LONDON CITY MISSION EXISTS FOR THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE SALVATION OF SOULS.
We want to make God famous everywhere. We don’t just want people to hear about the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, but to be convinced by the Holy Spirit to put their faith in him for salvation. There are places in London where God is not yet famous – where Jesus’ name is only a swear word. Kids grow up without a chance to hear the good news. This is a fundamental injustice. God commissions his church to break out of our comfort zones and fill in the blank spots – to go to the places where the knowledge of the Lord isn’t there yet. I often come back to that wonderful promise in Acts 1:8.
But you will receive power when the holy spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
We’ve been given a great commission to start off where we are, Jerusalem, and then go down the road to other people like us in Judea, and to reach people completely different from us in Samaria, and to keep going to the ends of the earth. In London, there are still many people groups who haven’t been reached yet. In the 1970s, there was mass immigration from some Commonwealth countries to London – very few were Christians. Though the country made some effort to accommodate those people, the church definitely didn’t make enough effort to welcome the stranger and make sure they heard the gospel. At the Olympics in 2012, the church did mobilise to give a tract to the tourists we knew would fill our city. But In 2014, when the papers told us about a coming influx of people from Bulgaria, Romania and other Eastern European countries, to our shame, we didn’t mobilise as well as we should have. The same can be said about what we’ve done about reaching other people groups, such as the white working classes, the young people in urban estates, the Muslim communities, and the marginalised men and women on our streets.
Ephesians 3 talks about the multicoloured, manifold wisdom of God displayed in the church. Our churches display the remarkable truth about God’s salvation plan. It’s not just Jewish people that Jesus came for, but for Gentiles too, for white people and black people, poor people and rich people, older people and younger people, healthy people and unhealthy people – our churches should display that. At the school gate when I drop off my kids, I’ve noticed parents and carers separating out into their own people groups. But Christians should no longer see people as the world sees them. We should be rushing to make friends with people outside our people groups... because that’s God’s plan for his church!
WE SEE PEOPLE AS GOD SEES THEM
Christians are salt and light for the whole community. We bring people together. We share hope and good news. Jesus is not just for us and our friends, but for the Bangladeshi kid in Poplar and the homeless person sitting against a wall by the station. Jesus didn’t just come for those who knew how to look after themselves. He came to reach those on the edges – the leper, the widow, the orphan, the outcast woman. He came not just for the healthy but for the sick – to bring them into the kingdom. We continue that ministry.
As London’s largest mission organisation, we’ve been set apart to help the church reach people who aren’t like us – those on the margins of mainstream society. So, we run Bible studies at our day centre for homeless people every week. We speak to homeless people on the streets of King’s Cross. We speak to marginalised women and run study groups in their hostels. We go into prisons and run services and Bible studies for prisoners. Our hope is for them to turn to Jesus in faith and repentance, join a local church and be discipled.
LIVING IT OUT IS A CHALLENGE
But what happens when someone from a least reached people group hears the gospel we share and walks into a church? In our work, we’ve noticed there’s often a big gap between church culture and these communities. As Christians, we can often adopt a condescending, patronising attitude towards people not like us – maybe because inside we’re thinking we’re more healthy than others – financially, physically, mentally or emotionally. We often don’t bother getting to know people so we stereotype and misunderstand and perpetuate an insider culture.
GOD’S KINGDOM HAS NO SPACE FOR SUCH AN ATTITUDE
We’re all in need of God’s grace... we’re no better than anyone else. So how can we make our churches welcoming to those on the margins? When some of our team started doing street work with one church, rough sleepers came in off the streets and ate all the croissants in one go. How would your church handle that? How would your safeguarding officer deal with someone smelling of alcohol chatting to the kids? Would your church spend years investing in a new church on one of the massive council estates that ring our capital city – without it ever reaching financial independence? Yet the Lord calls us into such areas.
TALKING JESUS AND LIVING OUT A JESUS LIFESTYLE
When the lame man was brought before Jesus, his most obvious need was his inability to walk, but Jesus dealt with his heart – the sin issue – saying, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ We must see past financial and material difficulty, to the spiritual need. It’s easy to fall into a trap of focusing on one or the other. Paul saw no such gap. To the Thessalonians he said, ‘We loved you so much, we shared not only the gospel but our lives as well.’ So, we show practical love and hospitality – seeing our homes as not our own, but as places to build friendship with all kinds of people. We’re not all preachers, evangelists or apologists, but we can all share the story of how Jesus saved us. Whether by befriending people from a different culture at the school gate, or deliberately speaking to the quiet new junior employee, we all have opportunities to build relationships with people different to us in age, faith, skin colour or language. In the gospel, we can all play our own part in breaking down barriers.
THE CROSS DESTROYED THE WALL OF HOSTILITY
The barrier between God and man created by our sin was dealt with. The barrier between Jew and Gentile, old and young, rich and poor is dispensed with. The body of Christ was broken to create a new body... made up of all nations, languages and tribes. He made us his instruments to go and share that good news! So, we need to break out of our own tribes and comfort zones! For me, this means breaking out of my white middle class cocoon, making a beeline for the outsider who walks into my church and welcoming them warmly. It means making friends with the dad wearing a kufi at the school gate. For all of us, it means being those in the community constantly breaking out of our comfort zones to bridge the gaps and make friends with those not like us.