Posts Tagged ‘London City Mission’

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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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