The LCM team working on the Vauxhall Gardens Estate is constantly looking for appropriate ways to share the gospel.
Kathy McLoughlin is confident that she wouldn’t be seen in church on a Sunday morning in a million years.
‘You really get all types here,’ she says, waving her cigarette at the surrounding Vauxhall Gardens Estate. ‘In my block of flats there’s rumbling music that goes on through the day and the night. It affects my sleep and really annoys me.
‘It was rough back in the day. There used to be stabbings, drugs, but there’s not so much of it now. It’s
changed in lots of ways, but you’ve still got to take the rough with the smooth. ‘I have a love–hate feeling for the place, you know, and there’s more to it than meets the eye.
When my luck was down, my neighbours were there for me. They took me under their wing when no-else would. They gave me stuff, lent me money until I was back on my feet.’
LCM Missionary Kevin Croft is delivering a talk to the Friday Lunch Club in Vauxhall, based on the book of James and addressing the destructiveness of words spoken in anger. ‘Listening is something we’ve grown bad at,’ he says, citing improbable storylines from East Enders and the Houses of Parliament. ‘When we’re angry we don’t even care what the other person thinks.’
He lands on Jesus’ instruction not to let the sun go down on your anger. Besides from a few semi-constructive heckles, the group listens appreciatively.
Who Needs Jesus?
Later, Kevin explains that the biggest obstacle to evangelism is that most of the traditional working class think they don’t need Jesus. Church is there for baptisms, weddings and funerals, but otherwise has little bearing on life. That’s why he and the rest of the team tackle practical issues directly as they present the gospel.
It’s about knowing your community well enough to share the gospel in the way they can understand, he says.
For example, finances are a massive issue on the estate. ‘People are struggling. The whole language of debts being written off is attractive because it’s a such a pressing reality for many people.’
The team is responding with practical things such as debt and money management advice, but there’s also the opportunity to start talking about a bigger debt that cannot possibly be written off. It’s using what they know and understand as a way to the gospel.
That’s paired with a longstanding commitment to walking alongside people in chaotic lifestyles.
‘When you say something that’s counter-cultural or challenging, one of the typical coping mechanisms on the estate is to deliver an angry sweary outburst than to disappear,’ Kevin says.
‘And then sometime later they will come back, and we start over.
‘We’re not sugar-coating our message: We're saying very directly, “You need Jesus. We’re not waiving on this. Let us explain why”. Slowly, but surely that’s starting to gain some credibility.
‘They don’t necessarily believe what we’re saying. But they will give us a hearing because we’re here and we keep banging on about it.’
Six Memos for Sharing the Gospel On Estates
1 - Be prepared to do life together
2 - Take time to understand how the community sees itself
3 - Learn how to link the gospel with people’s lived experience
4 - Appreciate straight talk, even when it’s hurtful
5 - Expect people to walk away and come back multiple times
6 - Trust in the transforming power of the gospel