (graphical Bible overview giving context of Christmas)

2. The Christmas Chord (great spoken word colloquial piece from Dai Woolridge)

3…

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Christmas is a busy time for London City Mission, it is all too easy to get swept up in a busy round of carol services and mince pies. This week though I attended a Christmas meal that made me pause.
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Our Webber Street day centre provides food, showers, clothes, health services, friendship, and advice to the homeless who sleep close to Waterloo and London’s Southbank. Each day we provide breakfast and this week I had the privilege of attending our Christmas meal and talking about the Good News described in Isaiah 9 for people living in darkness. Whilst we ate our turkey I got talking to the men sitting on my table and heard their stories. P is in his twenties and has a PhD in physics (and discussed quantum gravity with me to prove he wasn’t a story teller). Q is an older  gentleman who graduated from the London School of Economics. R is an Irish man who hasn’t been home to Dublin for 30 years and used to work on building sites before he got too old for it. Each man was full of remarkable stories and could have kept me talking for hours. They discussed Isaiah 9 and young P was explaining to Q that the equations of physics describe a universe so  unnecessarily beautiful that he felt that belief in a God was the most straightforward explanation. R said he felt he’d had religion beaten out of him by the monks at his school. All of the men had sad stories explaining how they’d managed to end up on the streets. None were beyond the redemption or the love of God. It struck me that most people would enjoy sitting and chatting with these fellas so why are there so few volunteers to work with London’s homeless and marginalised?
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I guess fear is one of the main reasons. We imagine “marginalised people” are very different from us and so we have a fear of the unknown. “What could I say?”, “The cultural gap is just too great”.
At Christmas we remember the coming of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. He crossed an enormous cultural divide to be with us. He went from being in heaven, served by a host of angels, and constantly loved to being a child of peasants, misunderstood, and mistreated. He didn’t just come to have a friendly chat with us, but he gave his life sacrificially so that we can know the forgiveness and love of God. I pray that this year Christians across London will reach across cultural gaps to speak of our hope and good news with the elderly, the homeless, the single mums, the Bangladeshi neighbours, the people who are different to us. As we do that we have a promise from the greatest cross cultural missionary of all time. “All authority in heaven and earth have been given to me, and I will be with you always”.

Knowing Jesus - Life with the Son of God

Check out the latest video from Glen Scrivener (@glenscrivener).

Christmas is a dark time for many people.

But fair days or foul, our plight He embraces.
Real Christmas can shine in the darkest of places.

It used to be summer when Christmas came round,
Neath tall southern skies, over sun-scorched ground,
With the backyard cricket, the barbies, the beach,
And munching on mangoes to watch the Queen’s Speech.
The slatherings of sunscreen, the glorious glare
And toasting the glow in the warm evening air.

It used to be summer… when I was young.
A golden age in a land far flung.
But there came a point, I crossed a divide,
Went up in the world and summer had died.
December is dark now, the nights close in,
So we huddle together as kith and as kin.

It’s winter now when Christmas rolls round,
We celebrate still though with…

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Church Planting

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Church, Culture, Evangelism
Tags: , , ,

Over the last decade it has become increasingly fashionable to plant, graft, or resurrect congregations. Church planting has many benefits. It makes the church more dependent on God and more focused on evangelism. Planting forces comfortable Christians to step out in faith and take the lead in ministry areas that where previously led by professionals. A church plant can provide an area lacking a Bible teaching church with a new congregation. These advantages are just as relevant to economically deprived areas as to the affluent suburbs. Why is it then that church planters have an aversion to council estates?

One obvious reason is that most church plants are based around a group of people currently going to a middle class church who would like to start a church closer to their home. It is unlikely that these people live on a council estate, and so it is unlikely they will want to plant there.
In addition most church plants will want to be economically independent after 3 years. This is hard to achieve with a congregation of low earners, but much easier in an area of young professionals.  London City Mission find that when a missionary arrives in an area much of the first 2 years go into getting to know the local shop keepers, school secretaries, imams, to understand what makes the place tick. If we judge the success or otherwise of a church plant after 2 years we will be unlikely to have any council estate churches.

The result of the church planting wave is that London’s young professional areas are overflowing with congregations. Locals have a choice of Alpha, Christianity Explored, New Frontiers, Vineyard. Council estates on the other hand remain a wasteland for Bible believing churches. 
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At London City Mission we want to challenge the biggest obstacles and arguments that prevent vibrant, gospel believing churches taking root in under privileged areas, so here are a few myths that need to be destroyed
1) “Council estate plants aren’t economically sustainable” .
This just can’t be right. Matthew 28 provides no get out clause for avoiding the “difficult” places. Much of church planting theory has been taken over by business models; franchises, joint ventures, syndicates, relaunches, and other helpful strategems, but these can never replace the need for prayerful, sacrificial, spirit empowered gospel ministry. When Jesus promises (John 14) that whatever we ask in his name will be given to us, he is not saying we will get a new Mercedes so long as we add the words “in Jesus name” to the end of our prayers. He is saying that we can pray BIG prayers in line with his will, about the things he delights in (1 John 5) and we will see answers to those prayers. Jesus delights to see diverse people being brought under his headship for the glory of God and so we need to be praying for Dagenham, Forest Gate, Tottenham Hale, and Kilburn.
If our current models are unsustainable then we will need to change our models. Anyone with teaching gifts inferior to Paul should at least consider tent making. Anyone with teaching gifts inferior to Stephen should consider rolling up their sleeves in community activities. Sister churches need to give until it hurts (2 Cor 9) to support each other.
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2) “The Spirit hasn’t given us a heart for poorer people”.
Again, this just can’t be true. The sword of the Spirit is God’s word, and God’s word is crystal clear that our heavenly Father is looking for people from all backgrounds to praise and worship him. If you haven’t been moved by the Spirit yet then read and meditate on Psalm 96, Matthew 28, Acts 1, Revelations 7 and allow the Spirit to rebuke and encourage you. Many of our planting efforts currently target white middle class university graduates aged 20-45 or Nigerians or Ghanaians. It can’t be right that we are largely ignoring the poor, the elderly, the foreigners in our midst, in fact the Bible is clear that God finds that kind of religion anathema.
3) “We don’t have anyone living in those areas so we can’t plant there”
The early Christians were Jews, separated geographically and culturally from the rest of the world, and centered around Jerusalem. In Acts 1, Jesus told the disciples to send the Word out from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Getting the news out to Judea was like church planting where we already have friends and family. Samaria was geographically close, but culturally very different. The ends of the earth were neither geographically close not culturally similar. Both Peter and Paul needed some strong, life changing intervention to reach out cross culturally.
Today we do an OK job of reaching out to Jerusalem and Judea. The areas culturally similar to the cathedral churches are reasonably well reached. We are also managing to send people with the gospel to the ends of the earth (but not enough). Where the church in UK is failing is in our reach to Samaria. We are leaving our council estates, our elderly, the foreigners in our midst to the flames of Hell, whilst we strive for audio visual perfection in our young professional worship halls. If Paul and Peter are anything to go by Church leaders missing God’s heart for diverse, cross cultural mission can expect some heavy duty intervention from a loving Father.
I’d encourage anyone considering church planting to pray about what it will take to start a community church that genuinely reaches out the the diversity of the locality. In London, LCM are looking to support plants in this kind of work with training and evangelists. In other places people like “20 Schemes” are wanting to help out. Most importantly though, if we set out on this dangerous, life changing work, we should be encouraged that it is close to God’s heart. As we reach out to the Bangladeshi community in the East End, or the council estates of Dagenham we will need patience, love, training, endurance, God’s Word and lots of prayer. More important than the backing of LCM or a cathedral church we will need the backing of God. We can expect to see remarkable things. I am aware of amazing conversions and healings of Imam’s children as the gospel had been proclaimed across cultural boundaries. These tough cross cultural mission fields are some of the most exciting and difficult places to minister in the world. I pray that the Lord of the harvest will raise up more workers with a heart for Samaria. Please join me in that prayer.IMG_20131027_224859

I’ve been scratching my head since getting back from China wondering why English churches feel so strange, and it’s finally come to me. English churches are inside out.


I don’t mean that the carpets and pictures are in the wrong place, I mean the focus of the church is in the wrong place. I’ll try and explain.
Chinese home churches tend to feel small and vulnerable. Members are evangelists, trying to share the good news with as many people as possible. The church minister is often only a little better trained than the congregation and sees their main role to be encourager and cheer leader for the troops.
In the UK on the other hand the church leader tends to be vastly better trained than the congregation. The leader has probably worked as a volunteer for a couple of years, then spent three years learning Hebrew, homiletics, and history. They may have spent a further three years as a curate/assistant so by the time they get to lead the church they are very much a priest.
The priest is not a cheer leader. They are a teacher, a guru showering wisdom upon the drones who work hard all week to pay the priest’s salary. As a congregation, we turn up on Sunday exhausted and slump into seats waiting the reviving words of the teacher. We hope that there will also be a junior priest looking after our kids.
The junior priest (youth worker) may well be given free accommodation and a salary of £20,000 per year to look after 10 teenagers. The cost per teenager might be as high as £3000 per kid per year. The church’s expenditure on the other 30,000 kids who live in the area is negligible.
In this model of church we have priests providing services tailored to a few paying customers, whilst the 92% who never go to church remain largely untouched.
Church has become a service centre for busy Christians. It has become inward looking, centred around a single priest. Instead of employing a youth worker to train the kids to evangelise the district, we have a youth worker filling in the gaps that busy Christian parents have left in parenting our kids.  Instead of reaching out to the local council estate we say that “we don’t feel moved by the Spirit” to reach that group and ignore them with our leafleting for Christmas Carol Services.

I’ve talked to some of these priestly church leaders about trying to remedy the situation, “What about the Polish, the elderly, the council estate kids close to our church?”
The answer is a look of despair. “Brother”, they say, “I’d like to do more, but I am short staffed, I need to prioritise my preaching preparation time, and then I’ve got two couples on the edge of a marriage break up. On top of that my senior elder is annoyed that his son isn’t getting enough attention from our youth worker, and eight of my best, most able members have just left to join a church plant in Suburbiton. How am I meant to start a new ministry to the elderly, or the Polish, or the council estates, when I can’t even look after my own flock? Brother, you are weighing me down with burdens. Surely we pay London City Mission to look after the needy, so you look after that lot, and I’ll struggle on with caring for my congregation.”
It’s hard to argue with the poor Church minister so I’m going to let Paul do it. In his letter to the Ephesians chapte 4, Paul says this,

“11 And he himself gave some as apostles and some as prophets and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers 12 for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ”

He didn’t say, “and he gave the body of Christ to pay for the important ministry workers”.

He didn’t say “and he gave pastors and teachers for the work of the ministry and to keep an eye on the body of Christ”.

He said that the church leaders are to be equippers, cheer leaders, encouragers to get the Church doing all the ministry.

The “priest” is the worst person to be doing all the ministry.  They haven’t worked in the real world for years.  The people who are out in the real world need to be doing the ministry.

The church is inside out. Rather than having an inward looking church huddled around a priest for survival, we need an outward looking church, reaching out to the lost, and our pastors and teachers need to be our equippers, our mobilisers. Instead of employing young pastors to keep our kids on the straight and narrow, we need to employ evangelists to train the kids to reach out into the community. The best way to deal with young doubters is to turn them into young evangelists.  When one of our church’s young people thinks up the idea of starting a “football ministry” for kids on the council estate the church minister shouldn’t be rolling their eyes to the sky with thoughts of the effort, but encouraging them and getting a couple of Dads engaged in the project.  When the students want to get involved with ministry to the homeless, it should be encouraged, and telephone numbers provided for the Christian shelter where church members regularly volunteer and run Bible studies.  When the mums group wants to start an outreach to the elderly widows in the community it should be helped with offers of the church premises and a rota for providing the less mobile a lift to church on Sunday.  The minister shouldn’t be running any of these ministries, but they should be engaging with their church members, getting them to do what they are good at, and encouraging them from scripture to reach out with both Christian love and the Gospel that Jesus Christ is our risen Lord.

We need to turn our church’s back inside out.  One way is to plant a new church which is tiny and vulnerable like the Chinese church.  Another is to challenge our idols that leave us so terribly “time poor”.  That is the subject of another blog