If you’ve been keeping up with our social media (@TheWestLondonLife) then you know that Thomas spent the last few days in London. He was on a *brief* trip with a few of our key supporting churches - we are eager to introduce them to you in a couple of weeks! Over the last few days Thomas led a series of meetings with our on-the-ground partnerships and sending churches.
We are excited to reveal so many aspects about our partnerships in London - we will do this in the weeks ahead! We are blown away by God’s favor on our lives and in these plans to move to London. As we wait, we pray and work. Trips like this last week go a long way in preparing the work of planting a church in London. The following blog post elaborates on a few themes from this last week…
A City Within A City
London is a city of urban villages. If you take a visit to London then you will probably visit some of the beautiful attractions that are on offer: Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Elizabeth Tower / Big Ben, Westminster, Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge) and, The London Eye. These places are breathtaking and a must to visit whenever you visit the capitol. But London has so much more to offer. London is a city within a city.
To be precise, the old City of London refers to the square mile of London that has existed all the way back to when(ever) the Romans settled in the space that is now known as London. This is the oldest part of London - a place that has existed long before the British monarchy ever came to be. Because of this original occupation, the crown is not welcome in the old City of London without an official invitation from the Lord Mayor. This is a tradition wrapped in consequence and one of the many things that makes London such a unique and cool place.
Outside the old City of London are the attractional sights and sounds that make up much of what the world considers to be London. These are the major landmarks, famous restaurants and pubs, shopping, and fun places to visit. These areas combine to create the beautiful “Zone 1” of London. This is the area that much of the world thinks of when London comes to mind. But London is so much more than this.
A City of Urban Villages
Obviously, London is more than the city of sites and attractions that we associate with it. The city of London is the people and the culture they create. The overwhelming majority of these people do not live in Zone 1. They live in the surrounding nine zones and 32 boroughs of London. While the old City of London and many of the attraction features are widely considered to be London, the real charm of this global city is found outside of these areas.
London is a city of urban villages. The wording is intentional. London is a global city comprised of 32 boroughs. Each of these boroughs are home to one or a few urban villages. These urban villages usually consist of: a high street (think: main street), transportation links, various forms of housing, and schooling for the children. These urban villages provide the best combination of urban city life with the small town feel of villages. In an urban village you have the down-sized hustle and bustle of a city mixed with the local pub and park feel of a neighborhood.
While the city is what London is generally known for its life commonly takes place in a series of surrounding villages. Together these two places - the city and the villages - constitute what is the great city of London: 11,000,000 people strong and the capital of the world. In these days of preparing to plant in London we spend most of our time in the neighborhoods of London. These are the unique and diverse places where its people live and move and have their being. We love the neighborhoods of London and aspire to see the teeming with churches that plant churches and influence all of life with the gospel.
A City On A Hill
London is a strategic place to plant churches for a variety of reasons. First, one must consider the unique role that London has played in history. It’s hard to recount the history of the Church without making several visits to the city of London - it has always played a central role in the mission of God. Second, one must consider the important role that London has played in world history. London has been the place where ideas have been born, formed, and implemented for better and for worse. It is an inescapably influential city. Third, one must consider the very practical nature of influence. London is a city on a hill. It’s possible influence Helsinki from London but it is virtually impossible to influence London from Helsinki. London is a city on a hill - ideas flow down and from the city and rarely up to it.
London is a city on a hill. For this reason, and many others, we desire to move into London to plant a church that plants churches. This is not mere ambition from our family who loves the Lord but a desire to be true to the loving character of our God.
God calls us out of comfort and security and into a life of faith and risk. Jesus is the one who divested himself of his very life so others could come to know God. Jesus is our model for how and why to move a life into a great city. It won’t be easy to ascend the hill and move our family into London - but God never promised that it would be or should be easy. God has promised that He will be with us, that He is good, and that we can trust Him with our lives. God shows us how to make appropriate risks and sacrifices by sending His Son to be our Savior. As we look to God’s example, we look to make sacrifices to ascend the hill that is the city of London and we hope to burn brightly for the glory of God.
So, with a week in the city of London behind us, we press on into the process of moving to the city to give our lives for the sake of the gospel. We are excited as ever about what God is doing in London and we are eager to be a small link in the long chain of faithful ministry that God has done there so far. We are driven by the identity that Jesus has given us as His children…
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”