THERE ARE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE IN LONDON WHO KNOW LITTLE OF JESUS.
Here at London City Mission, our prayer is that every single one of them will get to hear the gospel. And we long to see as many as possible come to know him as their Saviour and Lord. But, as things stand, there are some people who are much more likely to hear the good news than others.
Many church outreach events are based around friendship evangelism (inviting people we already know rather than inviting complete strangers), so it makes sense that people with Christian friends are more likely to have opportunities to hear the gospel than those without Christian friends. People from a Western or African background and who've been to university are much more likely to know Christians than someone who's recently arrived in London from a country that’s closed to the gospel or someone with few educational qualifications. The latter groups are therefore much less likely to ever set foot inside a church or even the home of a believer.
In light of this, we’ve made the decision to work alongside churches to reach those people who don’t tend to have Christian friends and who don’t tend to get invitations to explore the claims of Christ. Such people groups include those from other faiths, people who live in areas that are very socio-economically deprived, those who may not speak much English and so can’t engage with what many churches offer, and those who have been marginalised by desperately difficult life circumstances.
THIS MINISTRY IS BIBLICAL.
Right from the beginning of the Bible, we see God having a love for the whole world. When God made his promises to Abram, he said ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ (Genesis 12:3). That, combined with the New Testament command to ‘make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19), reminds us that no group of people are excluded from God’s sovereign plans. As a global church, we have the privilege and the responsibility to ensure that every people group gets to hear about Jesus’ work on the cross – that means we need to be strategic about missing no one out!
As well as the call, though, we have the wonderful example of Jesus to look at.
Throughout his earthly ministry, he spent quality time with people who didn’t find it easy to engage with God’s gathered people. We see him eating with those considered by many to be shockingly disreputable (Matthew 9), chatting at a well with a Samaritan women with quite a past (John 4), touching those individuals thought to be untouchable (Matthew 8) and engaging with those very obviously under the power of the evil one (Luke 4) – all so they could come into a relationship with their loving heavenly Father.
THIS MINISTRY IS COSTLY.
It’s probably worth saying up front that not all churches find this wonderful gospel–call difficult. Some absolutely revel in the privilege it is to reach out to these least reached groups and are seeing wonderful fruit. But many churches do find it incredibly hard.
Us humans tend to be most comfortable spending time with people who are like us. We don’t need our friends to be identical to us in every regard, but much of the time we gravitate to those with whom we have shared interests, shared life experiences or a shared language or cultural heritage. Doing so often makes life easier – relationships flow that little bit more naturally. If our work, studies or hobbies don’t naturally bring us into contact with people from these least reached groups, it can feel difficult to know how we can even begin to start sharing the gospel with them. And even if we are meeting these people, it can feel tricky to build deep relationships when language or cultural differences throw so many curve-balls into the friendship-making process.
However, when we remember that, at our core, we are all fallen human beings in need of a Saviour, we find that we are much more similar than different. The reality is, we have a common need, so deeply and eternally important, that it should spur us on to be willing to be involved in some way in reaching out to all those who, without Christ, have no hope. And the Holy Spirit does equip us for this work (Acts 1:8) – in God’s power we are his witnesses across the nations. When we let these truths dwell deeply in our hearts, we're galvanised to start praying or giving, or get involved with a gospel-centred mercy ministry or an outreach activity (like door-knocking or setting up a book table). That enables the good news to reach those people who might otherwise never hear. Often, once we step out in faith, we discover that it’s maybe not quite as hard as we imagined it might be.
THIS MINISTRY IS BALANCED.
In the Old Testament, God’s law was very generous to those ‘outsiders’ who wanted to settle peacefully in Israel. It certainly provided for their spiritual well-being – provision was made for conversion and welcome into the worshipping community (Exodus 12:43–49) – but it also made clear that God’s people were to care for their practical needs as well. For example, the rights of the poor and the stranger to ‘glean’ in fields so they could access food was enshrined in law because it was something that glorified God (Leviticus 19:10).
At London City Mission we do not want to encourage an approach that only looks to people’s practical needs (because doing so would still leave them without hope for eternity), nor to ignore those practical needs (God made us to have bodies and souls, and both are of value in his sight). That means we often look to partner with churches to meet practical needs, such as offering help to access English language classes, standing firm against knife crime, providing food for those without homes or steady income, or helping to fill out forms, but we always work with those same churches to ensure that people’s deepest need, their need for God’s grace, is addressed too.
THIS MINISTRY IS GREATER THAN LCM.
In Acts we see missionaries travelling from city to city throughout the known world and local, settled churches being planted. The relationship between those two groups was intimate then and we are convinced it should be now too. How did it work in practice? Well, in Acts the church sent and supported the missionaries, and the missionaries helped equip the church (Acts 11). Everyone involved took seriously the kind of teaching found in Ephesians 4: they were passionate about equipping ‘the saints for works of service’ so that the church everywhere could be built up for its work of mission.
So excited are we by this first-century pattern that we too are committed to supporting churches in their mission and receiving support from them too.
THIS MISSION IS CHALLENGING.
There are always challenges in urban mission. Paul, in Acts, faced opposition in so many cities as he progressed through his three missionary journeys. The bottom line is that the evil one doesn’t want people to come to Christ – he prefers to keep people’s hearts chained and their eyes blind – and this spiritual battle is definitely the hardest one to fight.
But, on a more human level, the reality is that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37). There is a need for more and more churches to be praying, giving, learning and living lives that help people from the least reached communities come to Christ. Oh, there are other smaller challenges along the way – there are complexities in setting up new city-centre projects and working with people in our capital who ask brilliant but very tough questions – but the biggest challenge is helping people to see that mission like this really is possible for normal churches full of normal people.
Who knows, maybe the Lord is nudging you to be part of the solution to that challenge right now?