06 May 2014
Churches working together for mission across the globe
An international gathering of leaders in London last week saw inspirational stories of how churches are transforming communities across the world – and unity is at the heart of how they work.
Over the past two years the Evangelical Alliance has been connecting with groups of churches committed to unity in cities and towns across England. Through the Gather network the work of churches coming together in prayer and working together in mission has been mapped across the country.
Gather seeks to support and inspire an increase in collaborative working, and to see transformation by working together and with civic authorities.
The Gather Global conference brought together many of the leaders of local networks with international visitors who shared their experience of unity for mission in cities from the USA, South Africa, Germany and Australia.
Mac Pier, who works with Tim Keller in New York and runs Movement Day, told delegates: "There's been this sense that, for a long time, God has been motivating leaders to come together in prayer as the people of God.
"Our vision is to invite leaders to get a vision for their city and to allow them to design what they can do in their city."
Harrald Sommerfeld, from Berlin, spoke about his work in a city that had for much of recent history been defined by physical division: "When we talk about unity we must see that unity has very different perspectives; a pastoral leader will prefer the type of unity when lots of people meet together, the visionary leader will want lots of people behind his vision. And then there is the networker who is convinced that God has already planted lots of visions all across the city and that these need to be nourished, facilitated and connected together."
He went on to say that he and the Church in Berlin had gone through: "A paradigm change from 'me and my church' to 'the kingdom and my city'."
This was reflected by Lloyd Cooke who leads Saltbox in Stoke-on-Trent, who commented on the need for long-term work, and for investment into the development of future leaders to have a vision that is bigger than their church. "If we were honest, what we cared about most was whether our churches were a little bit bigger than someone else's.
"There are some really ugly stories about churches that don't really care for the city, they just want to be the biggest and the best. There's plenty of good stories, but I'm not going to hide the big and the ugly. God's put Stoke on my heart. My beloved Stoke. A passion for the 247,000 who are without Christ. How do we reach these people with the good news?"
Stella Mbubaegbu, principal of Highbury College, spoke about the development and growth of her vision for Portsmouth: "I have to take what I believe God said to me, even when it didn't make sense, but I stuck with it and was watchful of what is going on around. I was clear about what my task was within that and committed to not being diverted.
"Articulating what I see, whether it is for the city or for the college, and articulating that vision and speaking it until other people start speaking it."
As well as inspiring each other about the work churches are doing when they come together in unity, the Gather Global conference also profiled the public leadership work the Evangelical Alliance is engaged in.
For many of the leaders, the journey into public life entailed being intentional about making a difference and speaking out in their community. Through resources and stories at the newly launched www.thepublicleader.com website the Alliance is seeking to help churches develop a culture of public leadership and be a voice of good for all of society.