LONDON, U.K. – An email led to an opportunity, and an opportunity grew into a global partnership. Such is the story of First Baptist Church, Blue Springs, and the connection they now share with Stanmore Baptist Church, a London congregation located in the heart of one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse areas in the world.
The email landed in Matt Sprink’s mailbox well over a year ago. Sprink, FBC’s pastor of disciple-making, received a message from a then-unknown sender asking if he were the Matt Sprink married to Holly Sprink, the author. The sender said that he had recently read Holly’s book Faith Postures and named himself as Shaun Lambert, the author of A Book of Sparks, a work similar to Sprink’s in interest and audience. Sprink replied that indeed he was Holly’s husband, and Matt and Holly stayed in touch with their new contact through email.
As the correspondence continued, the Sprinks developed a close relationship with their digital friend and found out that he pastored a church in the London Borough of Harrow, one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse boroughs in all of Europe. His church, Stanmore Baptist Church, consists of about 170 people from more than 30 countries. The more the Sprinks learned, the more they saw a unique opportunity for cross-cultural discipleship in one of the world’s most influential cities. Pursuing the possibility of future ministry, FBC Blue Springs sent the Sprinks to London in October of 2014.
During the trip the Sprinks experienced firsthand the overwhelming diversity and recognized the potential for fruitful partnership with the London church. The Sprinks returned to London with a small team in April 2015. Members prayer walked, made relationships with local religious leaders, and even dined in the homes of borough residents. After these initial trips, FBC Blue Springs sensed the Spirit moving and sought to couple with Stanmore Baptist in a long-term ministry partnership.
This summer FBC Blue Springs sent two discipleship teams to London, one consisting of mainly youth and the other adults. These teams were able to connect with students in the local school, teaching them American games such as dodgeball and baseball. Team members were also able to reach out to locals as well as assist Stanmore Baptist with their 80th anniversary celebration.
In addition to sending teams, FBC also supported Pastor Matt and Holly for a 9-week stint in London, from the end of May-July 31st of this year. Matt and Holly, along with their two children, spent their time teaching, learning, and engaging the diverse array of people. The Sprinks focused on building relationships and saw repeated contact as essential to their goal of discipleship.
“We were looking for repeated opportunities to connect with people,” Sprink said. “We were at or in multiple homes every week. If we are going to see our faith transform a culture, it must happen through continuous contact.”
Sprink described the London church’s fresh strategy to provide a café-like space where people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds could come to converse about spiritual topics and receive spiritual truth. Named the Mindful Church Café, this “third space,” outside the church but also outside the home, saw nearly 30 people gather every week to discuss spiritual topics and hear from the people of the church. Sprink noted that strategies like this could work well in the States where many people aren’t comfortable in church or home environments.
“We have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters in London,” Sprink said.
Although the teams and the Sprinks have returned for now, the church will continue their global partnership, reaching the world through London.