I came as a pastor in charge of God’s Vision Church, but I was sent as a British missionary of the Hwangdong Presbyterian Church in Korea. As such, from the beginning, I was interested in mission work in London. In conclusion, the message that the Lord gave me was Diaspora Mission in the city. If Urban Mission is focused on a city itself, Diaspora Mission is focused on various races and ethnicities living in the city. If we look at the difference with respect to a church, Urban Mission is interested in a multicultural church, whereas Diaspora Mission supports separate churches where each ethnicity’s culture and language are respected.
The way God used to disperse the mankind building the Tower of Babel was to confuse the language. Different languages mean that it is more difficult to share life together. English speakers have more difficult times understanding the language barriers of non-English speakers. As a result, while church development movements have been active in the United Kingdom and in the United States, they have not considered people who speak different languages and have formed villages within the cities. If they were considered, the movements would have thought of translation, and it would have been important to find an interpreter to contact the churches of different languages. With English as their native language, they do not realize the language barrier we feel, and instead, they grumble “why does the Korean church live in isolation without communicating with the mainstream society?”
Let’s think about it. How should a British pastor come to Korea in his 40s, like me, to become as pastor for a U.S. military church, meet with Korean pastors in the mainstream society, interact with them, and cooperate with them to serve Koreans? It is not impossible, but it should be applauded for his/her commitment to localize to that extent. Learning language and culture is not that easy. It will not be effective to learn Korean, the local language, to serve Korean.
So, if we build a multicultural church in London, where everything is done in English, non-native English speaker may not like it. Faith life should not be heard or practiced in a second language. It should be done in one’s native language, where one can freely share his/her emotion and sentiment. In the end, the conclusion I made over the past 15 years thinking about missionary work in London is that each ethnicity should build its own church and practice Christianity. It is impossible for pastors and church members to learn a language of another country and live and practice a faith life. Praising God along with every nation, tribe, people, and language, as described in Revelation 7:9, is something that will happen in heaven, not on this earth. It is neither realistic nor strategic for effective missionary work.
However, a coalition among various ethnic churches is essential. Just as our church exists as a Korean church but tries to interact and cooperate with various other churches in London. For this work, pastors from at least each country should try to communicate in English, and if they feel language barrier, they should put an effort to communicate with an interpreter. This is because it is a mission given by the Lord.