CHALLENGES OF EVANGELISING IN MULTI-CULTURAL BRITAIN
Audrey Chan (London,
in London was
blessed with the opportunity to play host for a hymn
training and outreach session from 18 to 22 December 1994. A group of 11
brethren, comprising youths from local churches and overseas students, gathered
in London for hymn singing training and a series of talks and discussions on
evangelism. On the last two evenings, evangelistic services were held during
which the choir presented hymns which they had practised hard.
evening of the 18th, two sessions were scheduled - a talk and a workshop which
focused on the topic, “Evangelising in multi-cultural Britain - the challenges”. The following
are summaries of the talk and the outcome from the workshop, which we would
like to share with Manna readers. It is hoped that the spirit of God will move
you, just as He has moved us, to take up the challenging task of evangelizing
to “every tribe and tongue and people and nation”.
speaker began the talk with two passages from the Bible:
“But you shall receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My
witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of
the earth” (Acts 1:8).
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that
the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of
the mountains, and shall be raised above the bills; and all the nations should
flow to it, and many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come, Jet us go up to the
mountain of the Lord...” (Iso 2:2-3).
an important commission with His disciples —to preach to people from all
nations. It is His will that all should come to know Him through the Gospel and
be saved. The Old Testament prophesied of the end time when people from
different parts of the world will gather to worship the Lord in the TrueChurch.
power of God, the church’s ministry is beginning to fulfil His will. The
message of salvation is beginning to reach different corners of the world. Just
as exciting, brethren living in multi-cultural societies such as the UK, USA,
Australia and Canada also
have the opportunity to realise this important commission much closer to home,
for literally the ‘world’ is at their very own doorstep.
is now recognised as a multi-cultural, multiethnic society. 94% of Britain’s
population is white while a significant of the people are
from other ethnic groups (OPCS, 1991). This latter figure is predicted to rise
to 9% in future years (Ballard & Kaira, 1994). It is therefore important
that the True Jesus Church endeavours to do her part by bringing glad tidings
of the truth to these diverse communities with the love of Christ and through
the power of the Holy Spirit. How joyous will the day be when the church in the
brims with people of all different ethnic backgrounds who worship and praise
the True God with one heart and mind!
the more established ethnic minority communities arrived in Britain in the economic boom years
of the 1960s when people came to seek their fortune. Among these new arrivals
were people from the West Indies, India,
Pakistan and Hong Kong. More recently, other communities have arrived
but, for some, not by choice. These are the refugees and asylum seekers who
have escaped from political or religious persecution in their own countries.
Among them are those who are from war-torn parts of Africa such as Somalia, Zaire,
Angola, Turkey and Bosnia. Some of these communities
consist of sizeable numbers of single people who have left family members
behind in their own countries, or mothers with children. Another group not
belonging to either category are those people who are
in the country temporarily, for example, students who have come from abroad to
study in Britain.
speaker noted that quite a number of the London boroughs, particularly in the
east-end and parts of the north, are home to large communities of ethnic
minority communities, including refugees and asylum seekers. In some of these
boroughs, the ethnic minority communities account for nearly 50% of the local
population. While there are some who have established comfortable lives for
themselves, others live under very deprived conditions. It is not uncommon for
many families to be in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfast
hotels, placed there by the Government-related local council until more
permanent housing can be found for them. They may live in squalid conditions,
with little living space and privacy and poor access to basic amenities such as
hot water, heating or proper cooking facilities.
other than English are widely spoken by the ethnic communities in Britain. The
speaker noted that in one east London borough, Newhani, some 11 community
languages are officially recognised as being spoken. If the dialects and
languages of some of the smaller communities are included, this figure may be
nearer 20 What is significant is that there are many people in the communities,
especially those who have newly arrived in the country, who are unable to speak
English. This means that unless these people have access to a supportive social
network locally, they are bound to feel isolated.
various communities have often brought with them is great cultural diversity.
This includes their affiliation with different religions. The speaker noted
that one source identified the existence of some 250 religious organisations in
one borough of London. These include mosques affiliated to the different
Islamic sects as well as a plethora of Christian fellowships - mainstream and
new, large and small.
speaker concluded the talk by outlining a number of significant challenges as
well as opportunities with regard to the church ministry in Britain for the
group to ponder.
of opportunity, Britain is clearly a fertile field waiting to be harvested —
for apart from the indigenous population, there are many other
ethnic communities who have set up home here and who have not yet heard of the
complete Gospel. The church needs to plan how to bring the Good News to these
people of ‘every nation’.
however, challenges, including how to overcome language barriers. How is the
church to take the Gospel to people who speak little or no English? How do we preach
about the Holy Spirit, baptism, the Sabbath and other doctrines of salvation to
people with whom we do not share a common language? Also, how can we cross the
cultural and religious barriers by sharing the Gospel in a sensitive manner,
and introduce biblical teachings which may seem alien to someone of another
faith? How can we reach those who are lonely, isolated and with more than the
usual share of life’s problems? Would we know what to say if, in the event of
evangelising we come upon someone suffering from AIDS, or to someone who is
depressed, having lost hope of ever seeing again loved ones left behind in a
workshop provided a good opportunity for the youths to consider some of the
challenges facing the church in her evangelistic ministry to a multi-ethnic and
multi-cultural society and to explore some practical solutions. It produced
some interesting ideas which have much potential.
important lesson which emerged from the exercise is the necessity of innovation
and creativity within the church in planning how to share the Gospel with
people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. However, it is not
difficult to find ideas within our reach, as good ideas can be found, with the
help and guidance of God.
implication of the ideas generated is that the goal of sharing the Gospel with
different ethnic communities cannot be achieved in a short space of time. It
requires pioneering work to make contact with people, and more importantly,
extensive follow-up measures to nurture any initial interest generated. This
calls for long-term strategies. A way of achieving this could be the
mobilisation of bilingual members as linguistic and cultural ‘bridges’ to share
the Gospel with the various communities in their own mother-tongues, in a way
that deals with existing beliefs sensitively.
implications for the church are manifold. They include the need to prepare
members for active evangelism through both religious education and training in
a more systematic way. She also has to plan how to support her workers as they
will face many difficulties and even direct opposition from the communities
they are preaching to. As a church, we can adapt selectively from other
Christian groups who are more progressive in this area of work.
workshop has been devoted to looking at the role of strategic planning in the
promotion of evangelism. The indispensability of God’s guidance arid
empowerment is implicit. All planning must conform to His will. To this end,
prayer and planning must go hand in hand, lest the direction of the work be
determined by the workers and not by God. Moreover, by being Spirit-led, the
workers will experience the joy of working for God and not see the task before
them as being daunting or burdensome, even in the face of difficulties and
conclusion, the challenge is set before the church. Her evangelistic activities
have to address the diversity of communities from different ethnic and cultural
backgrounds. To overlook them is to forget the needs of a significant part of
the population. It will mean ignoring people like refugees who often have had
more than the average share of life’s problems and have a desperate need for
God. The advantage the church has is that she can tap on the infinite power and
guidance of God to carry out this ministry with the potential of abundant