no place to lay their heads…

Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Matthew 8:20

So this is just a simple request for prayer – it’s becoming clear that God is moving us as a church develop a much more robust and sustainable response to homelessness in London; having developed a close group of homeless friends in Kingston, and with strong & burgeoning working relationships developing with organisations like the YMCA, Green Pastures and KCAH we’re looking this year at establishing some formal activity and exploring options for supported housing. While these partnerships, and the gospel opportunities they represent, are exciting, it’s the human stories which prove most moving. Spend any time talking to people in our congregations and sooner or later you’ll speak to someone who has been homeless in the past or who is homeless right now. These are amazing people living in some of the hardest conditions the great city of London has to offer – spend time with them and you’ll hear stories to make you laugh and cry. Many of them have a form of faith – some of them are brothers and sisters in the faith.

In the run up to Christmas we’ll feature some of these stories here on this blog; we’ve found real favour amongst many of these men and women and there’s a grace at work in this friendship which is as much about God’s love for us as a church as it is for them. Their being amongst us brings certain Scriptures to new life and presents us as a church a challenge and call which we cannot refuse.

From Acts 4:

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means ‘son of encouragement’), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
From James 
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
From Matthew 25
44 ‘They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or ill or in prison, and did not help you?” 45 ‘He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

How should we respond to God’s call & to the needs of those around us? here are three things to bear in mind as we pray, plan and provide:

1. A Church-wide response: as a first response please pray for our leaders to hear and respond to God’s leadership in this, and please, please  give wisely, generously and courageously to your local venue or church; in Acts 4 the church’s ability to provide for everyone was as the result of the wise & godly extravagance of its members as it was the administrative leadership of the apostles; Barnabus selling his land – his family’s inheritance – and giving the money to his church leaders would sound ludicrous and even immoral to many 21st Century western readers, and many people would (will?) be offended that I’m even referencing this as a first response, but the Bible is clear on so many occasions that the church as a whole is God’s first plan for the revelation of his love and grace – don’t be afraid or ashamed to invest in it! (NB – If you want more information about giving please read the Money Matters booklet which is available in each of our venues.) Over all of this, please pray big prayers for the church all across London to be the haven God intends it to be…

2. An individual response: in addition to your regular giving and prayer for the church please consider how you might serve the homeless yourself; do you have a theologically sound response to those who beg money from you? Is it responsible and practically sound as well? Personally I keep Jesus admonition in Luke 6:30 to “give to anyone who asks you ” foremost in my mind – I don’t (can’t!) give to anyone, and sometimes I can’t give very much, but this command has to be a primary guiding principle; do I mind if someone is likely to buy beer or cigarettes? in one sense, for their own sake, yes – it’s hard to be indifferent; but in another sense not at all – Jesus goes on to say (in Luke 6:30 again) that if someone takes what belongs to us we’re not to ask for it back;  in other words we’re to give extravagantly and without judgement or arbitration. That said, some of our best intentions can be toxic charityit takes the wisdom & grace of God for us to discern where our generosity might actually be harmful and disempowering… Equally important is the need to balance our generousity towards people outside the church with our care for the church family (in Galatians 6:10 Paul teaches us clearly to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers) and anyone God has given us a particular responsibility for (children, spouses, parents etc). This is a complex issue which warrants prayer, diligence and good counsel but mustn’t be ignored…

3. A kingdom response: we’ve got to want the very best for the individuals we meet, and particularly for this unique community of people living a genuinely tough and dangerous life in one of the richest cities in the world. What’s the best we can offer them? Well, Acts 3 style, it’s simply Jesus. We’ve got to want the Kingdom for every person we meet, but within that framework, and the extravagant generosity of God our Father – who gave up even his beloved son –  we also ought to pray and expect that God can provide a home, a job and practical purpose to every person’s life. Personally, I’m still dreaming and praying that we’ll have increasing capacity to love the homeless, to house the homeless, to lead them into work and to see many of them – so, so many of them – become disciples, and leaders in the household and name of Jesus Christ. It’s a big prayer, but our God is more than equal to it. Over the past couple of years we’ve discussed and prayed through plans for mobilising awareness within and outside of the church, creating housing capacity and integrating homeless people into the natural rhythms of church life. That last prayer is being answered and i’ve no doubt that God is calling us to work with him to realise these other dreams as well.

We’ll need compassion, money, people and faith for this work, but I’m genuinely reassured by the knowledge that God cares about these individuals – and us – more than we do and more than we could possibly imagine. Jesus knew what it was to be homeless; please join us in praying concertedly this year for him to help us live in a way which means other people don’t have to be; as a general request as well, please mail Akhtar ( if you have a heart for homelessness work, whichever venue you’re in

Hey – if you want to attend the Jubilee-Plus conference ‘Churches that Change Communities‘ with Akhtar on Saturday 17th October in East Grinstead (note, the same day as the Men’s ministry day) please let him know – cut off date for the reduced rate tickets is 18th September…

Akhtar Shah

Leadership, Social Action, Evangelism.