Janet White is a volunteer with London City Mission’s Communications team. She attended the London City Mission Summer School in Urban Mission this year, and wrote it up for us. This is part 1.
I’d had previous experience of London City Mission training and events, including a Practical Evangelism training day last year, so my expectations were very high – and they were certainly met!
The Summer School ran from Monday to Friday; the three main elements were Bible studies, teaching on urban mission, and ministry visits. I found both the morning Bible studies (working through the book of Ruth) and the main sessions on issues of urban mission thought-provoking; the workshop-style teaching was enjoyable and a good way to learn and retain what we were being taught. The ministry visits gave great opportunities to meet and chat to missionaries who work ‘on the ground’, and ask them lots of questions, as well as of seeing first-hand the areas where they are based.
Monday: Diversity and unity – a taste of heaven
On Monday David Wise, of Greenford Baptist Church, spoke on ‘Building an intentional multicultural church’, and shared insights into the long and sometimes difficult process by which his church was becoming being truly integrated.
David pointed out that the diversity of our ethnicity and language is a taste of heaven: ‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:9). The focus should be on our unity: what brings the church together is Christ, his death on the cross for us, and our relationship with God. David explained that the Greek word translated as ‘workmanship’ in Ephesians 2:10 is the same as the ‘creation’ through which the image of God is reflected (in Romans 1:20). The metaphor of God’s ‘tapestry’ shows how the different threads combine to create one picture. Online resources we were directed to included Pentecost People material and an article David had written on multi-ethnic worship.
I will take home with me some of David’s suggestions – for example, freeing people up to pray in their first language (or ‘heart language’, as our church’s Mission Partners with Wycliffe Bible Translators call it).
Tuesday: Potted plants and overlapping stories
We began the day looking at Ruth 1. The story is familiar to me, but there were many new insights, like Ruth’s demonstration of God’s committed, costly, covenant love that doesn’t ever let us go. LCM’s Alan Black talked about the tension between hope and reality – knowing that the Lord is good, but also the experience of real grief and loss. This was very relevant to me personally, and I found it very moving as we read out Lamentations 3:19-33 together.
St George’s, Dagenham is a church in a working-class area, planted by Simon Smallwood, a (self-described) middle-class vicar with a ‘posh’ accent. In the session he led he shared with us many lessons he had learnt over about twenty years of working in this community. He said that it had been a mistake to ‘import’ leaders and church activities which they had assumed were essential. They had learnt that the community of believers should reflect the culture of the local people. The quote that he shared from an Indian evangelist to a British missionary summed this up: ‘Do not bring us the gospel as a potted plant, but bring us the seed of the gospel and plant it in our soil’.
Our ministry visit to Vauxhall helped us to understand the estate where the LCM missionaries work, and how the missionaries build relationships with the people who live there. Every conversation at 105 Vauxhall – the LCM centre – aims to lead back to Jesus and the gospel. Kevin, the team leader at the centre, showed us around the estate, and one of the missionaries, Jenn, demonstrated how she uses art with women to explain ‘God’s story’ (salvation, grace etc), using a Bible story, together with our story/testimony – and connecting this with their story. As these overlap, evangelism happens!
Visit our Training page for more information on the training we offer.