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CONTENTS I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. ACTS 10:34-35 ----Welcome to ARTICLES - Co-Mission's bi-annual magazine, highlighting the incredible stories from around our network. Our theme at this year's REVIVE was cross-cultural mission in London and to the world. But we don't want this theme to have started and ended on a field in Canterbury. As a network we want to be prayerfully considering how we can better engage in cross-cultural missions. We hope that through this magazine we will all be challenged to assess who we reach in our communities, and how we reach them, as we launch our OPEN HAND Initiative (page 16). The stories in this edition of ARTICLES are encouraging, challenging, and uncomfortable. We can read about the incredible work being done through International Cafès, life changing mission trips, and exciting developments with church plants and revitalisations. But we are also challenged on what a diverse church, truly looks like - and the hard work, but vital work, that needs to be done if we are really going to reach the people of our city with the Good News of Christ Jesus. So don't just read this magazine - pray about what you read, and talk about what you read. And let us be encouraged and inspired by what is happening across our network, and what can happen in our city. Our Lord is doing marvelous things in the lives of people from all nations in London. He is the only one who can bring unity in the midst of diversity. He is the one who can bring true identity in a divided city. He is the only one who can save sinners from hell, for heaven, for eternity. As Richard Coekin writes in the opening article: "let us not surrender to cynicism that seeks to justify limiting our evangelism and church-planting only to those of our own culture, avoiding the challenge and discomfort of cross-cultural mission, because people from all nations need Christ."
2. From Every Nation Richard Coekin 6 . B u i l d i n g Tr u l y D i v e r s e G o s p e l C o m m u n i t i e s Felix Aremo 12. Jesus: The message of hope in the heart o f Va u x h a l l Sam Gibb 16. Our Open Hand Commitment 1 8 . W E LC O M E - C a f e C u l t u r e M a r k Ve r n o n 22. SEND - Notes from Abroad Joe Stephenson & Lizzie Standring 26. HOST - How can they believe unless t h e y Hear? Charlotte Mayhew 3 0 . P R AY - A c a l l t o P r a y e r : P r a y i n g f o r Muslims Andy Mason 34. PLANT - Plant Life: St Paul's Harringay Pete Snow 36. The Reluctant Evangelist Richard Coekin 4 0. La z i n e s s a n d t h e C h r i s t i a n l i f e Nam Joon Kim 44. Making all things new Ben Slee
Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica UK trademark number 1448790.
“…there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the lamb.” R E V E L AT I O N 7 : 9 - 1 0
THESE WORDS, THE THEME OF REVIVE 2018 - CO-MISSION'S ANNUAL BIBLE FESTIVAL, COME FROM A WONDERFULLY INSPIRING DESCRIPTION OF HEAVEN - IN AN AMAZING VISION GIVEN TO THE APOSTLE JOHN.
GOD IS GATHERING A HEAVENLY COMMUNITY FROM EVERY NATION
The book of Revelation is glorious - full of striking symbolism that can be interpreted sensibly when read in the light of the Old Testament. It begins by describing what is happening now: In chapter 1 we see Jesus in dazzling glory - ruling, rescuing and ready to return. In chapters 2-3 he dictates a letter to his churches with warnings for the loveless and lukewarm, encouragements for those who remain faithful through persecution, and condemnation for those who tolerate false teaching. In chapters 4-5 God opens up his heavenly throne room, from where he governs the universe, to reveal his King: the powerful lion who is a sacrificial lamb, namely Jesus. In chapters 6-16 he explains that he has released the first drops of the gathering storm of his judgement in allowing the evil tyranny, chaos, persecution and destruction that we hear about daily in our media. And then in chapters 17-22 he reveals the future he has planned: the total destruction of Babylon (evil), the return of his king (Jesus) and the renewal of his creation (a sparkling garden-city paradise) for God to dwell among his people to bless them forever. Our verses from chapter 7 may feel completely at odds with the Christian life today where we are in the midst of the tyranny from which Christians are suffering around the world - most extremely in places like North Korea, Pakistan and Yemen but also in the ideological bullying we increasingly experience in Britain today. Yet here in chapter 7:9-10, even while his people are being persecuted, God gives us a snapshot of the glorious international community he is gathering in heaven – the happy festival crowd which all who follow Jesus will join when we die. This beautiful scene displays marvellous ancient promises fulfilled by God. The “great multitude that no-one can count” fulfils God’s gospel promise to Abraham of descendants who share his faith as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore - for in following Jesus we have not joined a small and diminishing sect soon to become extinct like the Incas or Aztecs! We have joined the vast and growing global community of the future.
This phrase, “from every nation, tribe, people and language”, was repeatedly used by the prophet Daniel – initially to describe the empire of the pagan King of Babylon but eventually of the eternal kingdom promised by “the Ancient of Days” (God) to “one like a son of man” (Jesus) – for this international community will replace and dwarf all human empires. And these spectacular three words, “from every nation” signify God keeping multiple promises: to Abraham of a multicultural people, “through your offspring [Jesus] all nations on earth will be blessed” (Genesis 22), and in the psalms of a joyful people, “…may all the peoples praise you, may the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Psalm 67) and in his prophets of a grateful people, “then all nations will call you blessed” (Malachi 3). But supremely, this future signals the completion of the world mission launched by our risen Lord Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, from which our network gets its name: "go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28). Make no mistake - it will be fantastic to be there at this multicultural festival, making even our famous Notting Hill Carnival seem dull by comparison. For all God’s people, believers from all nations who believe this gospel as amplified in Jesus Christ our Lord, will be there. And we will be spectacularly privileged: “standing before the throne and before the lamb” – welcome in the presence of God (governing from “the throne”) to see the face, hear the voice, and witness the heart-stopping glory of Jesus (our sacrificial “lamb”) – to sing along with this vast crowd. “wearing white robes” – symbolic of victorious purity, because, “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb“ (7:14) – illustrating the marvellous truth that all who trust in the death of Jesus for our sins (as our “lamb”) have the guilt of our moral filth washed away and replaced with the pure Christian life of Jesus counted to us. “holding palm branches” – a tradition from the Feast of Tabernacles when Israel celebrated God’s grace in bringing his pilgrim people through the wilderness to the promised land – symbolising the festival atmosphere in heaven among Christians who have been strengthened to endure through their hardships to inherit in heaven.
A few months ago, my wife and I enjoyed an amazing evening at a Coldplay concert in Cardiff. Front man Chris Martin was captivating, the light show was mesmerising and singing along with a crowd of 70,000 such iconic songs as Clocks and Paradise was fantastic. But compared with this celebration in heaven, that was merely childs-play! If it is exciting now to be in a stadium to watch a band or a cup final, imagine how unbelievably exciting it will be when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords walks on stage – and in the intervals, how exciting it will be to hear the stories of those around us from every nation, tribe, people and language, of how they’ve been saved and blessed by Jesus! This passage is marvellous news for all of us attending Co-Mission churches, for what God has commanded his people to do (“make disciples of all nations”) is what we are trying to do by planting and strengthening sixty diverse churches here in London by 2025! Far from wasting our time and resources, we are committed to what God has committed himself here to accomplish in the world. If our prayerful efforts remain focussed upon this international gathering, our prayers will be answered and our efforts rewarded! Because God is continually calling people from all nations to this future through his gospel. God’s multinational community is the direction of history indeed it is the reason God sacrificed his only beloved son on a cross and now delays the end of the world! God is busy among us gathering people from all nations into heaven through his gospel to be united with his Son to enjoy his glory forever! This is why Co-Mission exists!
WE HAVE A WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITY TO REACH PEOPLE FROM ALL NATIONS IN LONDON AND FROM LONDON
London is an exciting, cosmopolitan city with great influence in our nation and the world. Ever since the 2012 Olympics the Mori Global Power City Index has consistently ranked London as the number one City in the World, leaving New York, Tokyo and Paris trailing in its wake. It’s a political, economic and cultural powerhouse. And it is home to 8.8 million people from a rich diversity of backgrounds. The nations have come to London for education, business and a better life. Less than half its population are white British: 600,000 people state their ethnicity as Indian, 400,000 are French, there are 230,000 each from Pakistan and Bangladesh, indeterminate hundreds of thousands from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria and 80,000 Somalis. And the city is constantly churning with a net annual growth of about 100K. London is an exciting multicultural city and I love it. But the 2011 National Census reveals that 90% of Londoners claim no saving faith in Christ, and so are hurtling towards eternal misery. Only 5.4% of the population attend Bible-teaching churches. And the
major world religions are here: 1.3 million Muslims, 460,000 Hindus, and numerous Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews. An older generation of Londoners may visit church at Christmas and want their grandchildren “christened”. But the prevailing ideology of younger generations, vigorously promoted by our popular media across most ethnic and socio-economic boundaries, is an individualistic, libertine hedonism - haunted by a little superstitious mysticism. To generalise, our city is no longer a lapsed Christian city in need of revival but a pagan pre-Christian city that needs to be re-evangelised. In London we live on the mission-field, among a commonwealth of communities without God, without hope and desperately in need of the gospel of Christ!
WE MUST TRY TO REMOVE BARRIERS TO OUR CO-OPERATION IN GOD’S WORK OF GATHERING PEOPLE FROM EVERY NATION
Racial and cultural prejudice are delicate but powerful issues. I recall an amusing conversation with some Dutch Christians in Jerusalem recounting how some American and Spanish visitors had confessed their cultural suspicions to each other. The Americans agreed, “We were shocked at how much alcohol you Spanish Christians drink”. To which the Spanish replied with some amusement, “Well we were shocked at how much makeup you Americans wear!” I was just quietly struggling with being hugged and kissed by so many Palestinian men! Sadly, the tensions are much more serious than that. I am aware that in saying something about this, however careful and loving I try to be, I am bound to disappoint somebody. But we must try to engage in this topic biblically, with forgiving patience and love, if we are ever to plant a diversity of churches in London in obedience to Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations and not just our own. We rejoice that we are, “All one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) and one chief privilege of being a Christian pastor has been to travel and discover that Christians in completely different cultures like Chile, Belarus, Kenya and South Korea all love the same Lord Jesus and live by the same Bible as we do. But in the nitty-gritty of congregational life in a churchplanting network committed to social and ethnic diversity in a multicultural city like London, bruising cultural assumptions and painful blind-spots will emerge that need to be addressed. It is a powerful testimony to the cross-cultural saving grace of God that he has brought us together in Christ in our churches from so many different backgrounds – in ways that would be impossible without the patient love that only God’s Holy Spirit can create in Christians. This diversity is something to enjoy and celebrate – but in reality we can all find it hard. All of us will struggle to some degree with how people from
We cannot settle for division, nor despair of ever breaking down our cultural barriers. different backgrounds within our church families do life. This can feel harder when our churches try to cooperate in gospel ministry and when we get together, such as at REVIVE (especially when the majority culture of the bigger Co-Mission churches is not ours or if English is not our first language). This calls for a willingness to listen and learn from others who are struggling; and for patience, sensitivity and a willingness for things to be done differently for the sake of others, especially those who have felt excluded by the way things have been done in the past. Within our churches, we must learn to consider the needs of others before our own. As one of our young black pastors, Felix Aremo, helpfully writes in an article later on in this magazine: “the effect of racial prejudice significantly impacts black people’s lives here in London: education, employment, housing, health care, criminal justice etc. Christians need their pastors to help them deal with these traumas and challenges so they can respond in godly ways. But very few know how.” We have so much to learn. None of us can pretend that our sinful hearts have yet been purified of the racial and socio-economic arrogance or hatred that festers in human hearts. If we belong to the dominant culture in our church we may be unaware of how strange (and optional) our way of doing church life will seem to those from another culture, and of how painful it can be for them trying to get involved e.g. someone pointed out recently that if we pepper visitors with well-intentioned questions about where they are from and how long they have lived in London, we may have meant to be friendly but actually have sounded like an intrusive Home Office interrogation! With every enquiry we may be unwittingly telling someone from another country, who was longing to find a church family far from home, “You don’t really belong here”! However hard it may continue to be, we cannot settle for
division, nor despair of ever breaking down our cultural barriers. For Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ who have the Spirit of God applying to our hearts the spiritual unity that we already all have in Christ. We can all learn to listen better and talk less; we can all ask for help from those who understand cultural obstacles better than we do; we can all confess and repent of the arrogant assumptions and fearful suspicions we nurture deep in our hearts; we can all begin to open our homes to offer simple hospitality and laugh at ourselves when we get things wrong; we can all learn to grieve with more sympathy and protest with more godly outrage at a tragedy like Grenfell Tower, which has demonstrated so much of the social and economic injustice of our city; and many of us can try to help those who struggle to navigate the complexities of our immigration, legal, benefits and healthcare systems. Cross-cultural evangelism is hard. Indeed, it is often harder to cross our socio-economic “class” boundaries than ethnic boundaries. It is often even harder for those of us from less privileged backgrounds to love those from more privileged backgrounds (especially if we feel patronised or pitied) and vice-versa. But we have to learn how to do this better because Christ has commanded us all, “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28) and in London, most of us can build relationships with people from many nations in which gospel conversations can take place, without having to leave our own neighbourhood! Paul wrote, “though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible...I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9). We have all made mistakes in the past. We will all make mistakes again in the future. But let us not surrender to cynicism that seeks to justify limiting our evangelism and church-planting only to those of our own culture, avoiding the challenge and discomfort of cross-cultural mission, because people from all nations need Christ. Christ has commanded us, “make disciples of all nations”, and has encouraged us with this vision of a wonderful future that he is creating, when “people from every nation” will sing together, “Salvation belongs to our God”.
RICHARD COEKIN is Executive Director of Co-Mission and Senior Pastor of Dundonald Church, Raynes Park.
Christians are called by God into communities, in which there is real unity in the midst of diversity:
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11) We are called to reflect - and celebrate - the diversity of our multicultural city. The importance of this is seen more clearly when we realise that one day, we will take our place amongst the "great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9-10). We will stand in the very presence of God, rejoicing in our salvation. That will be a wonderful day! And God intends for this future to shape the way we live today. Within Co-Mission, we rejoice that God has been saving and gathering increasingly diverse groups of people who congregate in an impressively diverse range of churches. Our network is enriched by having professionals and creatives, students and pensioners, West Africans and Koreans, meeting in Anglican and Independent churches on inner city estates and in spacious suburbs all over London. We praise God for His goodness in bringing us all together. We rightly rejoice because we know that the gospel is for all people: Jesus died to save people from every nation regardless of age, social class, ethnicity, or any other potential dividing barrier. However, let’s not be too quick to pat ourselves on the back and relax. Building truly diverse gospel communities is a supernatural work which requires prayerful intentionality from all of us. This cannot be a passing fad for Co-Mission. It deserves the same attentive dedication that royal gardens require; destructive diseases and unsightly weeds will spoil our communities if left unattended. What kind of diversity do we seek? There are different ways diversity can be expressed, not all of them are healthy or Biblical. Let's consider three models of diversity as different types of food: bento boxes, tomato soup, and roast dinners.
BENTO BOXES: SOCIAL SEPARATION
Captain Patrick Zevo in the 1992 film Toys expresses the sentiment well when he complained: "I can’t even eat. The food keeps touching. I like military plates, I'm a military man, I want a military meal. I want my string beans to be quarantined! I like a little fortress around my mashed potatoes so the meatloaf doesn't invade my mashed potatoes and cause mixing in my plate! I HATE IT when food touches!" With bento, the rice, meat and vegetables occupy separate compartments in the box. These ingredients occupy the same space but walls of separation exist between them and each dish can be eaten separately if desired. This is the type of diversity typically seen in London - people from different cultures occupying the same space but often not mixing socially.
TOMATO SOUP: SINGLE DOMINANT CULTURE
Jamie Oliver reckons a good tomato soup contains carrots, celery, onions, garlic and basil. But by definition, the dominant flavour is tomato. By the time the other ingredients are chopped, boiled and blended with the tomato their distinctive contributions can no longer be discerned, and the absence of one or two of these auxiliary ingredients may not be missed. This type of diversity can sadly be in multi-ethnic churches which still end up being mono-cultural. It’s easy to look around with satisfaction that the congregation contains people with different skin tones, yet to miss the fact that the church is dominated by a single culture because it is made up of people who have gone to the same schools and universities or who work in similar jobs. The existence of an overwhelmingly dominant culture can mean that the church fails to attract, retain and be enriched by people from different backgrounds. They may not even realise there’s anything wrong because the basil and celery are part of the church too. 10
ROAST DINNERS: TRULY MULTICULTURAL
Roast dinners are a genius invention! Carrots, broccoli, parsnips, potatoes, meat and yorkshire puds smooshed together on a single plate and drowned in gravy. No walls of separation. No single dominant flavour. The potatoes can’t avoid rubbing shoulders with the carrots and the yorkshires are virtually on top of the meat. Roast dinners represent a healthy multicultural community because each ingredient is given room to shine and enrich the whole meal. We may have a particular love for the parsnips or broccoli, but we notice if the potatoes or carrots are missing. The key ingredient of any roast dinner is the meat, right? And in a truly diverse gospel community, the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God will take this central place (and if you will excuse the analogy), the gospel gravy of God’s grace will flavour and unite our spiritual fellowship. Christian churches are called to be roast dinners. But for this to happen we must overcome a number of barriers. Abandoning the analogy for a moment, let’s be explicit about what roast dinner diversity entails. It requires more that simply having people of different ages, ethnicities and cultures attend our church meetings. It requires more than having these diverse peoples contribute to the life of the church in significant ways. Even more than that, within truly diverse gospel communities we open up our hearts and our lives to people from different backgrounds to us. It involves truly knowing them and being known by them: hopes and fears, struggles and concerns, joys and sorrows. It involves worshipping our wise Creator by celebrating the ways He’s made us different from one another. It involves worshipping our loving Saviour for making us His children and uniting us together in His family. Or to put it another way: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves… Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality… Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:9-16)
Why is “roast dinner diversity” so difficult to achieve? Roast dinner diversity is desirable but difficult to achieve because of the many barriers and obstacles which must be overcome, both within our churches and as we seek to reach unbelievers from different cultures.
OBSTACLE ONE: CONTENTMENT WITH TOMATO SOUP DIVERSITY In churches where there is a single dominant culture, people from subdominant cultures are expected to conform to the norms of the prevailing culture and are not encouraged to contribute in significant ways to church life. In this environment, people from subdominant cultures, tend to respond in one of three ways: Embracers: People in this group readily conform to the existing church culture. Often this happens with new Christians, who are hungry for mature Christian role models. However, they confuse Christlikeness with the dominant culture and end up changing what they wear, how they speak and where they socialise in order to fit in. As a result, though the church appears diverse, it remains mono-cultural tomato soup. Partial Embracers: People in this group are cultural chameleons. Like people who speak more than one language, they adapt easily depending on whether they are at church or at home with friends and family. Within tomato soup churches, partial embracers are not given the opportunity to contribute significantly to church life and do not feel known by church members. Their closest relationships are with people outside the church who appreciate their home culture. Rejecters: People in this group will not remain in tomato soup churches for very long (if they come at all). Or they will look for a church where the dominant culture is closer to their own (carrot soup anyone?). Some end up walking away from church altogether. When asked, they may say that church isn’t for them. If churches are to move from tomato soup to roast dinner diversity, they will need to be intentional about appreciating the uniqueness of the subdominant cultures and encouraging them to be expressed within the church community. Of course, individuals are free to fully embrace a culture different from their own. But this shouldn’t be because they mistakenly associate Christian maturity with the dominant culture. Tomato soup churches also need to avoid inviting people from subdominant cultures to contribute in only superficial ways. Their service as small group leaders and within ministry teams is likely to be more valuable than their culinary contributions to the potluck supper. For this to happen, often we’ll need to overcome our personal prejudices.
OBSTACLE TWO: PERSONAL PREJUDICE Prejudice based on gender, ethnicity, class and culture is sadly part of the air we breathe. All of us have been infected. I remember when our A-Level results were published at school. One guy expressed his surprise at my grade because he assumed I was stupid either because of my colour or my sporting ability. But I’m also guilty. I remember being shocked when I saw an Australian man with long blonde hair giving a university lecture. Certain soap operas had trained me to associate that look with unintelligent surfers. It is common to belittle and patronise people unintentionally. We often use a different tone of voice with children which we might also use with people from a different ethnic group. We might complete their sentences rather than listening patiently. These actions may seem innocent but they may communicate pride and disrespect for others. An unspoken hierarchy exists in our hearts which governs how much value we place on different people and how much respect we afford them. The wealthy, university educated businessman is usually treated with greater respect than the working class mum. Why is this? Prejudice in churches is not a new thing: My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4) But it remains a hindrance to building diverse gospel communities. When visitors to church perceive that they are being treated differently based on their age, colour, class, or culture, they may come to the conclusion that church is not for them. On the other hand, treating people who often feel marginalised in a manner that makes them feel welcome, providing stair-free access, large print Bibles, loops for hearing aids, and handrails in toilets, goes a long way. Prejudice can be subtle, so it’s important we find appropriate ways to invite people to share with us examples of when they’ve felt marginalised or discriminated against inside or outside of church. This is a painful process which requires much patience, but our church communities need to become a safe space to address legitimate concerns. God isn’t surprised by our sinful prejudices but He does call us to repent of them. Therefore, we need to ask God to reveal to us our failures and help us change.
At the same time, it’s valuable to remember that no ethnic or socio-economic group is monolithic. Therefore, no matter how much we learn, we need to relate to people as individuals, rather than making assumptions based on their ethnicity or accent.
OBSTACLE THREE: INADEQUATE PERSONAL CARE If we are to love sincerely as Romans 12:9-16 calls us to, we’ll need to know and take seriously the challenges and concerns of subdominant groups within our churches. James does in James 5:1-10; he addresses the socio-economic realities faced by his audience and has a specific message for each group. For many in London, unfair prejudice has a significant impact on their daily lives: education, employment, housing, healthcare, policing, to name a few areas, are all affected. Christians need their brothers and sisters to help them deal with the challenges and trauma they face. They need help to respond in godly ways. This can only happen if we make an effort to get to know people well. It’s also important that the same traumatic situations encountered elsewhere are not also regularly occurring in church.
OBSTACLE FOUR: REACHING UNBELIEVERS According to London City Mission, roughly one in three Londoners (2.5 million people) don't have a Christian friend to invite them to church or with whom they could read the Bible. Many are separated by language and culture, they're trapped in their home or don't have one, they’re without opportunity because of poverty, family breakdown or mental health issues. In the UK as a whole, 81% of practising Christians have a university degree compared with 27% of the population. Reaching them will require us to venture outside of our local areas and social groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It will require us to go and give support to planting new churches in London. It will require the training and support of diverse leaders who are already part of the communities deprived of Christian witness. Faithful approaches to evangelism are necessarily culturally conditioned (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). Therefore, we need to be careful that our preferred methods of evangelism don’t unintentionally exclude the people we are seeking to reach. To put it crudely, Christianity Explored with wine and cheese may be off-putting to those who’d prefer sandwiches and soft drinks. It makes sense to employ a diversity of evangelistic methods in order to reach diverse groups of people. It’s also worth noting how different groups socialise. For example, it is common in some settings to get to know new people by asking a series of questions: “What’s your name? What do you do? Where do you live?” In the end, someone who is not used to this form of interrogation may feel categorised
rather than known and valued. In other cultures, it’s more usual to treat strangers as family members even before their name is known. If that seems too much, it might be better to ask questions like, “How’s it going? Have you come from far?” and then volunteer information about ourselves, leaving room for the individual to share as much or as little as they feel comfortable with. In other words, we need to be flexible and try new methods, even if they feel unfamiliar to us.
OBSTACLE FIVE: CHRISTIAN HISTORY AND POWER DYNAMICS Once as I was trying to witness to a Caribbean man in Brixton, I was met with this response: “How dare you as a Black man talk to me about Jesus! Don’t you know your history?!” On another occasion a woman asked me, “Why does God hate Black people?” What is going on here? For many people of African or Asian heritage, Christianity is associated with slavery, colonialism and racism. And sadly not all of their accusations are false. Allow me to list a few examples: • In 1452, Pope Nicholas V authorised the enslavement of non-Christians and the seizure of their lands by Europeans • In the 19th century, slave masters used the Bible to justify their cruelty towards African slaves • Even Christian abolitionists embraced ideas of European racial and cultural superiority versus African inferiority • Similarly, all over the world, labour of missionaries seemed to go hand in hand with colonial powers, and amongst them there was a shared disdain for non-European cultures Awareness of this history has led many to conclude that Christianity is a tool for Anglo-American cultural and political domination. They are unaware that according to Acts 8, Christianity reached East Africa before it reached Europe or that some of the leading theologians in the early church (such as Tertullian, Athanasius and Augustine) were North African. But perhaps more important than arguments from history is the establishment of more diverse gospel communities in which different cultures are respected and celebrated - this is a powerful witness to the gospel that unifies us. Recognising these barriers to true diversity can be daunting. However, rather than feel paralysed by them, each of us can play a part in moving our churches in the right direction. Here are a few ideas:
ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS
We must regularly ask ourselves some tough questions as individuals, within our churches, and as a network: - How diverse are the relationships within our church? Are my friendship groups monocultural? - How well does our church reflect the diversity of our local area? Who are we unintentionally excluding? - Which unreached communities can we reach by planting new churches? Who should go and who should give to make this plant a reality?
As Christians we are loved and accepted in Christ, but not yet completely free from sin. These facts should humble us and free us to be honest about our failure and confess them to God. Why not ask God now to reveal to you examples of sinful prejudice in your own life or discrimination in your church? It is good to confess our personal sins and to seek God’s pardon for our collective failures.
Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to transform our attitudes towards people as we meditate on Bible passages like Genesis 1:2631, Philippians 2:1-11, Colossians 3:1-17, and Revelation 7:4-17.
UNITY AND DIVERSITY
BEFRIEND AND LISTEN
Is there someone in your church from a different culture you can begin building a relationship with? It may be worth being upfront about your desire to get to know different people better. However, you’ll need to work hard to avoid making people feel like they’re an exotic plant undergoing scientific investigation! Begin slow, build trust, and ask for permission before enquiring about their experiences as a member of a subdominant group.
As you listen and learn and read and grow, ask God to show you if there are specific things that you or your church can do to reach people who are not currently being reached. Pray for God to bring them not just into your church building but also into your friendship groups and home. Building diverse gospel communities is desirable but difficult. It requires focus, hard work, persistence, repentance and forgiveness. However, Ephesians 2 reminds us that unity in diversity is not only desirable but is already our reality because of Christ’s work of reconciliation. Let’s walk in this gospel reality with humility and joy.
FELIX AREMO is Assistant Pastor at Brixton Local Church (BLoC).
A NEW SERIES OF VIDEOS F E AT U R I N G C O - M I S S I O N P L A N T E R S , PA S T O R S , S TA F F A N D F R I E N D S CO-MISSION.ORG/ARTICLES
THE FIRST BIG DECISION WAS WHAT TO CALL THE CHURCH. Names are not everything, but names matter. Names mean something, they say something about what you are about, they say something about the people who make up the church and they say something to the people in the community. Names can be immediately off-putting or appealing. And names create first impressions and leave lasting impressions. So, although other things matter more, names still matter. I’d be more than a little embarrassed to show you the page in my notebook dedicated to ‘name-storming’. Even more embarrassed if you saw the white board scribbles and post-its that once covered the walls of my office. But as Kevin Croft (my co-planter and Vauxhall based London City Mission-ary) and I batted ideas around we soon realised that it was necessary to sift through a massive amount of rubbish before we would hit gold. It meant that nothing was off the table; the meeting room was a safe-place to suggest stupid ideas. This article however, is not! We ended up with Hope Church Vauxhall. Hardly mind-blowing I realise. But that’s kind of the point. The creative in me wanted a clever hipster name. Something that would sound more like a Shoreditch coffee shop or a clever hashtag than a place of worship. But the need of the community rightly won over. Vauxhall is not Shoreditch. And the Vauxhall Park Gardens estate, where our church building is situated and our ministry will be focused, is certainly not. Vauxhall is a predominantly white working-class area. Social housing far outweighs both rentable properties and privately owned homes. Though sky-high council flats are uncommon the area is highly residential with four or five story blocks making up the majority of the estate. In much of the estate, particularly among the white working-class but also within the black community there is an inbuilt respect for the church. People value transparency, integrity and simplicity. Shame culture trumps guilt and family allegiances rule. There are pockets of the estate where everyone knows everyone’s business, and has done so for forty years. And most of all, you’re far more likely to hang out at a chicken shop than a coffee shop.
What was needed was something short and sweet, something that would avoid unnecessary jargon but be clear about who we were and what we were about. And it needed to sound like a church – not a 90s boyband. More than that, it was a church for Vauxhall – place matters. This wasn’t going to be some commuter community – but a genuine local church. It’s a lot to ask from a name, but we were up for the challenge. And as the post-its slowly fell to the floor, one hipster hashtag at a time, one word began to stand out. Hope. It didn’t take too long to realise we had our name. So why hope? Simply put, it made sense. More than that, it is something that they genuinely want and know that they need. It’s not overtly Christian, we all need hope, though where we look for it will undoubtedly differ. It’s ordinary everyday language that actually means something. It’s an aspiration, an ambition, an expectation even. At its most basic it speaks simply of a dream for a better future. A life with a happier outcome. But for us, as a body of believers becoming a church in Vauxhall, it means so much more. Whereas on the estate hope is in league with finger-crossing and touching wood, for us Hope has a different face. The face of Jesus. Because Christian hope, the hope of the gospel, is a million miles from uncertainty. It is absolute confidence, complete certainty in something better, something awesome in the future. Our hope, Christian hope, is placed in the God who keeps his promises, whose Word never fails and who does what he says he will do. And who, in Jesus Christ has done, finished, smashed, completed, what was necessary for this certain hope. And so we had our name - Hope Church Vauxhall. It says something positive to the estate. But it means something greater to the church. In another life I might have found myself working in design and advertising, and having an eye for design has been an unexpected bonus for starting a church from scratch. Being a visual person the branding of Hope Church Vauxhall was probably noticeably higher on my list of church planting essentials – perhaps, if I’m honest, higher than it should have been. When it came to design and branding we wanted something that would look and feel like Vauxhall. So, squeezed between meeting with the growing launch team, prayer (a planting non-negotiable) and getting stuck into the ongoing ministry of London City Mission in the area, my ‘market research’ began. My ‘market research’ consisted of wandering around the estate and heading to all the places where people hang out. Though Vauxhall lacks a traditional high-street, the Vauxhall Gardens Estate does have a central crossroads with a dog-groomers, newsagents, and an internet café (Solomon’s) where many locals sit for hours and hours people watching (it
is, without doubt, the place to go to find out what’s going on). But, at 3:30 and 9:30 there is one place to be - Tennessee Express: Vauxhall’s finest fried chicken shop. All these shops shaped our branding, the no-nonsense all-caps friendly but thick font quickly found its way into the logo. But Tennessee Express, and more widely the ever growing Chicken Shop culture of South London, was the driving force. Since reading this my wife has gently reminded me that the fast-food direction was her idea, though I’m not convinced. However, I reckon there is a pretty good chance that we are the first church to model its branding on a fried chicken shop. Our colour scheme jumped of the menu. You won’t find “Chicken-shop Red" in Farrow and Ball but it quickly made its way into our design. As did “Chicken-shop blue”, “Chicken-shop yellow” and “Chicken-shop white”. The rest of the design quickly fell into place, with help from our Co-Mission partners and ‘mother church’ The Globe and their gifted digital media man James. Because location is so key we wanted Vauxhall to be more than a side-note. Not only this but we also were aware of the dangers of location making the church sound like a franchise (just ask any member of a ‘Christchurch’, ‘Grace church’ or ‘Cornerstone’). From this desire came our Hope Church V, that sits snuggly behind the word Hope and creates the dual impression of both locating Hope in Vauxhall like a google maps pin, and launching hope from Vauxhall in an unintentionally Superman-esq fashion. The result (though I say so myself) is a bold and clear brand that stands out. God-willing, the people in Vauxhall Gardens Estate will see it and note it. The long term London City Mission Christian witness in Vauxhall will have a new and noticeable facelift. The church that will soon be meeting in this place will have a name that says something about who we are and what we do. Something that reminds us that we are a body whose focus is to know and love and to preach Jesus, the message of hope in the heart of Vauxhall.
However, all this is just packaging. And, though you might choose which gift to unwrap first based on the quality of the wrapping paper it is soon scrunched-up on the floor, being chewed by the dog. The reality is that understanding Vauxhall, getting to know the place and the people has driven so many decisions. Because, though the Bible is clear on so many things about what church is (a local body not a lovely building for starters) and how it should run, God has generously given us freedom to work out what that looks like in a particular place in the world and at a particular time in history. Although it is vital that we don’t shift from, change or reject the non-negotiable objective truths of the Gospel that first saved us and now compel us to plant churches, it is equally vital that we remember that every time Gospel truth is communicated it is done so within a particular context. This is no more obvious than when planting a church. I can’t pretend to be a local lad from Vauxhall Gardens Estate, nor a single mum from Ethelred. But I can work as hard as possible to do what I can to step into their trainers. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians models this brilliantly when he speaks of becoming ‘all things to all people, that by all means I might save some’. When it comes to church planting, faithful and biblical understanding of the context is key. And this principle has shaped almost all of our decisions. Becoming all things to all people means that we don’t go the pub with the best selection of craft beers but the one where the lads on the estate drink and work. It shapes what I wear during the week and will shape what I wear to preach on a Sunday. My wardrobe looks significantly different now than it did six months ago. It shapes the language I use (within reason), the shops I go to, the barber I choose, and where I buy my lunch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly Hudson Taylor learning Mandarin and growing a pointy beard to reach Shanghai, but in Vauxhall I (a middle class midlander) am an outsider – and this stuff matters. When we start meeting as a church on Sundays and in the week it will shape the timing and style of the service. It will shape the language in our liturgy, the style and fonts of our service sheets, the taste of our coffee. It will shape the songs that we sing (and the ones that we don’t). It will shape the food that we eat together. It will shape the way that I preach, shaping the style without swapping the substance or message.
And we will have to keep learning. This stuff isn’t simply preplant research that is left at the launch. Shaping our ministry will be an ongoing art. This will mean continuous buy-in and hard work from the church family. Where possible the whole church will be involved in door-to-door work on the estate – a vital ministry to ensure we know the community and they know us. We will aim to be out in the community far more than we are gathered in our building. Over the next ten years Vauxhall will likely change significantly and the redevelopment of Oval, Nine Elms and even Battersea sends gentrification-shaped ripple effects into the area. If we are to be a church in Vauxhall for Vauxhall we need to be well prepared for that change. I’m buzzing for the start of Hope Church Vauxhall. Our first teaching series is in the book of Philippians, a letter to a church plant that was started when God opened the heart of God-fearing woman named Lydia and she responded to Paul’s message of hope. God has been really gracious in the last few months and, thanks to the ongoing work of London City Mission we are pretty likely to have a scattering of Lydialike non-believers at our first Sunday gathering. So pray for us. Pray for Vauxhall. Pray that as we plant Hope Church in the heart of the place, the message of hope will be planted in the hearts of the people. Why not join me in praying Paul's prayer in Philippians 1, both for the faithful sacrificial hopeful Christians in the launch team and the in-need-of-hope men, women and children who live, work and play in Vauxhall. "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."
SAM GIBB is a church planter currently at Globe Church, Southbank, and (as you've just read) is launching Hope Church Vauxhall on Sunday 2nd September 2018. hopevauxhall.co.uk
As we start meeting as a church, my challenge to our launch team will be this - get ready to get uncomfortable. Because Hope Church Vauxhall is not just for them - and if they love almost all of it there is a good chance that locals will love very little of it.
In our new OPEN HAND commitment, Co-Mission churches have agreed to consider how we may better engage in cross-cultural mission in London and around the world. PLANT The Senior Pastors and Senior Elders of all our Co-Mission churches have agreed that we do not want to treat cross-cultural mission in London and to the world like the proverbial “sore thumb". Rather we want each of our churches to prayerfully consider how they can build upon what they are currently doing by offering a generous Open Hand to people from all nations in five related ways:
Hebrews says, “do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” and Romans says, “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you”! So in the first of our OPEN HAND commitments to cross-cultural mission, Co-Mission churches are each considering how they can better WELCOME people from diverse nationalities and cultures into the life and love of our church families, so that they can be saved for joy in God.
In Acts 11 we read: “Then Barnabus went to Tarsus to look for Paul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch”. It’s important to recognise when we need help from others who are better equipped than ourselves to reach a particular community. So in the second of our OPEN HAND commitments to cross-cultural mission, our Co-Mission churches are each considering whether they could accept help from a mission agency with experience of reaching people whom we are failing to reach, and therefore to HOST a suitable cross-cultural gospel-worker, because mission is always a team game!
We read in Acts of Jesus commissioning his disciples to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” and of how they first resolved to take the gospel beyond the Jews to other cultures, “some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus”. So in the third of our OPEN HAND commitments to cross-cultural mission, Co-Mission churches are each considering how we can help to PLANT churches into a diverse variety of communities (often called “diaspora” communities) in London. Although it’s often more difficult and costly to plant into cultures other than our own, especially those that are poorer or religiously resistant, we recognise that Jesus has not suggested but commanded us to make disciples of “all nations”!
Paul, the Apostle of Christ to the nations, writes, “...there’s no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. How then can they call on the one they’ve not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they’ve not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” So in the fourth of our OPEN HAND commitments to cross-cultural mission, Co-Mission churches are each considering who they could SEND to support God’s mission around the world: whether by visiting mission partners to encourage them, joining a short-term mission trip to experience the joys of gospel work in a different culture, or by encouraging some to approach a mission agency to explore long-term mission abroad. This will probably mean sending some who we might have encouraged to serve our own churches in London, to train for going to serve abroad instead. For although Co-Mission is a mission focussed upon London, we want the churches we plant and strengthen to be spiritually healthy enough to care about God’s Kingdom far and wide!
P R AY
The Apostle Paul, Jesus’ lead evangelist, church-planter and cross-cultural missionary to the nations, was well aware that success in gospel ministry can only come from God in answer to prayer. He told the arrogant Corinthians, “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow”. Indeed, he was deeply conscious of his own need for prayer. He wrote from prison, “…pray for us too that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” He asks for prayer for open doors, not to get out of prison but for cross-cultural evangelism! So in the fifth of our OPEN HAND commitments to cross-cultural mission, Co-Mission churches are each considering how we can make dependent prayer central to our cross-cultural mission and PRAY for people from every nation to be reached for Christ. These OPEN HAND commitments are hardly rocket science – rather an effort to co-operate and develop further what most of our churches are already doing. The vision given in Revelation 7 is a massive encouragement that these OPEN HAND commitments are what God’s Spirit is already empowering across the world – saving people in London and across the world from every nation to the glory of God!
CAFE WELCOME TO THE CO-MISSION MINISTRY THAT HAS REACHED OVER 35 NATIONS IN THE LAST FIFTEEN YEARS
WHAT MIGHT AN EVENING SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?
Co-Mission churches have been involved in running International CafĂ¨s for more than fifteen years. We currently have cafĂ¨s running on Friday evenings in Mayfair, Tuesday evenings in Kingston and Wimbledon, and English Conversation on Friday mornings in Raynes Park, as well as a variety of other international Bible study groups. The concept is really simple - provide a friendly welcoming place for internationals living in London, put on some food and entertainment, and make sure you have a few native English speakers for them to talk to. Use the time to build friendships, help with English vocabulary and pronunciation, and take the opportunity to explain what Christianity is really about.
7. 3 0 P M Tea and coffee 8PM GAMES 8 .3 0 P M FOOD 9PM S I M P L E B I B L E TA L K 9.30PM INFORMAL DISCUSSION GROUPS SIMPLE!
WHY BOTHER? When was the last time you were able to share your faith or explain the gospel? At a cafè that can happen every week, which is a huge encouragement .Of course we don’t see people become Christians every week, but there have been at least five in the last eighteen months. And we have heard heart-warming news of students who gave their lives to Jesus having returned home, and then started to share their new found faith with internationals in their own city. Co-Mission is probably reaching out to around fifty students each week. They come from more than thirty-five different countries, some of those are closed to gospel workers. Excitingly, we can speak
to them freely in our own language. But there are at least 100,000 international students in London, plus many more au pairs and young people visiting for a short time to learn English. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they all returned home with fond memories of London, with a few funny English idioms under their belts, and with a saving faith in the Lord Jesus?
MARK VERNON has just finished his work as Missions Co-ordinator for Co-Mission. He and his wife Mands are moving out to the Gambia this summer to embark on long term mission with Crosslinks.
We aim to reach internationals in South West London, Kingston specifically, who are here either for a long time or a short time, to help them learn English, build friendships, but most of all to share the gospel with them. We’ve had people from well over thirty-five nationalities. There is a great need in London for the kind of friendship that we provide. People tend to come either because there are free English lessons and they can’t afford them, or because they’re lonely. Often both. So it’s a wonderful way of offering people that service as well as then sharing the gospel with them. It’s an incredibly welcoming environment for you to find a place you can call home and build friendships with other people in the same situation. As Britain internationally is perceived as less welcoming to foreigners, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to show that actually as a church, we are open to all nations.
PIM PIERS runs International Cafè at Cornerstone Church, Kingston
Find out more about Co-Mission international cafes, including links to help out, or consider starting your own: co-mission.org/mission
L I Z Z I E S TA N D R I N G , F R O M S T P E T E R ' S F U L H A M , A N D J O E S T E P H E N S O N , F R O M D U N D O N A L D C H U R C H , R AY N E S PA R K , H AV E J U S T R E T U R N E D F R O M S H O R T T E R M M I S S I O N T R I P S W I T H O U R O P E N H A N D M I S S I O N PA R T N E R , C R O S S L I N K S . HERE ARE THEIR REFLECTIONS:
WHAT WERE YOUR EXPECTATIONS, AND HOW WERE THEY CHALLENGED?
JS: I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest. I didn’t really know what exactly I was getting myself into. If you had told me a year before I went that I would be doing some short-term mission work at a Bible college in Chile, I would have thought you weren’t being serious. Also, I think I imagined that I would be completely out of my depth alongside a load of 40+ Bible gurus. However, that was far from reality, as I saw that these are just ordinary people from lots of different backgrounds, some recent graduates similar to myself, who just really want to be equipped to teach the gospel in their hometowns or abroad, and that we are all students of the Bible really. Also, I felt at ease really quickly and I was able to form some strong relationships with the students there, which I never imagined I would when I started! LS: I thought teaching would be a lot easier than it was. I actually found teaching really tricky at the start because I lacked confidence and was still adjusting to the new culture. However I came to love it and found saying goodbye really hard.
WHERE DID YOU GO ON YOUR MISSION TRIP AND WHAT DID YOU DO?
Joe Stephenson: As part of my Spanish studies at Durham University, I had a year abroad in which I spent 7 months in Santiago, the capital of Chile. I was there on a short-term mission with Crosslinks, and I spent the majority of my time at a Bible college called Centro de Estudios Pastorales (Centre for Pastoral Studies), or CEP. My main task was to assist the teachers at the Bible college with their admin, especially helping to kick-start a new online registration system for all the teachers to access; however, I also took a few of the classes in Spanish, and just got involved with life at the college and got to know all the students really well.
I also expected to find talking to Muslims about Jesus really challenging and scary in a 90% Muslim country. I didn't feel I knew enough about Islam and so I didn't want to talk to people about Jesus. During the mission week I had incredible chats with five Muslim girls and I learnt so much more about Islam. I also got so excited telling them about Jesus, turning my expectations upside down.
Lizzie Standring: I went to The Gambia, west coast of Africa for 4 and half months from January-May 2018. I was part of a team of 10 people, 5 girls and 3 boys (school leavers) and two team leaders. We were teaching in schools. I was placed in a lovely Christian primary school called Agape where I taught English and Christian studies. We were also part of a local church called NCBC helping out with a children's club on Sundays and the youth group. We also did outreach in the local slum community called Kotu quarry every Sunday afternoon as well as partnering with GAMFES (the equivalent of UCCF) to run a missions week in the University of Gambia.
HOW DID THIS MISSION TRIP CHALLENGE AND ENCOURAGE YOUR FAITH?
JS: I think the most encouraging thing for me was just seeing that the gospel isn’t a UK thing or even an English-speaking thing, but a global thing, and that the same true message of Jesus was having the same impact the other side of the world. It can be quite easy to get trapped in a British bubble, and forget that actually we have brothers and sisters in Christ of all nations and languages. Seeing my Chilean friends really engage with the Bible was really inspiring, and seeing the strength of their challenged me a lot to think about my own relationship with Christ. LS: Before my gap year I didn't want to share my faith or be bold at school. Although I still struggle with this, spending four months getting to grips with God’s Word for myself (having to lead Bible studies) and sharing it with others has hugely encouraged me in my faith. Being far from home forced me to depend on the Lord rather than my family which was really hard but really good for me in establishing new patterns. E.g. I've learnt to pray more about things I'm worried about before taking things to my mum.
HAS THIS TRIP CHANGED YOUR OUTLOOK WHEN THINKING ABOUT YOUR PRIORITIES AND AMBITIONS?
JS: Yes definitely. I think it gave me a more servant-hearted attitude, especially because there was a real focus on that at my Church in Santiago. That attitude can manifest itself in a whole variety of ways, in church, in work, in sport. Now when I think about what I want to be doing in the future, whatever it may be, my number one priority should be, am I living for Christ, serving Him, and glorifying Him in what I am doing. That is the most important thing, everything else is secondary to that.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE THINKING ABOUT DOING A GAP YEAR OR A SHORT TERM MISSION TRIP?
JS: Pray, chat about it with people, but basically just go for it. The thought is always much scarier than the reality. It is truly amazing to look back and see what God has done in your life over your time serving abroad. I have the privilege of being able to say that, and whilst the race is certainly not over, I now have so much more to be thankful for. I hope that will be the case for many of you too! Also, you will no doubt get to visit some incredible places! LS: Do it. There will be some genuinely tough times but it is an absolute joy to serve in a new culture, to learn and grow in so many ways both in maturity being away from home but also spiritually. I was opening up God’s Word every day and it was so precious to have the time to get stuck in and be reminded of incredible truths and how unchanging our Heavenly Father is. Doing a gap year with Crosslinks has given me a genuine excitement to tell others about Jesus which I didn't have before as I was too ashamed. You get to have lots of fun adventures: we had an epic four day boat trip, visited crocodile parks, went camel riding, slept in tree houses, and day trips crossing the border into Senegal. All this as well as being taught from God’s Word along with like minded people your age who will be such an encouragement and blessing to you. It's a no brainer!
Co-Mission would love to see more of our young people in our network serving the Lord in ways like this. If you are interested in finding out more about opportunities to serve abroad, have a chat with your pastor, small group leader or youth group leader, and take a look at mission trips organised by Crosslinks, Serving in Mission and Africa Inland Mission.
LS: Yes. A priority of mine post-gap year is telling other people about Jesus. It's great that mission can happen wherever you are and so I'm thinking about how I can evangelise at Bristol university. My gap year has given me much more of a service mindset and I am looking forward to getting stuck in to my new church in Bristol.
B R E A K FAST Join us for our termly World Mission Vision breakfasts for Co-Mission churches. World Mission Vision Breakfasts are great opportunities to talk and learn about mission opportunities, hear from Co-Mission mission partners in the field, and connect with our partner mission organisations. SIGN UP FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEXT BREAKFAST
Imagine you walk into a church in a different culture and a different ethnicity. The people here donâ€™t speak your language. They all look alike, dress alike and understand each other. You find it hard to tell them apart; hard to pronounce names. They speak quickly and ask you questions that you canâ€™t answer. You would dearly love to be with Christians from your own culture - but that option is not available to you. Because there are only a few people like you in the whole world.
AT S T R E AT H A M C E N T R A L CHURCH, WORKING IN PA R T N E R S H I P W I T H LONDON CITY MISSION, GOD HAS PROVIDED US WITH AN OPPORTUNITY TO REACH OUT TO ONE OF THE LEAST REACHED N AT I O N S I N T H E WO R L D SOMALIA. Somalia is the fifth most common language spoken by Streatham residents, and Streatham as an area attracts Somalis from across the capital. The average Somali will tell you that there are no Somali Christians. According to Operation World, Christians make up 35,000 people living in Somalia (~4,250 evangelicals). The remaining 9.5 million people are almost all Muslims. Open Doors puts Somalia at number two on their World Watch List for most persecuted churches. Christian converts are often killed on the spot when they are discovered. Others are forced into marriage. Imagine being part of this tiny, isolated group of Christians and rejected or threatened by such a large portion of the population. The persecution doesn’t stop at the Somali border but follows people here to the UK. For a Muslim Somali to become a Christian is not just a lifestyle choice. It means giving up everything. Believers have to seriously hold onto Jesus’ promise that, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29). We have heard stories of houses burnt down and others who have had their legs broken. And every Somali Christian speaks of the regular phone calls they have telling them to re-join Islam. So, it is a fragile privilege which we hold carefully that two Somali Christians have joined us. Jesus promised them brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and we need to be that family for them. So, we spend a lot of time working out how best to disciple the Somalis we know and actively reach the unreached on our doorstep.
HOW CAN THEY BELIEVE UNLESS THEY HEAR?
Our connection as a church with Somalis in the area started years before we even planted, when one church member first walked into a Somali cafè to take time to speak with Somalis and look for ways to share the gospel. Years on, and he’s still doing this ministry, happily patting his ‘evangelism belly’, the result of generous Somali portions. One of the most obvious lessons we’ve learnt is that if we don’t go to them, Somalis aren’t going to come to us. Therefore, we’ve had to consciously “reach the unreached” by going to where Somalis are - typically the shops and cafés in the area known as Somali Town. Through connections built up here, we began to visit the homes of some of the Somali community. You quickly learn too that most Somalis have come to the UK bringing a lot of hurt and painful memories with them from their motherland. Somalia has been torn apart in recent years by civil war, tribal factions and terrorism. One day, visiting a local Somali lady’s house the impact of Al-Shabaab’s attacks on people in our area really brought home to me. She explained that only the previous day, a car bomb in Mogadishu had killed a member of her family along with many relatives and friends of people she knew. Sometimes Somalis are fearful of being associated with Westerners or Christians, and the idea of having Christians in their home could bring shame on them and their family. But they still need to hear the gospel. So, we’ve set up a book table giving out Bibles in different languages (especially the languages of local Muslims), which provides a great opportunity to discuss what the Bible really says. This is often less intimidating than coming to the home of a Christian, especially for women who can be fearful of their husbands finding out. Through this work, many Somalis have been given the precious gift of Jesus’ words in their own language – the first opportunity to hear the truth about Jesus. Christian-Muslim discussion events run at the local mosques have provided a good opportunity to go deeper with those we wouldn’t normally get the chance to meet from local mosque communities. Both a Christian and Muslim speaker addresses a topic, such as, “Who is Jesus?” whilst attendees can then ask questions and discuss amongst themselves. This provides a unique chance to challenge Islamic thinking about the Bible to a larger group, and to find people who are open to exploring more.
Unfortunately, wherever the gospel is preached, the devil is there to distort it: Visiting a café, one man told us of a dream where he supposedly met ‘Jesus’. He asked him “Should I worship you?” and the dream-Jesus told him, “No - worship only Allah. Like you I am a follower of Mohammed.”
When Jimmy met him, he discovered that for them, ‘Christian’ means they had simply accepted a Western lifestyle and in particular, they like to drink strong liquor. It’s sad that these people are rejected by the community because they are known as ‘Christians’ and yet they haven’t begun to know Christ.
The biggest source of distortion comes, not surprisingly, from the weekly teaching of the mosque. At our last Christian-Muslim event, the Imam taught that the ordinary Muslim shouldn’t read the Bible as it might confuse them: “Leave it to the scholars!” he said. Of course, for some Somalis that will only be extra incentive to pick up a Bible, but we have seen many Somalis figuratively block their ears to the gospel because they believe it will taint their faith.
By far the greatest challenge we face as we evangelise to Somalis is, understandably, fear. I’d got to know a Somali woman who was fasting while preparing for a friend’s funeral. She asked if Christians do the same. I told her, “Of course we’re sad when a friend dies, but we don’t have to fast. In fact, we can celebrate, because Christians aren’t saved by what we do. When a Christian dies, we can be sure that they are safe with God.” Eager to know how this could be true, she was left with a Jesus DVD which tells the story of Jesus in Somali. However, despite her eagerness, when I tried to call her to meet up again, she never picked up the phone – even after many attempts.
A common attack on the gospel is that people confuse Christianity with being ‘Western’. Through the work of Jimmy Aitkenhead (a missionary with London City Mission based at Christ Church Mayfair), we met a Somali-Ugandan who excited us by calling himself a Christian and who says he knows of many Somalis in Streatham who are secretly believers.
This is not an isolated incident; many promising gospel conversations have been lost as we are shut out of people’s lives for fear of the life-changing implications of the gospel. Then there is the challenge of providing the family for those believers who have lost everything: How do we provide the same level of community as an ex-pat community speaking your native language? How do we provide for people suffering with mental health problems or who struggle through the grief of rejection by those closest to them? How do we disciple people at church with all of the cultural barriers between us? These challenges take time, prayer and perseverance.
We have had plenty of encouraging interactions - Somalis who would otherwise have no opportunity to hear the gospel have been given copies of the Bible in their own language or have been able to learn more about Jesus through discussions in cafés and at events. The greatest encouragement is the faithful witness of the few Somali Christians that we know, who are being bold with their families and friends and telling those close to them about Jesus. We discovered that one Somali Christian’s niece and nephew had been kidnapped from Africa and were trafficked over the Mediterranean and disappeared. When we heard this story, the church prayed that the children would be safe. Not long after, the children were found in Italy, and from there travelled to be safe with family in Norway. As terrible as this experience must have been, it opened up great conversations about Jesus with the children. This Somali believer’s love for Jesus has also encouraged another relative to read the Bible with me, when her fear is not overwhelming. Some members of the church offered a Somali Christian practical help filling in forms when it looked like he was about to be deported. Pragmatic help led him to trust us and attend our church and he has grown as a Christian as a result. It is also no exaggeration to say that this help probably saved his life. Mixed in amongst the hard-hearted debaters and those who are quick to reject us, there are always one or two people who are serious about trying to seek what is true and who are open to hearing more about Jesus. And of course, in an environment of fear, you can never be sure if the person who appears hardhearted really considers your argument persuasive but doesn’t want to look too keen.
In the Great Commission, Jesus says “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus says, “Go" Left to wander alone, which Somali would enter a church? But Jesus sends us out. His disciples aren’t supposed to wait around in Jerusalem, but to take his word to the ends of the earth (Acts 1). Jesus says, “… make disciples of all nations.” The book of Revelation paints a wonderful picture of a time when people from all tongues, tribes and nations sing "Salvation belongs to our God" (Revelation 7:910). This is the end vision that we are striving towards, knowing that Somalis too will joyfully sing to the Lord. No story speaks more internationally than the cross of Christ. To those who have lived through civil war, Jesus is the one who brings peace with God and reconciliation between tribal factions (Colossians 1:21-22; Galatians 3:26-28). Our God heals the nations (Revelation 22:2) and wipes away the tears from our eyes (21:4). Jesus is the one who transforms the legalist who thinks it right to persecute the church (Philippians 3:4-8). And he is the one who promises paradise to the most hopeless sinner (Luke 23:43). So, we preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23). A hundred years ago, the UK was one of the leading countries sending out missionaries to other nations. Now, we have the opportunity to do the same multinational mission without having to pack a suitcase. God has brought Somalis to Streatham for a purpose. They are here so that they would “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Many of the people we meet are desperately looking for a way out of Islam. And so, as a church we must fit our feet with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, to go, and take the message of reconciliation out to our neighbours in Streatham.
C H A R L O T T E M AY H E W is a member of Streatham Central Church. She works with women in Streatham from all sorts of different backgrounds and cultures and loves to open up discussion with them from the Bible.
“It is possible for the most obscure person in a church, with a heart right toward God, to exercise as much power for the evangelisation of the world, as it is for those who stand in the most prominent positions.” JOHN R. MOTT “The evangelisation of the world depends first upon a revival of prayer. Deeper than the need for workers; deeper far than the need for money; deep down at the bottom of our spiritual lives, is the need for the forgotten secret of prevailing, worldwide prayer.” R O B E RT S P E E R
A C A L L T O P R AY E R P R AY I N G F O R M U S L I M S
If you google ‘prayer London’, the first page of results isn’t a list of church prayer meetings, but rather a list of Muslim prayer times in mosques across the city. As far as Google is concerned, it seems, the main prayer going on in London is prayer, not to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but to Allah. In fact, now, during Ramadan, not only is there much prayer, but there is prayer and fasting amongst the over one million Muslims living in our city. How will God’s people respond to this? The challenge to pray is a very significant one for God’s people. Of course, we don’t pray in order to compete with another religion. But the reality of Muslim praying and fasting stands as a big challenge to God’s church in our city. After all, if a false religion motivates so many people to such an intense spirituality, how much more should we be motivated by the grace of God in the gospel? If the Qu’ran will move a Muslim to pray and fast, how will Jesus Christ impact us?
Yet, Ramadan and the intensity of Muslim prayer isn’t simply a challenge to pray in and of itself; it is also a challenge to pray for our Muslim neighbours. The impact of Islam in our city should awaken our compassion for our Muslim neighbours. Indeed, do we see them as Jesus sees them? "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)
When we see local mosques, do we respond like Paul in Athens? "While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and Godfearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there." (Acts 17:16-17) Compassion and spiritual distress for our friends and neighbours. will naturally lead us to pray.
THE NECESSITY OF PRAYER
Indeed, we know that reaching the Muslim world and prayer are inextricably linked. In fact, the expansion of Jesus’s kingdom is bound to prayer. It’s striking to read how many times the great missionary Paul, with all his extraordinary gifts and spiritual power, expresses a simple dependence on the prayers of God’s people: "As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honoured, just as it was with you." (2 Thessalonians 3:1) "‘I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there." (Romans 15:30-31)
For Paul, there is vital partnership between the missionary and God’s people. They work together in reaching the lost. This isn’t to say that prayer replaces the preaching of God’s word, nor that prayer is, in and of itself, mission. But it is clear that God’s Word is wielded by the power of prayer (cf. Ephesians 6:17-18 and Colossians 4:2-4). Prayer empowers the preaching and gives it impact. John Piper uses the powerful image of prayer being like a walkie talkie that is used to bring in divine air power in a spiritual battle. It is very clear that Paul did not think that he could engage in planting churches, reaching the lost or evangelising the Mediterranean without the prayers of God’s people. So, reaching the Muslim world needs more than the presence of missionaries and gospel preaching - it needs the prayers of God’s people. Indeed, this isn’t just a necessity for us, but it is our great privilege. The 18th century pastor and revival leader, Jonathan Edwards, said this: "When God is about to give some great blessing to his church, it is often his way, so to order things in his providence, as to show his church their great need of it. And he brings them into distress for lack of it. And so he makes them cry earnestly to him for it….. …There is no way that Christians in a private capacity can do so much to promote the work of God, and advance the kingdom of Christ, as by prayer. By this, even the lowliest may have a public influence. Let persons in other respects be weak and unimportant but, if they have much of the spirit of…supplication…they may have power with him who is infinite in power, and who has the government of the whole world. A poor man in his cottage may have a blessed influence all over the world. God is, if I may so say, at the command of the prayer of faith; and in this respect he is, as it were, under the power of his people. As princes, they have power with God, and prevail." Every believer, no matter their experience, knowledge or gifting, has the opportunity to be involved in a great work of God in reaching the world. Adults, children, the rich, the poor, the sick, the suffering, the successful can all be involved in a mighty work. We just need to get on our knees and seek God for the Muslims of our city and the world.
CONFIDENCE IN PRAYER
And, as we do this, we can be sure that we’re not ‘whistling in the wind’ or ‘talking to the ceiling’ because God has given us great promises to strengthen us in our praying. Indeed, we can have confidence that God will do his work because he has already promised us that the nations belong to him:
‘God has spoken from his sanctuary: “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter. Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.” (Psalm 60:5-8) "Our God is in the heavens. He does all that pleases him" (Psalm 115:3). Strikingly, the Father has promised the nations to his Son: "Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession." (Psalm 2:8) This should fill us with great boldness, as we can be absolutely certain that the Father always keeps his promises to his Son. All of this must therefore mean that Tooting, East Ham, Shoreditch and Brick Lane all belong to the one true God. It must also mean that Jordan, Oman, Saudia Arabia and Indonesia are the Lord’s. We may wonder how these areas and countries can be reached, but God doesn’t; he owns them! We may see all the obstacles and impossibilities, but no such things are problems for the Lord. Our God is sovereign over all and he is infallibly fulfilling his purposes and promises to draw the nations to him. We have a God who is invincible and all-conquering. That should give us very good reasons to pray and seek him for the Muslims of our world.
A N DY M A S O N is Senior Pastor of St John's Church, Chelsea, and Director of Co-Mission Gospel Ministry Training.
RAMADAN Make a commitment to pray through Ramadan for the Muslims of London - Open Doors have helpfully provided a booklet to guide us through this, that many Co-Mission churches have been using. Then, keep going (!) and have a special regular focus in prayer on the Muslim areas of London. Get a map of London and pray for areas where you know there are lots of Muslims.
OPEN DOORS Get hold of the Open Doors monthly prayer card (you can order it online). You will end up praying for Muslims regularly if you follow it.
Itâ€™s ironic that the mission prayer meeting is often the most poorly-attended meeting in most churches, as this is one of the most strategic and exciting things to be involved with! Why not make a commitment to be involved? Here are four ways you can consider praying for Muslims in your daily life.
P R AY W H I L E C O M M U T I N G When you drive past your local mosque/prayer room, pray for it. When you see a Muslim walk past you, quietly pray for them.
4 F A M I LY P R A Y E R T I M E Teach your children to pray for the Muslim world - it will imbibe in them a heart for world mission at a young age.
P L A N T
L I F E
St Paul's Harringay
I'm writing this from the kitchen table of St Paul's vicarage in Harringay. The Lord has opened up the door for this Anglo-Catholic parish to be put in our care, and to send a team of 30-40 Christ Church Mayfair people to help revitalise the struggling church. In September we're launching a new evangelical service at 11am. But it wasn't a foregone conclusion that we would come here. My wife and I were seriously considering going to Japan. Not too long ago we heard some mission partners speak about their work in East Asia. They talked about churches that could be planted in Japan if only there were pastors to lead them. They painted a picture of Asia's billions, ready to hear the gospel. We felt the gravitational pull of these statistics. We also knew that the biblical call to go and tell the gospel is mighty. God is, of course, the God who made the world, still holds the title deed and will one day return to ask all his tenants to give an account for their behaviour. As Lord of all the nations, Jesus concludes his earthly teaching with the simple word “Go!” (Matthew 28:19), and the direction of travel for mission is set: God's people are commanded to go to the nations. We also know that the future of God's church is gloriously multi-ethnic (Revelation 7:9). In the long term, all languages will be spoken in the church of God. So my wife and I were ready to go. To Japan, we thought. Probably. We asked the advice of a wise missionary couple we knew. They didn't criticise the Japan idea but they did ask a question that changed our whole game plan: "You know you can reach the nations without leaving London, don't you? You don't even have to learn Japanese." Harringay didn't really feel like foreign mission. And yet. You can walk down the high street in Harringay and feel like you’re in Turkey. Or Greece, or Poland, or Italy. But especially Turkey. It’s one Turkish barber or Turkish restaurant after another, and people come from miles away to eat the (delicious) Turkish food here. The houses nearby are being bought up
by young professionals and the gentrified - and we want to reach those people too - but we can’t ignore the magnificent slice of Turkey that God has put on our doorstep! It would be criminal. There are 11,600 people in our parish. And this isn’t just an English village with generations of churchgoing; it’s a gospel frontier with 14% Asian, 14% African/Carribean and 7% Turkish. I’ve been given the 'right' as their vicar to knock on the doors of whole countries and continents and introduce the most explosive idea the world has ever known: that Jesus Christ is Lord of all the nations. We’re not experts in international ministry - it may involve an international café like we’ve run in Mayfair - but we don’t have the resources to commit to that yet. So we’re going to start by knocking on everyone’s door in the parish. Every Sunday afternoon we’d like to have a go at this. We’ll introduce ourselves and tell them that their local church has been rebooted. We’ll ask about them and where they come from. We’ll try and convey something of the love of God in our manner, valuing them as human beings made in the image of God. And we’ll see what the Lord does with our efforts. I’m ok with failure; it’s not trying that I can’t countenance. For this one window in eternity we have these people and these nations living in our city, speaking our language, and I refuse to sit in my church building and assume that they’ll turn up at one of our services.
PETE SNOW is Pastor of St Paul's Harringay.
THE RELUCTANT EVANGELIST RICHARD COEKIN
I wrote a book for reluctant evangelists. It is a book for Christians who generally find it difficult to engage in evangelistic conversations, daunting to consider joining a church plant, and utterly terrifying to engage in cross-cultural mission. Indeed, this book is written by someone who has been a reluctant evangelist.
Some years ago, before I was a pastor and church planter, I managed to invite a friend I’d known at university called Rachel to come to a guest service at my church in London. When I phoned to remind her to come, her flatmate Sarah explained that Rachel had gone away for the weekend with friends. “Why, what were you inviting her to?” she asked. “Oh, nothing much,” I replied, feeling embarrassed. “No really,” she insisted. “Where were you going?” “Oh, just church—don’t worry about it,” I mumbled. “Oh great—can I come instead?” said Sarah brightly. So she came to church that Sunday, and when the evangelist finished preaching, he asked if those who wanted to become Christians would come to the front of the congregation to be prayed for. To my complete shock, Sarah stood up and walked down to the front to become a Christian! My pathetic evangelistic reluctance was brutally exposed that night. For some of us, our reluctance is temperamental—perhaps we’re a little shy, reserved or introverted in character, and evangelism feels frightening. For others of us, our reluctance is cultural—we’ve been raised to keep to ourselves, and evangelism seems rude. For many of us, our reluctance is theological—we’re just not sure if God wants all Christians to engage in mission, especially if we lack the gifts or “calling” in evangelism that others seem to have. For most of us, our reluctance is motivational—we have so many responsibilities and problems to face that we’re not persuaded that evangelism should really be an urgent priority for us right now.
Almighty God is a compassionate Evangelist, and his Spirit can transform us by his word to share his passion for mission.
But evangelism is not optional for Christians. When our Lord Jesus first called his disciples he said, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people”; later he warned them, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory”; and when he left them he commanded, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 4 v 19; Mark 8 v 38; Matthew 28 v 19). So his apostle Peter insists, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3 v 15). Thankfully, our reluctance is treatable—we really don’t have to find evangelism so hard or frightening. For our Almighty God is a compassionate Evangelist, and his Spirit can transform us by his word to share his passion for mission. He really can teach us to find personal evangelism, church planting and cross-cultural mission exciting - indeed the fulfilling purpose of our lives. So The Reluctant Evangelist aims to help you conquer your reluctance - to follow Jesus unashamedly in making disciples for him, ready to explain your hope in language your family, friends and colleagues can understand. We will explore God’s basic mission principles as they are beautifully clarified in the gripping memoirs of the prophet Jonah, read in the light of Christ and the rest of the Bible. In our church and church-planting movement in London, we’ve discovered that all the foundational principles we’ve needed are to be found here.
Because Jonah is not just a children’s bedtime story about a big fish (the whale is a “red herring” anyway!). Rather, Jonah is a serious mission-training manual from our God, the compassionate Evangelist, who has not only delayed the end of the world but sent his beloved Son to die on a cross, in order to evangelise the nations. As we shall discover, effective evangelism begins with understanding the character and purposes of the living and loving God revealed in Jonah and fulfilled in Christ. It’s only when we learn to trust his awesome power, experience his sovereign grace, fear his coming judgment and share his gut-wrenching compassion - as this is perfectly revealed in Jesus, the divine Evangelist—that our hearts will sing with the melodic line of Jonah, “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2 v 9). And when his Holy Spirit fills our hearts with his love, our lives will start to bubble up with the evangelistic enterprise that our friends, colleagues, communities and cities so desperately need. The Reluctant Evangelist is not trying to sell you yet another “silver bullet” outreach strategy because I don’t think that is what most of us need (though I hope some of the missional ideas will be helpful). Instead, I pray that this book will help you access the fundamental and thrilling evangelistic principles of Jonah, to understand how God is reaching unbelievers everywhere today. For if God can use someone as reluctant and selfish as Jonah to accomplish the greatest urban revival in Bible history (when the whole pagan city of Nineveh turned to the Lord), he can use us too.
Adapted from The Reluctant Evangelist - now available to buy from The Good Book Company. co-mission.org/books
JONAH IS NOT A BEDTIME STORY ABOUT A BIG FISH. It is a serious mission-training manual from our God, the compassionate Evangelist, who has not only delayed the end of the world but sent his beloved Son to die on a cross, in order to evangelise the nations.
“This is the most readable and accessible commentary on the
“Some expositions of Jonah almost entirely
book of Jonah. The story of the
miss God’s evangelistic compassion—infinitely
prophet is filled with surprising
stronger than that of the prophet Jonah. Not
twists and turns—and loads of
so this popular exposition, written with verve
lessons for us today. Richard is a
and panache by Richard Coekin. Coekin thinks
trustworthy and insightful guide to
through what it means to lose our reluctance to
the readers of this book. It will be
be evangelists. Above all, he reminds us what
a boon to preachers and listeners
Jonah rediscovered: ‘Salvation comes from the
alike.” TIM KELLER - Pastor Emeritus, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New Yo r k C i t y
Lord’!” D.A. CARSON - Research Professor of N e w Te s t a m e n t a t Tr i n i t y E v a n g e l i c a l Divinity School, and President of The Gospel Coalition
“I love this book! It’s full of biblical insight and practical wisdom on evangelism but, far from just filling the head with instruction, it warms the heart with passion. Richard not only reminds us of why and how we should share our faith, but also inspires us to get on with it.” VA U G H A N R O B E R T S - Rector of St Ebbe’s Church, Oxford, and Director of the P r o c l a m a t i o n Tr u s t
LAZINESS and the Christian life NAM JOON KIM
It is a strange truth that spiritual travesty can bring us to grin when we should grieve. Some years ago, after preaching in a church that had been planted in a developing city, I enjoyed a meal with my hosts. As we ate, we shared our thoughts about the gospel and discussed, among other things, how it seems that the majority of Korean churches no longer preach the good news—the true, life-altering gospel of Christ. Nor do they facilitate its accompanying spiritual transformation in the lives of believers. At one point in our discussion, one of the hosts said, “Reverend Kim, even though Korean pastors preach the gospel from the pulpit, and reinforce its importance in the pews, when we visit church members and see how they live, it seems the gospel isn’t worth a penny to them.” At this, everyone at the table burst into laughter. But then the laughter tapered off into silence, and the mood went from merry to melancholy. How can a believer overlook the riches of the gospel? How can a Christian’s life not be bursting at the seams with spiritual joy? Perhaps it is because he does not make the effort to become more holy. This may seem like an odd conclusion to draw, but joy and holiness are not distant relations; they are brothers, at least for Christians. A life of holiness is a life of joy, and vice versa. Holiness never increases to our detriment; lasting joy never comes at the cost of sanctification. The two go hand in hand.
Now, perhaps we miss the family resemblance between joy and holiness not because it is difficult to see, but because we do not want to see it. We are far more comfortable forgetting that Christ did not come into this world—he did not sweat, suffer, and die for our redemption—only to see us maintain the status quo of our spiritual languor. He came to give us life to the fullest (John 10:10). But such life is a cruciform life (Luke 9:23), a life built upon our Spirit-empowered, grace-infused efforts to become more like Christ and to lose our very lives for his sake (Luke 9:24). This does not necessarily mean martyrdom, but it does mean the death of the old, sinful self, a self that was too often guilty of spiritual laziness. Because we have been redeemed, that old, sinful self has been crucified with Christ. By the devil’s schemes we had been held in bondage to sin and death, but now we are set free. We are declared righteous before the Judge of all. What’s more, we have become his children through adoption (Ephesians 1:5). So, after all that he has given for us—after the blood he shed in order to bring us into his holy bloodline—why would we conclude that we are now free to do whatever we want? Does that sound like the response of a person just saved from an eternity of isolation? Certainly not. Yet perhaps it is helpful to remember here that we are not so different from the prodigal son, who came back from his wild ventures and fell down before his father. The happy homecoming of the prodigal did not mean that his body would not be affected by the consequences of his previous lifestyle. Likewise, our old selves are still affecting our new, regenerated selves. We are still shaking free of the prodigal’s servile chains, even as we are united to the Prophet, Priest, and King of creation.
It is in light of this union that we trust completely in the triune God of the Bible, harkening to his every word in Scripture, experiencing the grace of the Holy Spirit. Such grace works in us to conform us to the image of God’s sinless Son, to burn away the dross of indwelling iniquity so that we might better resemble the purity of Christ. This work of the Spirit is what transforms us—our character, our personality, our life—so that our souls, which once sought to smother the flame of the truth, can let the Spirit’s breath ignite it in our daily lives. The flame God kindles in us is our newfound, Christlike identity. And nothing—not even time itself and the pervasive corruption of the world—can snuff it out. In Christ, our holy identity burns in eternity.
In light of what Genesis 2–3 reveals about work, we must begin our discussion of diligence by remembering that work is a God-ordained, and hence God-honoring, endeavour. People today might think that work is a result of the fall. Had sin not entered our reality (we might think), we could all relax, rolling over on the grass beds that God breathed into being. This is far from the truth. Work is actually a blessing from God. In fact, it is a call to participate in what God has made, a call to image God as the one who always works for our good.
But the mere fact that our identity cannot be threatened does not mean that laziness is a fitting response to our God-given holiness. In fact, laziness is itself spiritual impurity, part of the dross of sin that should be burned up. If we do not make an effort, by and through the Spirit, to identify and destroy the root of laziness, then our flame, our Christ-conforming identity, will only dwindle. If we are not daily diligent in understanding God’s Word and in living it out, we cannot expect to grow spiritually. And plenty of biblical examples confirm this for us, as do men and women in church history. No one who is deeply respected for having extraordinary faith earned such respect through laziness. God always worked through such people, and they took every opportunity to work for God.
Now, if what we said earlier is true, if joy and holiness go hand in hand as members of the same family, then we know that Adam and Eve’s joy before the fall was complemented by holiness: diligent and attentive work. This complementation follows us even after the fall. If labouring is truly God’s blessing and brings abundant joy, then our work today is still a blessing that can—with our obedience to God’s Word, which is a result of his saving grace—bring us spiritual joy.
WORK BEFORE SIN, IN SIN, AND AFTER SIN
We should remind ourselves that work was always a part of humanity, even before sin fractured our relationships and corrupted creation. The calling of Adam and Eve was to serve God through their work. They were instructed, as stewards of God’s creation and inhabitants of the garden of Eden, “to work and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Such work was a testament to the quieter growth and vivacity that surrounded them. From seeds came saplings, infant trees, which then matured and bore fruit (2:9). Rivers rushed through the garden (2:10–14), carrying the riches of life to the surrounding plants and animals. And, on the basis of the curses later pronounced in 3:17–19, we know that beneath them, the soil was home for roots and organic life, sup porting everything that grew. In short, all creation, spoken into being by the triune God, worked symbiotically and diligently to maintain the good order of God’s world. Adam and Eve, however, held a special place as stewards.
The negative associations we have of work come from the toil and uncertainty of fruitfulness that was brought about by sin.
And the story does not end there. When we who have been brought into Christ by the power of the Spirit are finally finished with our earthly pilgrimage, we will have eternal communion with God. But that communion is not characterised by idleness and boredom; there will, in fact, be heavenly labour to carry out—labour that somehow glorifies God and reflects our sinless, loving relationship with him. For all eternity, the church, God’s people, will be gladly serving him with endless praise. We do not know exactly what sort of work God has for us aside from the joy of worship, but we can be sure that it will be “good,” just as his original work for us was “good” (Genesis 1:31). Adapted from Busy for Self, Lazy for God: Meditations on Proverbs for Diligent Living by Reverend Nam Joon Kim, published by Westminster Seminary Press
400,000 COPIES SOLD IN ASIA, N O W AVA I L A B L E I N E N G L I S H
"In recent years Iâ€™ve come to know and hugely admire Nam Joon Kim, a delightfully gentle, generous and Godly man and a truly remarkably Bible scholar who is deeply learned in Puritan reflections upon the Christian life. In Asia he is already regarded as a spiritual giant among reformed Evangelicals but is hitherto relatively unknown in the West. So I am absolutely delighted that this wonderfully insightful book is now available in English. And at a time when many western authors encourage us to rest sensibly, Nam Joon Kim brings us Godâ€™s wisdom for how to repent of worldly laziness and work passionately for the glory of God. I thoroughly recommend it!" R I C H A R D C O E K I N - E x e c u t i v e D i r e c t o r, C o - M i s s i o n a n d S e n i o r P a s t o r, D u n d o n a l d C h u r c h
NEW THE STORY BEHIND CHRIST CHURCH MAYFAIR'S NEW EP
At Christ Church Mayfair, we’ve had a wonderful time recording our second EP, Making All Things New. I’d love to tell you about it, but first, a very important question:
D I D Y O U K N O W T H AT Y O U R W A L K WITH JESUS IS BEING SHAPED S I G N I F I C A N T LY B Y S I N G I N G I N CHURCH? Theologian Gordon Fee is reported to have said: “show me a church’s songs and I’ll show you their theology.” That’s because what we sing in church – for better or worse – is often the thing that helps shape people’s walk with Jesus, how they think about engaging with God. Singing together is spiritual formation. Singing is spiritual formation because it allows the gospel to dwell richly in our hearts and minds (Colossians 3:16). As we sing the truth about Jesus’ perfect life, sacrificial death, mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, the Holy Spirit of God is transforming us into the likeness of Christ: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:18 When we gather as church, God’s Holy Spirit is powerfully present with us through His word. As we minister the truth of the gospel to one another (through reading and proclaiming God’s word, sharing the Lord’s Supper, singing the gospel together, etc.), The Spirit is making us more like Jesus. And music has that ability to make things memorable, which means we carry the truth of the gospel into our week. The Spirit keeps on bringing the gospel to bear in our lives as we go away from Sunday gatherings humming tunes carrying gospel truths! Singing together is spiritual formation. What do you expect from singing together with your church family? We can expect God to work powerfully amongst us: enlarging our view of God, convicting us of sin, giving rise to faith, prizing hearts from idols, saving souls from Hell (1 Corinthians 14:24-25), building us up for mission. What better reason could we need to gather together with prayerful, expectant hearts?
That is the vision that drove us to record a collection of singable, gospel-centred songs for congregations to sing. Our aim has been to let the gospel of Christ dwell richly in the hearts of church communities so that God might build His people up, transforming them to be like Jesus. We had an amazing time coming up with creative ideas to help the gospel truth in the songs dwell richly in all who hear them. We’re thrilled with the result, and we hope the great time we had comes across on the recording. This really is an EP for local church congregations – our own church family at CCM, Co-Mission as a network, and the church more broadly in the UK and beyond. We’ve tried to maintain the tension throughout between creating something that people will love to listen to, and something that’s repeatable in the local church. We agreed that if church music teams come away from listening to the EP saying “I really want to lead that song, and I think our church will love to sing it too” – then that was a win! The idea of “undistracting excellence” has been a guiding principle for us, and continues to be each Sunday as we gather at CCM. John Piper coined the phrase, trying to encapsulate what it means to give our very best to leading music (and anything in church) in a way that points to Christ and not to ourselves. We hope and pray our EP achieves this. As well as some brand-new songs, we included a couple that we’ve enjoyed singing together in church, all written and recorded by CCM-ers past and present.
Among them are Creator God, a hymn written for Revive 2017, and a re-working of an old hymn by John Newton called Day of Judgement. Newton was a pastor who understood the impact singing the gospel could have in people’s lives. He was a busy man – pastoring his flock in Olney, Buckinghamshire, and preaching several times a week. But still he would carve out a whole day each week to write a hymn to bring out the theme of his Sunday sermon and drive it deeply into the hearts of his congregation. We don’t sing much about judgement today (because it’s uncomfortable? Because our musical style pushes us to joy rather than lament? Bigger questions for another time). But we desperately need songs that teach us the whole counsel of God, and help us mourn our sin so that we can truly rejoice in God’s abundant grace. We hope this song will help re-introduce a much-needed theme into gathered worship in local churches. We’re thankful to the Lord that in our first month on Spotify we reached over 13,000 plays! Our prayer is that this will translate into churches being built up to live passionate
lives of worship in response to the gospel. We hope all the churches in Co-Mission love listening to the EP. And perhaps there might be one or two that your church is served by in times of singing together. And we pray that, as we gather in our churches, we’ll prayerfully expect God to be working among us through His word and by His Spirit to make us more like His Son Jesus as we sing together.
BEN SLEE is
Christ Church Mayfair. Their new EP, Making All Things New, is available to stream and buy online now. c h r i s t c h u r c h m a y f a i r. o r g / c c m - m u s i c
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I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right....
Published on Jul 13, 2018
I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right....