Author - Stephen McQuoid, General Director GLO Europe
Stephen McQuoid is the General Director of GLO Europe and has a passion for reaching secular Europeans with the gospel. He is also an elder at Liberty Community Church in Bellshill and combines this with an itinerant teaching and training ministry both in the UK and abroad. He is married with three children.
“Christians in the UK have to ask themselves a deeply searching question – do they want to board the train and get involved in global mission, or will they remain on the platform while God uses other people and methods to achieve his purpose?”
Two men are deep in conversation, sitting cross-legged on the grass on a sunny spring morning. One of them is African, the other from Pakistan. Their conversation is warm but intense, as they discuss issues of profound significance to them both. Occasionally their serious faces break out into warm smiles, and even laughter. They respect each other and treat one another with courtesy, but each clearly wants to convince the other of the rightness of his position.
The African speaks with a strong Lekki accent, placing his origins in Lagos state, Nigeria. He speaks with passion as the wind ruffles his loose fitting bright green Kaftan. The other man comes from Lahore in the Punjab. He too tries to sound passionate, argumentative even, though he is unsettled by the knowledge and grace of his African friend. On the narrow space between them lies an opened black book resting on a white cloth which the Nigerian placed there at the start of the conversation. He points to the text repeatedly, quoting from it to his Pakistani friend.
There are several things about this setting which are important for us to consider.
Firstly, the conversation is in English even though it is not the first language of either man. Secondly the black book is a Bible which the African brought with him, in order to divulge its truths to his friend who is a Muslim. Coming from a city with a Muslim majority and substantial Christian minority, the African is well accustomed to these kinds of discussions. Most significantly of all this conversation has taken place in Highbury Fields, North London.
Just one conversation in a small park, but one that speaks volumes about the new world we now live in and the realities with which we need to deal.
The first thing to be stated is that the centre of gravity for Christianity has changed over the last few centuries. It used to be the case that Europe in general, and the UK in particular, was the heartbeat of the Christian faith. Indeed, the UK is noted around the world for the missionaries who have left her shores to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. Today, however, Christianity is weak in the UK and barely visible throughout much of Europe. In other parts of the world the Christian faith thrives! China, Latin America and Africa are now the epicentres of the Christian faith. Indeed, African evangelicals outnumber their European counterparts by ten to one.
Secondly, the mission field is on our doorstep. A city like London, with its 300 languages, one million Muslims and dozens of other belief systems, desperately needs the gospel, as does every other city throughout the UK and Europe. Thanks to globalization, immigration and multiculturalism, virtually every important European city is home to every major world religion. These religious systems rub shoulders with a heady cocktail of atheism, moral relativism and a heavy dose of both cynicism and apathy.
Thirdly, the gospel is being spread in a new way. Evangelistic endeavour is not just dependant on ‘professional’ missionaries who commit themselves full time to conveying Christian truths to people who have never heard. Today many ‘missionaries’ are actually African or Latin American or Korean business men and women, who have moved to new countries in search of work, and bring with them their passion for the gospel which they share with friends they make all over the world.
All of this demonstrates that this is an exciting time to be a Christian. We are part of a huge and growing church that is permeating cultures around the world, even in countries where conventional gospel ministry is not possible.
This, however, begs a big question.
Do these new realities spell an end to traditional missionary work? The answer is emphatically ‘no’!
There is still a huge need for conventional missionaries, including missionaries from the UK. Equally, there is a great urgency for UK Christians and churches to be mission-minded, whether or not they commit themselves to full-time mission work.
However, in this new world where God is doing mission in new ways, and Christ is still building his church, Christians in the UK have to ask themselves a deeply searching question. Do they want to board the train and get involved in global mission, or will they remain on the platform while God uses other people and methods to achieve his purpose? Make no mistake, God will indeed achieve His purposes, even if it is done by Nigerian business men sharing the gospel with Muslim neighbours in North London.
The challenge for us is – do we want to be part of this great adventure in reaching this new world for Christ?