Archives For London

New IMB strategy targets cities and self-funded volunteers


This model of London fills a room at the New London Architecture Museum. The areas marked by white circles are near Underground (subway) stations. They are the focal points of church planting, making participation in worship and Bible study groups easily accessible to the city’s highly mobile population.

(Editor’s Note: The Week of Prayer for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and International Missions is Dec. 4-11.) Tourists from around the world flock to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The Tower Bridge, and other iconic English landmarks. Getting around via the Tube, red doubledecker buses, or those famous London black cabs is simple, and very British. It’s very easy to lose oneself in the surroundings. But the world is moving to London, and sharing its culture with it.

Across the street from the Royal London Hospital are rows of shops featuring Middle Eastern goods including halal meats, and just a few blocks away is the largest mosque in London. Other parts of the city are home to large Indian populations and curry has become a staple of the British diet.

Some 300 languages are spoken by its 8.3 million people within its 607 square miles. According to the International Mission Board, 37% of its residents come from outside the United Kingdom and one-quarter of its population arrived within the last five years. Forbes magazine named it “#1 City of Influence.”

London by the numbers

300 languages spoken

37% of population from outside the UK

¼ population arrived within the last 5 years

50 non-indigenous communities with populations of 10,000+

34 average age in London

44.7% profess no religion, “nones”

20 average church attendance

This diversity is why London was chosen as one of five cities the International Mission Board (IMB) has selected to be part of its Global Cities Initiative (GCI). In previous centuries most of the world’s population lived in rural areas. In this century, 54% of world’s population lives in urban areas and the Southern Baptist Convention’s missions sending agency has taken notice. The cities represent life-altering, world-changing, gospel-planting opportunities that can’t be missed.

The four other GCI cities are Dubai, where 80% of the population is foreign-born with more than 2 million residents from more than 200 nationalities; Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, home to 8 million people with 62% following Islam and 20% Buddhism; Shanghai, the largest city in China with a population of more than 24 million people, most of whom claim to be nonreligious or atheist; and an unnamed Southeast Asian city that’s home to nearly 17 million people with large populations of Hindus and Muslims and very few Christians.

“Every people group is represented in London. This is what heaven will look like,” said James Roberts, the IMB London city manager.

He described the economic conditions of the people living in the city, “There’s a wide gap financially, the poorest of the poor and the super wealthy, very little middle class. We’re trying to work together more across affinity groups.”


Exit signs in the London subway system read “Way Out.” For Southern Baptists sharing Christ in this bustling multi-cultural melting pot, the phrase speaks of opportunity the gospel offers for more than half of Londoners who claim a non-Christian religion or no religion at all.

Where do you even begin to start in such a large city?

Victoria. Paddington. White Chapel. They’re all stations in the London Underground subway system where up to 4.8 million passenger journeys take place each day, according to Transport for London. There are 280 stations along the 11 lines of the Tube, as it’s commonly called. The stations are the key to IMB’s outreach here.

“The goal is to have a missional community in each area,” Roberts said, describing a map-driven analysis of the entire city. “A missional community is a group that discerns how God is moving and tries to gather to share community—mom’s groups, small groups, men’s groups.”

The team in London knows it won’t be easy. “It’s a lot of networking, coffee, work, limitless streams of people coming in,” Roberts said. “We try to connect, catch people as they come with the goal of starting new groups and church work. It takes a village to pull this thing off and courage to pull this together.”

Shane Mikeska is a student mobilizer on the London team. Before coming to England, he and his family lived in Asia, but illness forced a move from the tropics. “Western Europe is the hardest place to engage the population. In Asia it’s easier to have a spirited conversation. Here in this context most (people) are apathetic.”

On campuses, he said, “the students most open to new things are internationals. There are opportunities to connect to hold worship and Bible study.” Reaching them is a focal point in the cities initiative. “They can go home and go into their culture and share boldly.”

About 50,000 Americans study abroad each year and many are Christians. “We want them to come and plug into the local church and ministry, not just travel and experience things.”

You are here
The Global Cities Initiative allows people who feel called to go—but not in the traditional career-missionary way.

D. Ray Davis is part of the IMB mobilization team. “We used to say God is calling and people aren’t listening. Now we’re saying God is calling and more people are listening than we can send.”

IMB President David Platt uses the word “limitless” to describe his vision for reaching the world: limitless numbers of missionaries utilizing “multiple pathways” to the mission field. GCI is one of those pathways to “send limitless missionaries to engage lostness all over the world,” Roberts said. “Business professionals, students, retirees—a GCI person raises their own support.” Groups and individuals are also invited to come serve on short-term projects. “There’s no language barrier to overcome,” Roberts said of his London mission field.

After getting to know the city, Mikeska has grown to love London and thinks others will too. “Now, I look at this vast city and wail over it and cry over it, like in the Bible. God’s done a transformational work in my heart,” the young missionary said. Even as he weeps for the lost, Mikeska concludes, “We’re excited about the future, being part of this team.”

To learn more, visit All statistics, unless otherwise noted, are from the International Mission Board.

– Lisa Sergent recently traveled to London to meet with members of the International Mission Board’s communications team. With staffing changes abroad and at the Richmond, Virginia headquarters, IMB is implementing new mission strategies. The goal is to multiply the number of missionaries on the field, especially short-term and volunteer workers who will practice their professions and their faith among the world’s lost people. Targeting huge cities in five regions of the world is one of those strategies.

If mission team members could share Christ in London, we can share Christ here at home.

If mission team members could share Christ in London, we can share Christ here at home.

HEARTLAND | Serena Butler

One of the questions we ask of mission trip applicants is, “Why do you want to go on this trip?” Someone once asked me, “Why do you take people on mission trips?” I could provide a couple of answers. One might be to expose people to a different culture and learn that there are fellow Christ-followers living in other parts of the world. Another might be so that we can take the Gospel to a location that does not have as much access to the Gospel as we do here in the United States. Yet another is to challenge the participants to rely on God like they have never done before.

One of the purposes of our trip to London was to expose the participants to evangelism techniques they could bring home with them and use in their own community. Sometimes we are willing to try new things on a mission trip because it is all a part of the adventure. We will stand in a busy train station and ask people if they are willing to take a survey, with the goal of leading them into a spiritual conversation, but we would not do that at home. Would we transform our sanctuary into a coffee-house for the purpose of reaching out to our community and walk every street in our town to personally invite each resident to attend that coffee-house? I don’t know, but I know the members of Southfields Baptist Church did that in preparation for the London Olympics. I was challenged by their determination.

Southfields Church is just a 15-minute walk from the front gates of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, home to Wimbledon. It is also a stone’s throw from the main Tube (London’s subway) station nearest the tennis site. For years the church never thought to minister to the visitors to Wimbledon, until the Olympics came to town. It gave them a new perspective and drive. Now, after the success of the Big Screen Olympic Lounge, they’re planning to provide the same outreach each year during the Wimbledon Championships. So, what can we learn from our friends from across the Pond?

Will the Olympics come to Clinton, Illinois? Probably not. But Clinton is home to the Pork and Apple Festival each year. Thousands of people come each year to Morton to catapult a pumpkin through the air. Millions visit the State Fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin. Many of our communities host yearly events that draw people from nearby towns.  What can your church do to creatively reach those people? Will it take work? Absolutely!! Will the work be worth it? If the gospel is shared and Christ’s love is made known … definitely, positively, YES!!!

I have challenged the London team to put into practice here at home what they learned there.

If they can start a spiritual conversation on an underground ride through the city, then they can start one with a co-worker. God will give us the strength to overcome our fears and take the first step. Then we just have to keep taking steps forward and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit wherever He leads.

A mission trip should not end when we come back home. The mission trip should be the first step in a new chapter in our life that teaches and trains us to re-evaluate how we are ministering and sharing the Gospel at home. May we be as bold and creative as our British friends who strove to share the Gospel with the world when it came to their city.

London Bobbies were among the many people Serena and the mission team members met.

These two Bobbies were among the many people Serena and the mission team members met and shared the Gospel with during their trip to London.

COMMENTARY | Serena Butler

Wow, what a trip! With everyone safely home and sleeping in our beds, we now have time to sit back and reflect on our time in London. As I sat last night and watched some of the Games on TV, I couldn’t help but think about all that took place. I found myself trying to pick out the Team Great Britain participants in the various events. As they mentioned places like Horse Guard Parade, I had visions of the Tube stations that service that venue.

But more than the Games themselves, my mind went back to the people we met. My thoughts and prayers were with people like the newspaper stand guy at Kings Cross who gave the team directions to the church on the first day. Or the Muslim man who Ian spoke with and, then another group encountered, who final made his way into Café Eden. A German and an Australian stumbled across Kings Cross Church while looking for a place to fulfill their traditional religious duties, and heard the truth about God wanting a relationship with us, not just traditional practices. One brought her friends to the Café the next day and even returned for church on Sunday.

I thought about Edgar who stopped into Southfields that first night to watch the Opening Ceremonies because he was lonely and wanted to watch with people from around the neighborhood instead of in his flat by himself. Throughout the week, he returned every day and many of us had the chance to have conversations with him about how much God loves him and understands his loneliness; and encouraged him to seek a relationship with God and to continue coming to the church.

Geraldine, the women I talked to on the Tube one morning, was also on my mind.  She had been baptized as a child, but had been away from church for a long time. We talked on the platform before boarding the Tube, where I had the chance to share the Gospel with her. We rode the train together and continued our conversation, and then just before she got off at her stop, she asked me to pray for her. I pray that God will bring others across her path to water the seed and finally bring her to the point of salvation.

There are so many others, like the ball girl from Wimbledon, the Pakistani man who volunteered at tennis venue, the lady in charge of the Southfields Tube Station, the head gamesmen at Wimbledon, the survivor of Sept. 11, the Bobbies who patrolled the area around the Southfields church, the Jehovah’s Witness who talked to Maddie for over an hour, the Muslim man I shared with at the station, the Muslim girl who Mari-Sue shared the Gospel with who missed her stop because she was so interested, and the hundreds of others whom we shared with while we were there. I am sure each team member has a list of their own.

But I am also reminded of the church leaders we met, encouraged, and were challenged by. Pete and Don at Kings Cross work so hard to minister in that hard neighborhood. May God continue to bless their efforts. Melissa and Nick and the other members at Southfields, may they continue to grow in their boldness to share Christ in their community.

Before I left, Melissa took me aside and told me that the church leaders have been discussing the possibility of opening the coffeehouse again during the annual Wimbledon Tennis Tournament. They were encouraged by our willingness to go out and invite others to come and to share the Gospel with them. They are seeking wisdom and asking God to help them reach out more to those who live in Southfields.

So many good things happened with so many hearing the Gospel! It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in the lives of everyone we met.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The country’s major political parties will gather for their national conventions in the next two weeks. Republicans, meeting in Tampa Aug. 27-30, take with them into their convention a major unanswered question – who will be Mitt Romney’s running mate? And Democrats, scheduled for Charlotte Sept. 3-6, are poised to make a historic shift on same-sex marriage.

The Democratic Party followed President Barack Obama’s example on same-sex marriage late last month, announcing they’ll add language to their official platform endorsing the legalization of gay marriage.

The announcement, the first of its kind by either major party, came nearly three months after Obama expressed his personal support for same-sex marriage. A recent Pew Research survey found 65 percent of Democrats support same-sex marriage, marking an increase of 15 percent since 2008.

On the other side of the political aisle, Republicans await the announcement of presumptive nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate. Voters – evangelicals in particular – are waiting to see whether public perception of his Mormon faith will affect his choice.

Will Romney choose a vice presidential candidate with stronger evangelical Christian ties than his own? A Barna survey found it may not matter: Of likely voters, only 14 percent said a candidate’s religious faith is one of the most important factors in deciding to vote for him or her. Faith was fifth on the list after position on issues, personal character, the candidate’s political party, and political experience.

To read more about Barna’s findings, including how 12 key issues rank in importance amongst voters, go to

Other news:

Platt, Stetzer, Giglio, others on platform at NAMB’s SEND conference
More than 2,000 people attended the North American Mission Board’s SEND North America conference, designed to galvanize leaders toward church planting in urban areas. Speakers including David Platt, J.D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, Johnny Hunt and Louie Gilglio were all on hand to encourage pastors and leaders toward investment in church planting and church revitalization. Chicago and St. Louis are two of the focus cities that will benefit from added ministry partnerships over the next several years. Read more about the conference at

(Still) appreciating Chick-Fil-A
Although Chick-Fil-A declined to release exact sales numbers, Wednesday, August 1, was a “record-setting day” for the restaurant chain, according to a news release from the company. More than 600,000 signed up on Facebook for National Support Chick-Fil-A Day. Counter protests from proponents of same-sex marriage – the issue that precipitated Chick-Fil-A Day – are underway, but haven’t yet gathered as much steam, at least on Facebook, as the original event. Read one seminary professor’s defense of why he chose to “eat more chicken” August 1.

Kentucky conference explores Calvinism debate
There is a deep division in the Southern Baptist Convention over Calvinism, said SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, during a conference hosted by the Kentucky Baptist Convention. “Calvinism: Concerned, Confused, or Curious,” brought together four SBC leaders of varying theology perspectives to discuss what many think is the most important – and potentially divisive – debate in the convention. Read more at

Olympics: U.S. volleyball captain relies on personal faith
The U.S. men’s volleyball team experienced tragedy four years ago in Beijing, when Coach High McCutcheon’s father-in-law was killed while in China to cheer on the team. Reid Priddy was a member of that squad, who rallied to an emotional gold medal. Now, as team captain, he’s hoping to lead his team back to the top of the podium. Priddy spoke to Baptist Press about his personal faith and how God has used volleyball to mold his character. Read the profile here.

Farewell London

Meredith Flynn —  August 3, 2012

OLYMPICS | Serena Butler

We’ve wrapped up our week of ministry at these Olympics, and will head to Paris on Friday for some sightseeing. (We’re also taking Olympic pins and some More Than Gold booklets that explain the Gospel, because you never know who we’ll run into).

Our last few days in London have been really full. We continued to work in the Kings Cross coffee house and Southfields TV Lounge, and we also saw a little of the city (Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, and Big Ben). We even caught some Olympic action – half our group watched the U.S. women’s volleyball team (indoor) beat China in straight sets. The rest of us cheered on the U.S. women’s basketball team as they took on Turkey, and won 89-58.

We looked across the court and could see the men’s team there to support the women. So, yes, I was in the same building as Lebron James.  On our way out of the Olympic Park we saw a retired NBA player, and Ian and Mari-Sue had their picture taken with him. (But you’ll have to ask them who it was – I’m not as up on that as I should be).

On Thursday, our last ministry day, I saw something really interesting at the Southfields TV Lounge: One of the gamemakers (people who are working at the Olympic venues) had picked up an Evangicube (a witnessing resource) and was showing it to a young boy who was there with his mother. He went through the Gospel with the little guy. One of our team members had brought the Evangicube from home and now the story was being passed on through the locals who are working the Games.

There are many more stories to tell about our time here. We have made new friends and also now have a home church in London. If I am ever back, I know where to worship. Thanks to you all for praying for us – we’ll see you soon!

OLYMPICS | Serena Butler

Our long train commute has been a blessing; we’ve had so many opportunities to meet Olympics volunteers and visitors, and people who actually live in London.

On the Tube ride home after a long day Tuesday, I sat down in my seat as the train started to move. When I looked up, three of our team members were already talking to the people sitting next to them. All of them had the opportunity to share the Gospel. Mari-Sue spoke with a lady who missed her stop because they were deep in conversation. Here are a few of the new friends we’ve met during our commutes and days at the ministry centers:

  • Geraldine, a Londoner I talked to on the Tube. We talked about the Olympics and she asked who we were working with. I was able to give her one of our pins and explain the colors and go through the Gospel with her. She was very receptive to hearing about it and loved the pin. She told me that she was raised Catholic but is not in church anymore; then, she changed the subject. She got even quieter and we rode a few stops in silence. As she was getting off at her stop, she leaned over and grabbed my arm and said, “Will you please pray for me?” Then she stepped off the train. I wanted to get off with her, but had no way to communicate with my team what I was doing, so I stayed on, but told Geraldine I would pray for her. She smiled and waved to me as the doors closed. We prayed for her later during our prayer time.
  • Igor graciously took a group photo of us at the airport in Chicago. He’s from Russia but has lived in the U.S. for a long time. He asked if we were some sort of sports team. I told him that we were a mission team going to work at the Olympics. I also told him that I had been to Russia in May. When I told him we had worked with Baptist churches there, he was surprised to learn that there were Baptist churches in Russia. He grew up in a village in the north where there was no church at all. I was able to share a little bit with him about God and the hope He offers. I hope that brief conversation will plant a seed so that he wants to learn more about the Gospel.
  • Anya is working at the Sand Volleyball venue and her boyfriend was one of the drummers in the Opening Ceremonies. She was baptized as a baby, but isn’t in church at all now. We gave her a pin and a booklet, which she quickly started asking questions about. As the conversation got deeper, she wanted to change the subject, so we talked about her schooling at the university and what she wants to do with her life. I pray that she will read the booklet and that the Spirit will work on her heart.

Please pray with us for these and others we’ll meet during our time in London, that God will give us boldness to start conversations about Him.

What day is it?

Meredith Flynn —  August 1, 2012

OLYMPICS | Serena Butler

Have you ever felt like you’ve been somewhere forever, but it’s only been a week? That’s how I would describe our first week in London. In just eight days, we traveled here, trained for our Olympic assignments, worshiped in local churches, set up two coffee houses, and met more people from more countries than I can begin to count. Our two-hour ride into town each morning is starting to feel like second nature, and we’re still getting lots of opportunities to talk to people about why we’re here.

Meeting a new friend on the Tube, who was excited to show off his USA shirt.

The crowd at the Kings Cross coffee house is growing. The church decided to pull a ping pong table out onto the Square in front of the church to see if it would draw a crowd…and did it ever. Local shop owners came over on their breaks to play a game. Kids came in from around the neighborhood, and some Olympic tourists stopped by, too.

Over at Southfields Church, we’re seeing more visitors in the TV Lounge. One older gentleman comes every day. He doesn’t really care about spiritual things, but something keeps bringing him back every day. It might be the pull of being with others. He has talked to several of us on the team about his loneliness. We are glad that he feels comfortable coming and hope the TV Lounge is helping to break through some of the ice.

Just like Starbucks.

The weather is helping us out, too. One day, it rained off and on all day, and people came in to warm up with a coffee or tea. Several of the workers from the tennis venue are coming in, and we learned that man in charge of crowd control is telling his volunteer staff to come to the Lounge during their break time. He said that he “wasn’t much of a religious person, but this is a great place for them to come.” Word is also spreading among the Tube workers and they’re beginning to stop in. It is our prayer that Southfields Church will continue to build relationships with those who live and work in their area.

God is working in the city. Pray for the team as the long days are beginning to wear on us. Our host churches have been so gracious, and there is still so much work to be done.

London Calling!

Meredith Flynn —  July 25, 2012

OLYMPICS | Serena Butler

Editor’s note: IBSA’s Serena Butler is leading a mission team in London this week to help local churches there minister during the Summer Olympic Games, which start Friday. They’ll work in coffee houses hosted by the churches for Londoners and visitors to watch the Games, grab a bite to eat, and engage in conversation with people from around the world. Serena will post regular updates here, so be sure to check back frequently and also visit for more from London.

We had a miraculously smooth entry into London –
even with all our luggage.

When I called my mom before we left for London, I said, “Maybe all our flights will be on time and all our luggage will arrive on time.” She said, “That would be a miracle.”

Well, Mom, miracles still happen! We all arrived safely – actually early – into Heathrow International Airport Tuesday morning. We breezed through passport control, found our luggage, and made our way through customs without a hitch. When we came into the main terminal of the airport, there were Olympic volunteers everywhere waiting to greet teams and media people. As we waited for our mini-bus to arrive to take us to our lodging, several folks asked us who we were and what we were doing. Some asked us what sports team we were. I’m not sure what kind of team we look like, but it started some conversations as we waited.

Nelda Smothers, our senior team member, quickly started a conversation with one of the volunteers. As I approached her, I could hear her saying things like, “It’s about a relationship, not a religion.” She learned that the gentleman’s wife attends a church in the Kings Cross area, where half of our team will be serving. As we spoke to a few others they and we explained what we would be doing, one said, “I might just pop in for some coffee at your coffee house one afternoon.” (You need to say that last sentence with your best Mary Poppins impression).

Meeting the Norwegian handball team.
Go Norway! But what is handball?

As we waited outside for our ride, the Norwegian handball team arrived, and our team took advantage of the opportunity to take some photos with some real Olympians. Then, it was time to board our coach and head to All Nations, the Christian college where we’re staying this week. It’s housed in an old manor once owned by friends of William Wilberforce. If you saw that movie “Amazing Grace” that name should ring a bell. The college is a training school for missions. It has lovely gardens and is very nice – and very English.

Our lodging for the week.

Tuesday evening, we had our first orientation session, joining about 200 other volunteers from around the globe. I met Dirk, a young man from Germany, who’s here in London because, in his words, “I attended the Barcelona Games as an atheist and I was introduced to the Gospel by a street preacher there. That is where I began my search for God.” Now he is here, as a believer, to share the Gospel with others. He was raised in East Germany, under communism, so Barcelona was the first time he had heard the Gospel. Those are the kinds of opportunities we’re praying for this week.