The latest Trust for London data on poverty and deprivation in London makes for sobering reading.
You’ll find the richest people in the country living alongside some of the poorest. Opulent wealth in South Kensington meets poverty in North Kensington next to Grenfell Tower. In the borough of Tower Hamlets, where child poverty rates can hit as high as 48%, the shiny corporate towers of Canary Wharf stand next to council estates in Poplar.
There are so many opportunities for churches in London to make a difference in the communities they live amongst, both practically and spiritually.
In Newham, where more than a third of people struggle with economic deprivation, we have been working with Ridley Community Church – a small, modest church doing mighty work in Jesus’ name.
With support from LCM missionaries, the church recently hosted a day where some of the most marginalised and vulnerable women in the community could get their hair cut and other beauty treatments for free. As a result of building connections and friendships with these women, three from a Muslim background chose to commit their lives to Jesus.
In Tower Hamlets, where 460 people – many struggling with addictions and mental health challenges – sleep rough each night, we’ve started a Bible study in partnership with a local church at a halfway house for people battling addiction. And this Bible study is booming.
There is such a thirst and hunger for God’s word. There are some evenings when it is difficult to accommodate everyone who wants to attend. Sometimes, our missionaries and church members have to gently remind people that Bible study actually ended a little while ago.
God is at work in the spaces and places that, sadly, many chose to shun. He is there in the messy and broken. And it is incredibly encouraging to see churches accept that challenge to be his hands and feet – to share practical care and the love of Jesus – because this precious, life-changing, good news only found in him cannot be kept quiet.
For David, one of the volunteers at a partner church, Highway Vineyard, his work at the food bank in Manor Park is an extension of church.
“It’s doing church. It’s not a Sunday, but we’re still doing church. One of the ladies said to me last week that she wasn’t doing too well. I said, let’s just pray. So, we just prayed as we were picking food off the shelves for her dad.” says David.
“I’m no great theologian. I’m not a great preacher, but I can do things. So that’s what I do. Sharing the gospel to me means being there for people in their good times, in their bad times; just being there to be that shoulder to lean on when they need it.”
Interactions like these are proving fruitful. Nearly a third of the connections that church members are making with local community members are leading to intentional evangelistic conversations. One week, three families who came to the food bank also decided to visit the church on a Sunday.
The harvest is ready.
In light of the growing need to support people experiencing poverty across our city, how can the Church of London be a light in the darkness and come together to reach people who need not only practical care but also the gospel?
Many churches across London are located in these boroughs marked by poverty and deprivation, but we may not all worship in an area of London where the needs are so present and obvious. The fellow sisters and brothers in Christ we worship with on a Sunday may be relatively financially comfortable. As might you. But we can all do our part in this great mission field that is London to show God’s love, care, and kindness.
In Philippians, we see Paul rejoicing. He is in the depths of a Roman prison, but he cannot contain his joy. It seeps through every page of that letter. This was because Epaphroditus, a fellow gospel worker from the not-so-wealthy church in Philippi, could bring good news from that church and a gift from them to support his work.
Philippi may have been miles away, but the Christian brothers and sisters were united with Paul in the mission of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world.
Fast forward a few thousand years. Could we see the same partnership here in London? Could our churches in South Kensington actively support the ministry of faithful churches in the heart of North Kensington? Whether through sacrificial giving to the team ministering there with London City Mission or by sending people to support another church’s outreach ministry or faithfully praying for them, could we in our churches do more?
I believe we can. I’ve seen it through people and churches who support London City Mission as well as our church partnerships in areas where poverty and deprivation rates are high. And God willing, we can make an enormous impact on our capital city. Together.
Because all of London – including the urban areas marked by poverty – needs Jesus.
To find out more about how you can support God’s work through London City Missionaries, visit here.