We wrapped up our time in London with a visit to and conversation with people at the London City Mission. While I’ve met a couple of people from LCM before, this was my first opportunity to actually hear in-depth conversation about their work. LCM dates to 1835 with a desire not only to speak about the Gospel but embody that conversation with people working to alleviate the squalid conditions of the poorest people in London. These people worked among the people and conditions you read of in Dickens’ novels. [you can read more about them here] Nearly all of the workers are lay people working to bring hope, compassion and healing to neighborhoods in East London. Speaking of Jesus is their foundation, but the opening conversation is rarely about Jesus, but about a hope for health and wellness for individuals and neighborhoods. The stories can be simultaneously tragic and a little funny, both at the same time.
One of the temptations of the work we’ve done in learning from London is to see all of this as a source of a few “tricks” or new methods to somehow magically transform church life and fill up a few more pews. There is, for sure, a wee bit of that in what you can see in these lively churches in London. Method and technique matter. Quality of effort matters. But as we travel around London, we see a bunch of different churches doing a bunch of – what can appear to be – contradictory things. You can see praise bands with video screens in churches built in 1847 on Sunday evenings and other churches filled up with the smoke of incense on a Sunday morning. But there are a few strings that hold them all together:
There are a lot of differences between Fort Wayne, Indiana and London, England. But here are a few things that are the same: