Praying for London: Five Highlights
1. It is encouraging to hear that churches are growing in numbers. This one has doubled in six years. That one now has eight sites. This one has started growing again in the last two years, after a decade of numerical decline. That one has just been given a building and launched another site. The most remarkable example (of many) is the story of Jubilee Church, as Tope Koleoso described it with his typical understatement: “When I started to lead twelve years ago, we had about eighty people. Since then, by the grace of God, the church has grown somewhat.” There were 2100 there last Sunday.
2. It is encouraging to find out about new churches being planted. Most of the various Newfrontiers “spheres” were represented, and we all seem to be planting churches in London. Please pray as we launch a new church in Victoria, or Tottenham. Please pray for our new site in the south of the city, or in Welling. Please pray that our family would be able to see churches planted in all the North London postcodes. Everybody either seems to be planting a church, or supporting someone who is, and that is hugely exciting to see.
3. It is encouraging to see the collaboration and sheer enthusiasm for what others are doing. It is easy for congregations and their leaders to become parochial, and to think about new churches as competitors for market share rather than collaborators in the gospel, so in some ways the most encouraging aspect of the day was the celebration of all the new churches that were being started. When you mention to someone in your prayer group that you are starting a site less than a mile from their building, they respond with genuine joy, not begrudging acknowledgement. Steve Tibbert, who leads my church, captured the mood with a fist-pump and a cry of “Come on!” on hearing that yet another group of churches was considering planting in the city. It is hard to imagine anything further from the scowling charges of sheep-stealing that sometimes greet new congregations, and it was beautiful to witness.
4. It is encouraging to see the increasing diversity of the churches represented. We still have a long way to go here—and the odds are that churches in the capital are more, not less, aware of that than most—but when you break into groups of four, you end up praying with men and women, Brits and internationals, whites and people of colour, people half your age and people twice your age, singles and marrieds, those from small estate churches and those from large megachurches, and so on. This reflects the increasing diversity of the churches—I find it interesting that for several years now, the two largest churches in Newfrontiers in the UK have been black majority churches—and of course the city as a whole, one of the most multicultural on earth.
5. It is encouraging to hear of people being saved. In a whirlwind morning of prayer, you don’t really have the time to hear many individual testimonies of salvation, but behind every number is a story. We baptised ten people last year, says one pastor of a recently planted church. We’ve seen lots of Muslims come to Christ, says another. We see people baptised every week, on average, says another. The overall effect of all this evangelism hit home to me as I was praying with some young women from South East London, and one of them quoted Acts 2:47: “and the Lord added to their number daily.” It occurred to me, as I looked around the room, that the same was true of us; there were, quite literally, people being converted every day amongst the churches represented.
All in all, a hugely exciting morning. Greater things are still to come in this city.