Editor’s Note: In September, the International Mission Board hosted Baptist state paper editors in London to introduce its new media network and to explore its Global Cities Initiative, a part of IMB President David Platt’s desire to introduce a “limitless” missionary force of Southern Baptists.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
LONDON — The Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s plan to have an impact in London will require more than the missionaries who currently serve in the self-proclaimed “Capital of the World.”
London is home to about 270 nationalities with 300 spoken languages. The city is home to 66 unreached people groups (second highest in the world). In a city with an estimated population of 6.83 million (12 million in the greater London area), only 1 percent of the city is considered to be “reached” with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It will take retirees, students, and career professionals who can plant themselves in the city. But, it also will take volunteers — a large number of them.
A team from Kirby Woods Baptist Church in Memphis recently spent a week in London helping with student work in the southwestern part of the city.
The team was led by Charlotte and Tim Sheehy, lay leaders from Kirby Woods who lived in the United Kingdom at one time. “They have a heartbeat for this area,” observed Shane Mikeska, student mobilizer for the IMB at Kingston University and Roehampton University.
The Sheehys lived near Oxford for three years in the 1980s, they related. “For both of us, there was a call to go back,” said Charlotte Sheehy.
The couple has led four teams to London, including a vision trip the first year. Their interest in returning to London year after year stems from a desire to help “their brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Though acknowledging that a lot of churches in London are dying, Charlotte observed “there is a pulse there.”
The teams have enjoyed working with the university in Kingston.
Charlotte said they plan to reassess and pray about what their future involvement will be in “the Capital of the World.”
They learned of a Baptist church in the area that is on the verge of dying. “We would like to help rebuild a church that has fizzled,” Charlotte said, noting that while London is not without churches the city does not have many missional Baptist churches.
“Our dream is to get that church back up and running,” she said.
While reaching the people of London is not easy, both Tim and Charlotte noted they are open to conversations. On this last trip, Charlotte intentionally sat by herself during lunch and asked God “to bring someone to me.” A young man sat with her and they began a conversation. Though he was resistant at first to talk about spiritual things, he began to open up during the conversation. By the time their visit was over he told Charlotte that he would begin to read his Bible again.
“That was not a salvation decision but it was a decision to move toward God,” she related.
Tim observed it was easy to strike up conversations with the residents there and he noted that some of them are open to talking about God, even though no one made specific decisions for Christ.
Jim Collier, pastor of Kirby Woods Baptist Church, is appreciative of the efforts Kirby Woods volunteers have made to take the gospel to London.
“When a person thinks about places that need a gospel witness, he or she may not ever think about London. But, the world has come to London, and Londoners themselves have become hardened to the gospel,” Collier said.
“Kirby Woods seeks to be a gospel witness wherever there is a need, not just in places with exotic names,” he added.