What I'm learning as a missionary in London
Steve Nichols shares what he’s been learning recently, having worked as an inner city missionary for 31 years. He works in Croydon alongside New Life Christian Centre to help share the gospel with the least reached in the local area.
"I’ve enjoyed being an LCM missionary for 31 years – and of course still going strong! However, no matter how long in the tooth I may be, I still face barriers to hinder witness. Negative thoughts within, hostility without.
Negative thoughts within
"The other day, I was on my way to Croydon shopping area to hand out tracts. ‘You’re wasting your time, no one is listening, no one is interested’... I shook these disheartening thoughts off. Later, a man in his 20s passed by, then doubled back saying, ‘You don’t remember me, do you?’ I had to admit I didn’t. ‘You gave me one of those leaflets and I’ve started going to a church down the road from here.’
Once I got home, I remembered those negative thoughts and realised that young man was God’s way of reassuring me.
"When door-knocking, I’ve been told off for knocking too loud and waking the baby or disturbing sleep for someone on shift work. Hostile attitudes need a gentle, respectful response. I haven’t always got this right. I say something and then realise, ‘What a howler!’. The way I said it or the thing I said was not appropriate – I’m still learning.
"My advice is to try not to get upset when someone is hostile and rejects what we say – maybe we were hostile when we first heard the gospel? The apostle Paul certainly was. The most aggressive people can, over time, soften. One lady I met while knocking on doors refused our Good News paper. I decided to call briefly every three months wishing her well. Last time she smiled. It’s a small start to build on.
Closed doors, closed mouths
"Another barrier to witness is the weather. Heat in summer, bitter cold in winter. How might you feel opening your door with freezing air coming in? But the hardest thing for me when knocking on doors isn’t the weather or the barking dog – it’s getting people to talk. People are reticent to stop, let alone chat. If people appear in a hurry, I’ll not keep them at the doorstep.
"Hindu and Muslim people often invite me in and are generally happy for me to read a few verses from the Bible and pray. If there is a hesitancy, I need to respect that and ease off and perhaps talk about family, holidays, health.
"Finally, the biggest hindrance to the gospel is the spiritual warfare we’re engaging in. Put on the armour of God and pray.
"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:14-17