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 (Manna 27)
Challenges Of Evangelising In Multi-Cultural Britain
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Audrey Chan (London, United Kindom)

The church 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.

On the 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”.

The 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).

Jesus left 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.

By the 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.

Britain 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 UK brims with people of all different ethnic backgrounds who worship and praise the True God with one heart and mind!

Many of 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 in Britain 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.

The 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.

Languages 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.

What the 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.

The 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.

In terms 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’.

There are, 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 war-torn country?


The 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.

One 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.

An 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.

The 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.

This 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 opposition.

In 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 fruition.

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Author: Audrey Chan