Courage, Perseverance and Urban Mission

This is a short post based on a short extract of a sermon I gave at London City Mission in January 2015.

Urban mission requires great courage, but what does Godly courage look like?

The story of Caleb helps us understand what Godly courage looks like. He stood firm and pushed through, whatever the cost – so much so that God says of him, ‘Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly’ (Numbers 14:24).

People of courage stand firm in the truth.

Caleb stood firm in the word of God. After forty days in a foreign but promised land, the Israelite spies to Canaan came back, hands laden with good fruit but hearts filled with fear. The land was rich and plentiful, flowing with milk and honey but inhabited by giant hostile men! Most dared not go back and sowed doubt into the hearts of God’s people.  But although Caleb saw the difficulty, he bravely urged them, along with Joshua, to have faith in God’s word about the Promised Land and claim their inheritance.

The cost of his courage? Near stoning by his own people had God not intervened!

Our old centre in Forest Gate is squeezed between a beautifully modern Sikh temple and a well-attended mosque. On a daily basis, London City Mission staff courageously stand firm here for gospel truth in the midst of hostility and misunderstanding, knowing God’s promise of victory stands with them as they serve Christ.

People of courage push through to the end.

Caleb’s reward for his courage? Forty years of an ‘ordinary’ life, not mentioned in the Bible: faithful in the daily routine, plodding on through the desert years, waiting for God’s moment. He remained faithful right to the end, still eager to do battle, still willing to take the difficult land and still choosing God’s word and will above his own.

I’m regularly astounded by our team at London City Mission as they give their lives to sharing the gospel with others. Their families also pay a price; children taunted for being in the ‘God squad’ and spouses coping with ‘all-hours ministry’. We applaud these courageous men and women who take on this not-so-glamorous side of ministry to London. Day after day, their stories often untold, they faithfully support vulnerable people struggling to survive, share the pain of the harrowing life stories of local estate residents and sacrifice the ‘good life’ of comfort and well paid careers to tell of the transforming love of Jesus to London’s least reached.

Like Caleb, these people of courage stand firm and push through, whatever the cost, for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

Leadership Conference 2015 – Day One Morning Session 1 (RAH)

The conference opens with a wonderful recognition of its international flavour singing ‘The Splendour of the KIng’ in different languages before entering with modern thumping anthems, ‘Happy Day’ and ‘The Way’. The worship sets the tone – this conference is first and foremost about Jesus. 

The 2 sites join together on a dodgy livelink that re-affirms that leadership is secondary to recognising Jesus. Different nationalities, different denominations, different churchmanships – the body of Christ represented together. Expectation is high and it is so encouraging to know that the Alpha and HTB teams have been praying for every attendee by name. “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” is the verse chosen as a prophetic word for every individual present. “How we listen is as imortant as to how people speak” is the reminder from Nicky Gumbel as to how we approach the conference.

After sharing the peace, Nicky Gumbel is the first speaker and reminds us afresh of the power of unity from Psalm 133. Unity is not always easy and we need to work hard at unity – ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit’ (ephesians). A fresh reminder for the need of humility, gentleness, patience and forbearance. Love binds it all together. Unity is not doctrinal, it is relational. We learn this from the trinity….relationship is critical and our relationship around Jesus will determine our success in evangelising the nations. 

‘What unites us is infinitely greater than what divides us’ – Father Cantalamessa

If we want to bring the truth about Jesus to people, we need to be united. There is hope for us all because Jesus has given us great hope – why are we wasting time fighting one another when we have this great message to share with the world. We must stop fighting and need to get out and share our message.

There is a need for disagreement but we must do this in the context of friendship and love – then when a decision is made, we must back the leaders decision. Unity is not unanimity or uniformity. Its ok to have different views, this is how we learn from one another. Unity and truth are complementary not in opposition to one another. Could you imagine what it would be like if we stopped fighting one another and started to defend one another? Even those that are different to us – unity comes to us from the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit fills us all. In a family, we do not exclude those that we disagree with, families can be diverse. We have just one Father. Illustration of a lion and springbocks – the lion pounces when 2 springbocks fight as their attention is divided. We need a new perspective of the world, we get this perspective by recognising that we are one body and looking at the problems in the world in a different way. 

What if we were to start afresh and make every effort to live in unity? Will we pray for it? Will we yearn for it?

As the talk concludes, Nicky and many in the hall seek God for forgiveness. A new beginning in the Church – Beautiful conclusion to the first session.

Seek the Welfare of the City

seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

God loves the city but the way we act as Christians does not always demonstrate this. We have chosen a mission field that fits our comfortable lives rather than the mission field of God. God wants everyone in the city to know Himself but we can act with fear and trembling when it comes to certain ‘no-go’ areas. Our own well being is linked to the well being of ALL the people that live near us and around us….note that…ALL! This is real community and we need to see ‘all’ of the city as our mission field and that includes some people that we will find difficult, uncomfortable and not necessarily those that we would associate with.

In my current role, I speak with churches and groups who desire to make a difference. The first thing that I am asked is for the ‘winner takes all’ strategy, thankfully they do not quit when one is not offered. There are things that can be done;

Pray for your community
Blindingly obvious but often a step that is missed

Be in your community
In a mobile city this step can be ignored but it is often the poorer and more marginalised that are least mobile and forgotten. The organisation that I work for is seeking to adopt a strategy for key workers of ‘live, work and worship’ in the community. Not everyone can adopt this but it is worth considering

Know your community
Be the expert of your community; who lives where? what is available? where are the services? what is the history? Be the sage of the area….it matters!

Love your community
This can be done in many ways. Pick up litter as you pass, open your home to people, be available to people, talk with people, listen to people. Love the people and care for the environment, you will be surprised how people respond.

Seek the welfare of the city….go for it….be amazed at what God can do!

Quotes for those doing mission in urban areas

“You don’t need to be from a place of disadvantage in order to serve the disadvantaged” Kenny Borthwick

“The poor and disadvantaged know things about the kingdom that we need to learn” Kenny Borthwick

“Decline in the church seems to start in the family” David Voas

“Parish geography needs further thought as more communities are gathered than geographical” David Voas

“Sometimes we need to break concrete before we can sow seeds within the soil” Mark Russell

“The challenge for evangelists is to be results expectant and not result dependant” Mark Russell

Wisdom in Bermondsey

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A couple of days back, I was taking a lunchtime stroll through Bermondsey and just off the main track saw this wall – the words stung me like a hurricane as they were a direst response to the things that I was talking through with God. It was an amazing moment. I thank God for the wisdom of Bermondsey that managed to shake me, rattle me and allow me to see things in a different way.

Too many atrocities

The murder of Lee Rigby was and is an atrocity that should not be tolerated in this nation. It is appalling and has rightly made headlines. However, I am concerned that so many other atrocities such as this do not have the same impact. The 152 teenagers killed in knife incidents in London between 2005 and May 2013 have seen very few with the same publicity as the events in Woolwich this week. Why is that? Is it because of religious connotations, race connotations, ferocity of the attack, type of attack or a mixture of all of them? Why have we become seemingly cold to some of these things?….some only having cursory comment in the media.

How can we tolerate these things? Below is a map pinpointing the teens killed by knives since 2005 in London (just teenagers..not adults)

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How do you feel seeing this? Does it stir your heart? Does it make you weep? Come on people, we need to do something! We need to pray! We need to act! This is too many lives….I, for one, want to make a difference

Hood Rat – Britain’s Lost Generation (Review)

This book is written in three specific parts with time spent on stories from London, Manchester and Glasgow.  It pulls no punches as it shares of life from the inner city gang cultures that we so often hear about in news items.  The book is easy to read and follow and engages the reader by working through examples in the lives of specific individuals.

At times you are left questioning and wondering if there is any hope – this is wonderfully dispelled in the stories of Glasgow.  There is hope, there are ways ahead and there are people who want to help bring change.  The later edition has a short response from Gavin Knight to the riots of 2011 – this alone was challenging and worth the book price as it challenges some of the popular notions of who engaged in the riots and why.

A good, solid read – if you are involved in the inner city with young people then it will be worth spending some time with it.

There is comfortable, middle-class economy.  Then there’s the inner cities.” Gavin Knight

most valuable

Finding yourself on a rush hour tube journey, especially on the Northern Line, can provide the most interesting experiences of human behaviour.  It is not difficult to discover the value that many morning commuters place on “The Metro” (Free daily newspaper in London) as opposed to the other occupants of the carriage.   People are happy to move and be a little squashed up to the point where they are still able to read their paper but woe to the uninitiated who attempt to prevent the reading of the daily gossip columns.  The unread paper is more valuable than the other fellow commuters.

That is until the pictures have been viewed, the news items skimmed because then the paper is tossed away, its value gone, and then it becomes an issue for someone else.