02 January 2014
One family, one hope
Gathering with my church in west London on a Sunday morning, I often reflect upon the fact that all over the world Christians are meeting.
We are praying, worshipping, reading scripture, breaking bread and being encouraged in the faith. This body of Christ stretches across every nation expressing faith in different languages, cultures and styles. One family with one faith and one amazing hope.
Recently I agreed to host the launch of my friend Israel Olofinjana’s book Turning the Tables on Mission. The evening involved hearing some of the stories from migrant Christians of the global South as they responded to their sense of call to ministry and mission here in the UK. There was much to be thankful for – churches planted and growing, communities changed and lives impacted for good – but there were also other stories of misunderstandings, pain, rejection and just downright prejudice.
Church volunteers threatening to boycott the crèche if it included ‘black children’; plastic beakers locked up out of fear of contamination; new converts refused baptism because they could be ‘illegal immigrants’. The stories continued and while not all migrants have experienced such rejection, those of us who are white British Christians need to recognise and, as appropriate, repent of our prejudices. Many of us weren’t welcoming or thankful for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as they arrived from so many parts of the world often with a deep sense of calling from God to His mission here; that sense of calling that has sustained so many over the years and bears fruit in some vibrant expressions of the body of Christ.
A few weeks ago I was privileged to visit my good friends Dr Tani and Dr Modupe Omideyi for a weekend at their church and dedicated their newly opened free school.
In the autumn of 1980 Tani and Modupe were led by God to plant a church in Liverpool. Anfield, their area of choice, was not an easy place for two Nigerians to do ministry – and that’s an understatement A predominantly white working-class area with strong racist elements and a political environment not supportive of Christian mission. As Tani and Modupe shared their talented individuals could have chosen a life of ease, comfort and wealth but God called them and so they have dedicated their lives to Anfield.
Today, Temple of Praise is a genuinely multicultural community of faith occupying an ex-cinema a few hundred yards from the Liverpool FC stadium. The church and its associated ministries are committed to proclaiming and demonstrating the good news to their community. They run projects addressing the loneliness of the elderly, disaffected young people, poor health, unemployment, poverty and the needs of asylum seekers and refugees. I enjoyed an enormous slap-up meal with entertainment and awards for all those involved in any of their projects. I left thankful to God – this is the Church at work, looking to meet the spiritual, social and physical needs of their community.
These experiences have caused me to reflect upon the biblical account of Joseph’s conversation with his brothers following the death of their father. Fearing Joseph’s vengeance for the way he had been treated, he reassures them “you intended Could it be that God is turning around the rejection and prejudice that was faced both inside and outside the Church by our brothers and sisters in Christ and is in the process of working it out for good?
As the Evangelical Alliance we are committed to playing our part in this unfolding drama. On 15 September 2010 at the Alliance’s UK council meeting, following a short address by Bishop Wilton Powell (national overseer Church of God of Prophecy) and Pastor Agu Irukwu (senior pastor of Jesus House), there occurred a powerful God moment – men and women were on their knees responding to God recognising the fresh challenge to find an expression of unity that crosses all ethnic divides. A call to unity in the midst of diversity; a unity for purpose expressed in the great prayer of Jesus (John 17:21) that “the world might believe”. The Alliance, I trust, will never be the same and our One People Commission works to see this reflected in every area of our work.
Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK is edited by Rev Israel Olofinjana