Statements of Faith are inadequate!

When it comes to mission initiatives and ‘reaching people for Christ’ in the least reached or unreached places we need to see people as Jesus did….not through the spectacles of faith statements. It is too easy for us to adopt a statement but when we seek to partner with others we soon discover that our missiology or church politic interprets the statement in a different way to our prospective partner. Meanwhile, the least reached remain unreached because of our own bias. 

We need a generation who will think in a different way and will march to the beat of a different drum. For the sake of the lost, can we see through Jesus lenses?

Statements of faith alone are inadequate…..

People of Courage

An article that I wrote for Changing London Magazine (Spring 2015) – the magazine of London City Mission

People of courage

A foundation of faith

Over the last twelve months we have – rightly – seen numerous references to ‘men of valour’ and heard of innumerable acts of courage during commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Courage takes many forms, however. The Bible narrative which speaks most clearly of a courageous life is that of Caleb, son of Jephunneh, who we read about in just a few passages of scripture – primarily Numbers 13-14 and Joshua 14. The
life of Caleb is marked out as one of courageous perseverance in the face of hardship as he lived a life of radical obedience to God. This life was built on a foundation of faith, enabling Caleb to stand firm for God and push through, whatever the cost – so
much so that God says of him, ‘Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly’ (Numbers 14:24). Caleb’s trust in God was a foundation stone for all he did, and proved to be a marker for a life which was exceptional in many ways.

Standing firm

Caleb knew what it meant to stand firm for the word of God. He was among the spies sent out into the Promised Land. After forty days in a foreign land, the spies came back with stories of a land flowing with milk and honey but
inhabited by giants. Of the spies, it was Caleb who saw the difficulty but recognised the hand of God and honoured God’s word that the people of Israel would take the land. The stand he took with Joshua almost led to their death by stoning, and the Lord had
to intervene. Caleb stood firm and exhorted the people to not rebel against the Lord (Numbers 14:9). People of courage stand firm for the truth: they hold on to the word of the Lord, and they are immovable in this.

One example of this in London City Mission can be seen at Forest Gate. Our old centre is next door to a beautifully modern Sikh temple and just a few doors away from a well-attended mosque. On a daily basis, we have seen the staff here
stand firm for truth in the midst of hostility and misunderstanding. It takes courage to work here, but we have a God who stands with us as we act as salt and light in the community.

Pushing through

The result of Caleb’s courage? Forty years of ‘ordinary’. The people of Israel walked the desert for forty years, and all of Caleb’s friends and peer group (except Joshua) died. For forty years, Caleb was not heard of within
the people of Israel’s narrative, apart from a few references to his faithfulness; he walked, toiled and laboured along with his fellow countryfolk. He lived on a diet of manna and quail, but knew first-hand of the fruit of the land which was so close. Caleb
had been in the Promised Land, he had walked its paths and tasted its fruit, yet, we hear no word of complaint or bitterness from him as he waits forty years for the promises of God to be fulfilled. His life was ordinary within the context of the people, but
the foundation of faith remained strong. Faithful in the daily routine, plodding on through the desert years, waiting for God’s moment. This is courageous perseverance in the extreme.

We recently heard the story of a man, S, who first came into contact with the Mission twenty years ago. For twenty years one of our missionaries prayed for him. Last year, this man came to faith in Jesus. For twenty years, the ordinary
life remained trusting in God, in prayer, before a wonderful transformation was seen. Praise the Lord!

Whatever the cost

At the end of the narrative, Caleb comes to Joshua and reminds him of the word of the Lord from the previous generation. Caleb is still eager to do battle in his old age, still willing to take the difficult land and still recognising
it is God’s will he is serving. This was the last of the conquest; Caleb had sacrificed his own agenda for the sake of God and the people; he was willing to pay any price to see God’s name honoured and glorified.

Caleb’s life story is one of costly forbearance, where he risks stoning, faces forty years of ‘ordinary’, battles for others before himself and puts aside his own agenda to serve God.

Mission work is costly for the individuals who serve. I am regularly astounded by the work of our staff team at London City Mission as they give themselves for the sake of the Lord, so that they may share the gospel with others. It is not
just the staff members but their families, too, who share in this ministry: children taunted at school because they are part of the ‘God squad’; spouses who have to cope with ‘all hours ministry’; the list is endless. Yet we have a team of dedicated people
who serve consistently with courage and perseverance, whatever the cost.

So Caleb’s story helps us to see what it means to be people of courage – people who will stand firm, push through, whatever the cost, for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

Such courage can be found daily in the streets and on the estates of London. The men and women of London City Mission, whose stories often remain untold, supporting vulnerable people as they seek to survive each day, coming alongside local
estate residents who share their harrowing life stories, sacrificing the ‘good life’ – a career in a well-paid profession, a comfortable life in a beloved home town – so they may tell of the transforming love of Jesus to London’s least reached communities.

We are grateful for those who stand with us in this not-so-glamorous ministry to the least reached of London. Thank you for partnering with us in this gospel outreach. 

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