The other night after New City’s worship service I had an interesting conversation with, Oong Lee, our British-Korean pastoral apprentice. We had a good laugh as he recalled some of the ridiculous questions he’s been asked over the years:
Do you know kung fu? “Sorry to disappoint you but all Asians don’t know martial arts. (Kung fu is Chinese while taekwondo is Korean)
Are you related to Bruce Lee? “No, my surname is Lee but Bruce Lee was Chinese.” (Lee is the second most common name in South Korea after Kim.)
Why don’t you have a name that English speaking people can pronounce? “I don’t know – ask my parents.” (Should we really expect parents to name their children with names that are easy for English speakers?)
Where did you learn English? And with such a brilliant accent! “I’ve always spoken English as I was two years old when I moved to London from Seoul, South Korea.” (Many immigrants who move to an English speaking country at an early age will speak without much of an accent.)
Of course we should ask questions of those who are from a different ethic background from ourselves. It’s great to find out about someone’s culture along with their story. You’ll find that most people like to talk about themselves. But use a little common sense, before you open your mouth. No culture is monolithic – every person will have a unique experience within their culture. Expect this.
So go ahead – ask that question. But use a little discretion.
And let’s cut out the kung fu questions!
A few days ago, I was holding little Abdi (not his real name) because he wasn’t old enough to play the game New City folks were running at the White City Kids Club. Playing with his chubby fingers, I tried to keep him occupied. Then I started to sing a nursery rhyme I remembered from my childhood:
“This little piggy went to market…” Stop! I thought in my mind, “I can’t sing a little song about pigs to a little M-lim boy!”
Abdi had joined the club because some of the New City staff had invited his mother to come while walking over to the White City Estate. She came with her two young children and brought her younger brother who is in primary school. I met Abdi’s father as well, when he stopped by on the way to work, to drop something off to his wife.
I learned several lessons that morning:
- We can’t assume that M-lims won’t want to come to an event held at a church building. Like most mothers, Abdi’s mother was looking for something safe and fun for her children to do during the Easter school break.
- We must be thoughtful in our approach to playing with M-lim children, but it’s better to try and make mistakes than keep a safe distance. Some of the little games that worked other children (“steal the bacon”) may need to be adjusted.
Kindness shown to the ‘outsider’ can open up doors to new relationships. Only God knows where these relationships will lead but we need to be willing to take the steps to get them started. But once started they can lead to real and lasting friendships in which the deeper truths of life are shared, enjoyed, and explained.
Are there opportunities for you to show the love Christ to those around you? Are you willing to take a chance and invite those “outsiders” into your circle of influence?
In Mark 5, Jesus gives a little story about a farmer who scatters seeds, then goes to sleep and “rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how.” (Mark 5:27) How true for us in Shepherd’s Bush!
How do you plant a church in a neighborhood with people who are secular, other faiths or nominally Christian? I don’t know! But, at New City we try various activities to both speak and show the love of God and somehow or other, the Kingdom advances. Like a fellow IPC pastor of mine told me onetime: “Nothing works, so we try everything!” (Obviously, he knows God uses some programs, but we just don’t know which ones!)
One idea we’ve tried more consistently recently is “Open Church”. We open the doors of the historic church we work out of and place a sign on the pavement offering free drinks, snacks, prayer, etc. And then I am always surprised at who stops by when the church doors are open.
One recent week it was an Indian friend who stopped by after work, a Brazilian woman looking for help, a Sundanese man who drank tea and talked about the educational success of his children, an English woman in a wheelchair who comes to New City occasionally, a Bulgarian woman asking for prayer, a young Arab boy looking for a snack and several local mums with their children after the school run.
God is at work growing his Kingdom in Shepherd’s Bush. It’s just that on many days, I can’t explain exactly how this is happening. But many that’s normal for any Christian who’s missional in life. Just like a farmer who doesn’t fully understand biology, we scatter the gospel seeds, and pray that in some way or another, God moves in the lives of people we encounter.