June 2007 - Vol. 9

photo montage by Jamie Treadwell

Minding the Gap in London:
speaking to university students about the person and work of Jesus Christ

By Tadhg Lynch

Tadhg Lynch is a youth leader and member of Nazareth Community in Dublin, Ireland.  For the past year he has served as a Gapper in a London based evangelistic training program sponsored by Kairos in Europe, an international youth outreach organization of The Sword of the Spirit.  Tadhg shares his experience of front-line evangelism among university students in London.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”   - Isaiah 55:10-11
Pizza parties and friendship evangelism
Dave was the biggest guy at my tennis club. He was the same age as me, 6 feet and 7 inches tall, and seemed a good partner to attempt the boys' doubles championship with. We duly reached the final of the tournament in our first year as a team, but it was a disaster. Despite a good start, I couldn’t contain my laughter at his attempts to smash the ball. He missed every time even though he was about twice as tall as everyone else on the court! We lost.

Over the next few years I grew to know Dave better. Dave was very typical of a young guy in Ireland – he was interested in sports, finishing his degree at college and watching football on the television. Although we went to different universities we met fairly regularly for coffee or a drink over the next few years. Our conversation generally revolved around life, ethics and moral questions. He knew I was “religious” and this interested him – more, I think, than he admitted to me – none of his other friends went to church or prayed regularly. Finally, after getting to know one another for about 4 years, he came to the youth meeting of the Nazareth community in Dublin. He arrived late and missed the prayer and talk but helped us eat the pizza. I always felt I had tried and failed with Dave, and now the opportunity was gone…

Missionary Gapper in London
Before I came to the GAP program in London the word evangelism scared me. I had images of prayer meetings upon the streets of Dublin with everyone I knew parading past while I tried desperately to play the right chords to the song “Arise Shine Out”. I knew that speaking to people about God was a task for every Christian, and so I used to “machine gun” my friends with gospel truths for two minutes, wait till they declined the invitation I offered and relax again, safe in the knowledge that my duty was done – at lease for the next few weeks. My vision for working at evangelism in London was similar, but on a slightly different scale. Instead of being scared and hurried as I was when talking to my friends I would be fearless and bold, perhaps with a megaphone, safe in the knowledge that no one in their right mind would listen to invitations from a complete stranger. Particularly one with an Irish accent.

My job for the past year has been to speak to people in London about Jesus. In a city of eight million people this should not be a problem. London, however, is a place of extremes - 7, 999, 999 of those people stare assiduously at the pavement whenever they walk anywhere to avoid the other 1 as he bellows “don’t be a sinner, be a winner,” at them. Sometimes its hard to get people in London to even smile, let alone stop and have a chat with a stranger. Our mission in the student outreach is to offer to those who seek, a chance to discover the call God has on their lives and an environment in which to live it out. This has been a year of “waiting for the seekers” and also a year of “seeking them out.” We have met many people during the past nine months. We’ve spoken to many of them about the gospel, brought them to prayer meetings and introduced them to student Christian community.

A free cup of coffee and friendship in Christ
Some days evangelism seems remarkably easy, fulfilling and rewarding – sharing our testimony as we stir milk and sugar into the free coffee we offer people. Other days it’s a struggle to smile at them as we pass it out, but the Lord is accomplishing his purposes through the little we offer him. Our coffee stall on the University campus is one of the main ways in which we meet new people. We have “regulars” who come to us for a free drink. We have “friends” who come for a free drink but also seem to enjoy a chat and a chance to have a worthwhile conversation, and we have “seekers” who want to find out about our life and whom we invite into it. It has amazed me the amount of people who occupy the latter category. In a comparatively short time we have met many people who are happy to connect to our socials, sports events and meetings. Many of these people knew none of us before this year and many we would now count as friends.

Evangelism in London has not been about massive rallies or huge sign-up sheets. Rather it has been a slow process of building friendships with the people God sends us. Even in this the Lord has been surprising – some whom I felt sure would find a home with us have moved elsewhere quickly while others who are not even Christian have shown increasing desire to know about us and about our life. Building friendships has been the most rewarding part of this year – trying to speak to little more than strangers about Jesus is exhilarating – but constructing a friendship for the sole basis of speaking to someone about the gospel (and having them know it!) has changed my perspective on evangelism completely. Its not easy, but no longer is it terrifying. I have conviction that everything I say and do can be used for the Lord, rather than having to squeeze a testimony of my faith into 2 minute spells. God promises that His word “will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” This has been tremendously comforting to me over the past year. Some people I have spoken to refused a free cup of coffee, some have been baptised in the Spirit – God promises that neither word, when we speak it in his name, is wasted.

Life-giving Christian relationships
As you get on or off the train in the London tube stations, the PA system warns you to “mind the gap between the train and the platform.” Working in Koinonia this year has been an experience of “minding the gap” in the spiritual environment of London. Serving where the Lord has called us, building the mission through relationships, intercession, prayer and service. Living and constructing community life on campus in the heart of London is our mission this year. Learning to offer life-giving Christian relationships in every context is a task to continue wherever we live and whatever work we do.

When I go back to Dublin I’m going to look Dave up, take him out again and have a chat. He owes me a pizza…

(c) copyright 2007  The Sword of the Spirit
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom
email: editor@swordofthespirit.net