The reason that our sabbatical travels started in London is because I (Stephen) have been connected for the past 4 years with the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity – or LICC. LICC’s main purpose is to equip churches to disciple people for their whole lives. This may seem obvious, but many churches (most?) focus their attention on equipping people to serve in the church. But of our roughly 120 hours awake during a week, we spend – at most – about 10 hours doing church activities of preparing for such activities. That means that we spend the other 110 hours outside the church in our jobs, school, and neighborhoods. This part of life is what LICC calls the Frontline.
So we’ve been trying to prepare people to live for Christ on their Frontlines for the past 4 years or so and I wanted to come over to England and meet with the people who developed the ideas that we’ve been trying to implement and meet the church leaders who have been doing it longer than we have. I’m also on the board of directors for the VERE Institute, which is carrying on this same work training church leaders in the US. I want to know how our institute can be more effective in reaching and preparing church leaders to make whole-life disciple. Hence, a month in London.
This week was my first chance to actually get into the office and meet some of the people. Tuesday (May 8), I met with Neil Hudson, the direction of the project to prepare churches to develop whole-life disciples. After a short briefing, he introduced me to Steve Rouse, a member of the Church Consulting Team, who is both a pastor and a pastor-trainer. It was a such a treat to talk about the tough questions that come from implementing these ideas in a church setting. He was honest about the challenges, but also encouraged me with the stories and ideas he shared about how a church’s life can change over time.
I then met with Charles Hippsley, who directs the efforts focused on faith and work (living our our faith specifically in a vocational work context). He told me about the new things that are being developed for young adults and college students to help prepare them in the early days of their careers to see their work as part of their calling from God and approach is as a ministry and mission. I later attended the re: Work conference, which I’ll write about later.
Finally, Neil joined our family for dinner. In some ways, this was the highlight for me. I’ve met Neil 2 or 3 times before this trip, but never spent much time with him. I’ve read his books and seem him on video and sat under his teaching, but we’ve never hung out before. He is a gem of a man. We had a blast eating tapas at La Bodega just talking about life, ministry, churches, good food, and whatever else came up. My kids took an instant liking to him. It was a great way to kick off the time here at LICC.