Recently I traveled to London, England, to meet with local church planters and missionaries serving through the International Mission Board (IMB). The IMB is an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention focused on spreading the gospel around the world. Currently, the IMB has strategically identified four cities in which to focus future church planting efforts. The strategy is called the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), and the global cities are Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and London. Each city was chosen because of the massive population, diversity, and lack of healthy churches. Global cities are places where billions of people from every corner of the world live, which provides amazing opportunities for Christians to share the love of Jesus.
The Global City Initiative is a new philosophy of foreign missions. The IMB has wisely changed the way they look at sending missionaries to the nations. The traditional way for someone to go overseas as a missionary was get a college degree, go to seminary, and get placed in a location to begin ministry. What kind of ministry and how you were going to do it was left up to you. Today, you can still go the traditional way, but the place you go is more strategic, and the reason you go is to plant churches. Instead of going alone, the GCI strategy equips three different types of people to partner with the local church planter.
College students: A student could go to school in a GCI city and partner with a church planter.
Retirees: A retired person could move to a GCI city and partner with a church planter.
Professionals: Some people have the skills and opportunity to seek employment in companies based out of GCI cities and partner with a church planter.
The GCI strategy helps provide all kinds of people who feel called to serve overseas an opportunity to engage in global church planting.
After praying about FC’s involvement, I decided to go on a Vision Trip to London, England. Vision Trips are organized by the IMB to help pastors meet current church planters and learn more about the needs of the city. I spent nine days in London meeting pastors and church planters all through the area. By the end of the trip, I was convinced that London would be a great city for Foothills Church to serve.
Here are a few reasons why I want to partner with London:
1. London is an extremely diverse city.
We met people from all over Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia, America, and the Caribbean. In fact, in many places it was hard to meet someone who was actually born in England.
This means when you go on mission to London, you are serving people from all over the world. Immigrants move to London for school and work, and many of them move back home or to other parts of the world. When you make disciples of Christ in London, you are potentially impacting communities all over the world. You can literally serve any people you are called to minister to in this city.
2. The Church of England is dying, and true believers are few and far between.
The Church of England has a long history that I won’t attempt to explain in this article, but today it is largely dying or dead. We heard a story from a local pastor who said that he frequently meets people who do not know a “practicing Christian.” He explained that many people in London claim to be a Christian simply because of their heritage. However, they do not go to church, read the Bible, or seek to live like Jesus.
The need for more gospel centered churches encourages me to get FC involved. London needs more Christian leaders who are passionate about making disciples of Christ. I believe we can make a difference. I believe we can train leaders and send them to London. I believe we have some college students who could go overseas to study and at the same time help lead one of our churches. I believe we have some retired people who might feel called to move to London instead of their retirement home on the beach. It’s important for us to consider our life stage and how we might leverage it for the gospel.
3. We speak the same language…kind of.
One of the great things about planting churches in England is that there is no language barrier. Of course, there are differences in how we use certain words. For instance, one afternoon we spent time at a church planter’s home named Mark. He made us some tea, of course, and he asked if I wanted a biscuit. I don’t usually eat biscuits randomly in the afternoon, unless it’s with a chicken wing from KFC, but he brought out a plate of amazing cookies. I then learned that Brits call cookies “biscuits.” For the most part, it is easy to communicate.
I want FC to get involved because communication is so easy. We don’t have to learn a language or pay translators to walk around with us. Communication is easy, and we can hit the ground running.
4. Relational discipleship is growing.
The church planters we met are very relational. They did not use the term relational discipleship, but they are doing it. We met some incredible families who are moving into neighborhoods with the sole purpose of building relationships and sharing the gospel in hopes of starting a small group. The goal is that small groups will eventually become new churches.
At FC our heartbeat is relational discipleship. We believe one of the greatest ways a person grows is through relationships. I think London would be a good fit because some of the local church planters are on the same page.
5. Bad theology is common outside of SBC missionaries.
The lack of healthy churches in England has led to a deprived theology. The city needs gospel centered leaders willing to preach the truth and extend the love of Christ in word and deed. I had a conversation with a young church planter who was born and raised in London. As we talked about our theology, the topic of baptism arose. It was clear that the Catholic Church’s theology of infant baptism is widely held. He informed me that baptism wasn’t really a big concern for him. While a person does not need baptism for salvation, it is an important step of obedience and a commandment given to us by Christ. I think it’s a pretty big deal.
I believe FC can help meet this need. Part of a short-term trip could include teaching and training local pastors or church members.
London is a great city that needs the gospel. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. If you are praying about overseas ministry, I would greatly encourage you to consider London. There are many ways for you to partner. In the future, we’ll be sharing details about our first mission trip to London. In the meantime, let us know if you’re considering going to London as a student, professional, or retiree.