As we reflect on what is happening in the world today, let us begin by meditating on God’s heart for people who are displaced by war and conflict. God’s heart is unchanging and his care for the ‘stranger’ (Matt 25:35) the ‘alien’ (Lev 19:34) and the ‘foreigner’ (Deut. 27:19) shines throughout scripture. Our Lord Jesus himself fled as a child with his family from the tyranny of Herod.
London City Mission has always had a deep concern to reach out to people in London who are in great spiritual and practical need. From the very birth of the Church, the gospel has always resonated well with those who are not well off, we follow in the footsteps of Jesus when we minister to those on the margins. For the Church, providing practical help alone falls short of the Great Commission entrusted to us. As people made in the image of God, at the heart of our being, we crave much more than the basics in life, important although they area - ultimately we thirst for eternal hope.
As we have sought to look to the needs in London, diaspora people whose heritage or origin has been from elsewhere in the globe, have featured strongly. From 1860 Mandarin, Urdu and Swahili speakers working as missionaries with LCM shared the gospel in London. From our earliest days, we had outreach ministries to sailors and ayahs (nannies) who were often exploited, mistreated and abandoned by colonial forces. We took on extra missionaries to support additional work in welcoming the new arrivals of the Windrush generation. In 1972 we welcomed Asians who fled Idi Amin. These communities were sadly ignored or treated with hostility by much of the church. Much has changed, but we still have much more to learn.
Today, London City Mission has the privilege to continue this ministry, increasingly enabling local evangelical churches, including established diaspora churches who bring much needed energy for mission within the Church in London.
As we turn to the world today, our hearts break when we see pictures of injured people and destroyed cities on our TV screens. Our hearts break when we know of global conflicts that are causing great suffering which is largely ignored in the West. Our hearts break when people are denied refuge and safety simply because of the colour of their skin.
London has a remarkable number of people who understand what it is to live under an oppressive regime, many of whom have fled from their home in fear of their lives. In East London, missionaries support displaced people from Eritrea, Iran and Somalia. In West London, others minister to recent arrivals from Afghanistan. Elsewhere, ordinary Christians are equipped to share their life and faith with Syrian families and new arrivals from Ukraine. As a mission, some of us can speak into the ministry to people who are displaced from personal experience and several of the mission family sadly know what it is to flee for their lives from their homes.
When we offer care to people who are displaced our end goal cannot simply be social care – ultimately our greatest need as people is our need of Jesus. And, when we seek to invite, welcome and include those in our church families who may be deeply different from us, we display God’s masterplan to the world.. The bible is saying the manifold wisdom of God is displayed, the word manifold, multi-faceted – within the church the multi-coloured salvation plan of God is being revealed.
The church is intended to be a welcoming and diverse not a homogenous club. There can be peace between different classes, different races and different cultures so that the world can look at us and see God’s heart to include everyone and to see the difference that being part of God’s family makes. Achieving unity takes great effort, and it can feel easier to give up and live a segmented, homogenous existence.
Within the early church, the groups with the biggest differences, the Jews and Gentiles were encouraged to unite. Paul is really clear that, despite our differences, the gospel is for everyone and for those who repent and believe we are made one in Christ - not segregated. God has destroyed the dividing wall of hostility between the different groups (Eph. 2:14) so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known (Eph. 3:10). This word ‘manifold’ can also be understood to mean multicoloured or multifaceted which shows us that when we unite in our diversity around the central truths of the gospel, we are making God known.
Our vision is to see churches across London reaching out, welcoming and including all kinds of people who are from a wealth of backgrounds, races and cultures with a genuine warm welcome with the gospel at the centre. We long to see churches that offer enduring hospitality that include and makes space for difference – a powerful and united witness to a divided world.
London City Mission are part of a new season in London with yet more change and additional needs and we are seeking to serve the Church by sharing our knowledge through developing resources and providing training. As evangelists (Eph 4:11-13) we are called to build up the Church to reach out into communities unlikely to hear the gospel with the good news of Christ. We are calling on the church to ‘remember the poor’ (Gal 2:10), to reach out with hope and good news to all people, particularly those who would otherwise never hear the gospel.
In the face of the biggest movement of refugees in Europe since the last world war, let’s take this opportunity to work together across the evangelical church in London and beyond. Our initial shock at the news of war can, with prayer and reflection on God’s word, develop into a healthy biblical loving practical compassion which will endure both for Ukrainians and all people who are displaced.
When we commit to a way of church that embraces difference, we can mature into a place where we are less focused on our own experience and more focused on how God can use us to see His Kingdom come in the lives of other people. We can also grow by including those who may be more marginalised by also radically allowing them to bring something that the Lord has uniquely given them to minister to us in new ways – it is arrogance to think otherwise.
Building up diversity is a rich blessing to the church and we should cherish those who are not like you who are the first to join your church because they add so much. It takes more effort but is ultimately more satisfying and allows us collectively to be a more powerful witness to a divided world desperate for true peace.
Can we do better? I pray that we can.
Graham Miller, CEO London City Mission
Free online webinar
Looking for ways to provide a Christ-like welcome to displaced people?
Join us at our free webinar on Friday 6 May, 10:30am-1pm as we share ministry principles drawn from decades of working alongside the local church in London to welcome displaced people with practical help and gospel hope. Get your free ticket at lcm.org.uk/welcome.