Posts Tagged ‘London’

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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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?

One of the many “culture shock” moments for me returning from China is the tribal nature of the church in London.  One of the joys of living and working in Beijing is that although there are many limits on Christian meetings, the foreign believers are forced to mingle together at BICF, Beijing International Christian Fellowship.  This means that I have spent the last 9 years not only working with Chinese friends in the house churches and state sponsored churches, I have also had the joy of fellowship with friends from the Assemblies of God, Old German Baptist, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Acts 29, Charismatic, Conservative, Korean, African, Pacific Island, Russian, Singaporean, European, American, Latin American church groupings (to name but a few).  Here in London most Christians keep to our own cliques.  This is a pity because it displays  disunity when we should be distinctive to the world because of our love for one another.  We make the problem worse by spending our time criticising every other group and worrying whether anyone outside our grouping is really a Christian.  The entire African church is sometimes written off as “prosperity gospel”, the charismatics are too “feeling orientated”, the conservatives are “quenching the Spirit”, the Koreans are “workaholics”, etc.

In Ephesians 3, Paul explains that he has been given a ministry to Gentiles so that the church will display to the all the “manifold wisdom of God” Eph 3:10.  This word manifold, πολυποίκιλος means multi-faceted, diverse, many sided.  The context , Paul’s discussion of his mission to the Gentiles, suggests a sense that God’s church displays the diverse, muti-coloured nature of his plan for the world. We fail to display this πολυποίκιλος beauty when we remain in our church ghettos. Worse, we fail to show the distinctive Christ-like love for which the church should be famous. Christ’s love is sacrificial, steadfast, culture-crossing. Clique love is self-serving, fickle, and aimed at people similar to ourselves. Even the businessmen at the golf club know how to invite golfing friends over for dinner and drinks. If the extent of our fellowship is inviting people just like ourselves over for dinner and drinks to extend our social network then we are not showing Christ-like love, we are showing world-like love. Finally clique churches will tend to be more faddish, and less creative. Each visit from China to the UK I have spotted new church fads because we are all reading the same recommended books and attending the same annual conferences. Diverse congregations have a much wider group of opinion sources.  They will tend to have more creative conflict and may even break apart under the weight of that conflict, but they will benefit from having less “groupthink” and more innovative solutions to long standing problems.
So how can we learn to be more inclusive without watering down our doctrinal statements or distinctive values?
One way is to reach out into the diversity of the community in which we find ourselves. South Asian origin kids make up something like 15% of London’s schools. London’s Christians need to be making friendships across those cultural boundaries at the school gate.  Polish immigrants arrived in 2004 and Romanians are arriving as I write.  Our churches need to be reaching out to these people groups for our good as well as theirs.
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Fast growing churches tend to be made up of young graduates. Young people in the church need to be encouraged to visit and befriend the elderly in their neighbourhood.
Many Christians (especially those reading this blog) will be getting new ideas and forging connections online. We need to make a conscious effort to listen to voices outside our usual cliques and groupings and make connections with people from different racial, economic, and age backgrounds.

A church which is welcoming to a diverse community will have diversity in its leadership.  People tend to attend a church where the people down the front of the church look a bit like themselves.  Planting a church of 100 young middle class graduates onto a housing estate is a noble thing to do, but it is likely to be more effective to start a church with a dozen local people and only half a dozen of the graduates, and then encourage the local people to take responsibility for the singing, praying, and welcoming.  A big, “white”, Anglican city centre church on the other hand will benefit by adding leaders from Asian or African backgrounds to the leadership teams.
Making friends cross-culturally can be a source of great joy.  One of the wonderful aspects of living in a city like London is that I can have Korean, Indian, Nigerian, young, old, rich, poor friends and we can learn from eachother’s diverse experiences.  We need to be ready to widen the cultural makeup of our network of Christian friends if we want to display the multicoloured beauty of God’s Church.  It is not so hard, but it requires patient, humble, sacrificial love.  It is the Holy Spirit that pours this love into our heart, and that is why Christians love is distinctive.  As we pray for a deeper love for our neighbours of all backgrounds we shouldn’t be surprised when we have opportunities to love the elderly, the foreign, the poor, the marginalised.  They are all around us but we haven’t been looking.

Here is an exercise for you. Have a look at the people you follow on Facebook or Twitter. Count up 100 and see how many of them are from a different economic, racial, age background. If less than 20% are different from you then you need to ask if you are engaging with society or hiding in your clique.
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