Breaking Cultural Barriers – Discovering Jesus launch event

Naujavan leading worship

Naujavan leading worship

Nearly 130 UK Christian leaders attended the Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes launch at the Regent Hall, Salvation Army, in central London on Wednesday 14 May.

The event, sponsored by Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, was kicked off by British Asian worship band Naujavan, who set the atmosphere for what was to be shared.

Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance opened the launch event, saying: “Asians are a vibrant part of our British cultural landscape, but many churches feel ill-equipped and uncomfortable about reaching out in friendship to people we should be welcoming.”

According to UK statistics almost seven per cent of the population identifies itself as Asian or Asian British. That’s nearly 4.5 million people. Many of these people, whose family roots are firmly within an Asian culture or another faith, are asking questions about Jesus.

Steve Uppal

Steve Uppal

Steve Uppal, senior leader of All Nations Church Wolverhampton and from a family converted from Sikhism, spoke about how the gospel works and transforms. He urged the crowd to point to the person of Jesus: “People asked ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ We say ‘come and see!’ The gospel still works. It has not lost its power, it is still full of wonder.”

The course saw rave reviews about its timeliness, uniqueness and potential to break down cultural barriers, and reach people from Asian backgrounds in the UK.

Launch speaker and worship leader Sanjay Rajo from Naujavan, an Asian Christian youth organisation serving 16 to 30-year-olds, said the course: “has come at absolutely the right time and is the missing piece of the puzzle which helps to mobilise a generation to reach out to their Asian friends. It is predicted that by 2050 up to a quarter of the UK will be from an Asian background, predominantly Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh. We are seeing more young people, who are born here, confused about their identity and hungry for something spiritual.”

The Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes course book and resources, produced by the South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance and published by the Good Book Company, are designed specifically with members of the South Asian and East Asian communities in mind. The brand new eight–week course will equip churches to cultivate discussion with Asian friends and respond to questions in a culturally appropriate way. The course is also being launched in the USA and Australia.

The course is made up of three resources – an outreach booklet answering 16 common questions that Asians have about Jesus and the Christian faith, which can be given away to Asian seekers and used as part of inviting people to a course, then there is a leaders guide and discussion guide for participants to use on the course. A good way to familiarise yourselves with how the course works is to run it internally first.

Rev Canon Toby Howarth, secretary for inter-religious affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who led a time of corporate prayer, said: “There is lots of baggage when it comes to sharing the gospel with the Asian community – there is a lot of rubbish in the past that has gone on in the name of Jesus, But Discovering Jesus Through Asian Eyes has been breathed in prayer,”

At the event, David Shosanya of the London Baptist Association, shared with heartfelt honesty, acknowledging barriers or prejudices: “Even though I have been involved in mission for years I have never actively been involved in the sharing of the gospel with the Asian community. Sharing the gospel should not be defined by human experience, but by God’s salvation.”

Rev Warren McNeil of Greenford Baptist Church piloted the course in January 2013. “We had non-Asians, a Sikh and a Muslim, come to know Jesus. They were baptised this year. At that point it made us think differently about how to reach Asians. Even our style of worship is done differently, in a more Asian style, so we can reach the predominantly Asian population in our area,” he said.

Worshippers at an SAF event

Worshippers at the launch

The course is supported by more than 30 partner organisations including Christianity Explored, the London Baptist Association, the Church of England (Diocese of London), Interserve, South Asian Concern, UCCF, the Assemblies of God and the Leprosy Mission England and Wales.

Manoj Raithatha, national co-ordinator of South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, said: “’The Jesus through Asian Eyes booklet seeks to answer 16 questions commonly asked by Asians about Jesus. The new Discovering Jesus through Asians eyes course provides the opportunity for these topics to be discussed in a relaxed and friendly setting. We are providing training from experienced practitioners to help churches and organisations get the most out of these new resources and to develop their relationships and contacts with the Asian community.”

The new Discovering Jesus through Asian eyes website compliments the resource with information, videos and testimonies. Please visit www.discovering-jesus.com.

Training, sponsored by the Leprosy Mission of England and Wales, is being held on Saturday 13 September at All Saints Church, Leicester. This event, being run by South Asian Concern will give practical advice and vital information on using the course effectively and reaching out to Asian communities.

Register for the training event: http://eauk.co/JTAEtraining   

Order copies of the course materials at: www.discovering-jesus.com