According to the UN, more than two out of every three people globally are projected to live in urban areas by 2050. Cities are rapidly growing in size and number, both in the UK and beyond, providing a unique melting pot of cultures, ages and beliefs. Cities offer us the opportunity to meet the world without ever needing to step on an aeroplane or cross a border.

As the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization puts it: "Cities are crucially important for the human future and for world mission. Cities are where four major kinds of people are most likely to be found: (i) the next generation of young people (ii) the most unreached peoples who have migrated (iii) the culture shapers (iv) the poorest of the poor."

With so many people in such a small area, cities can also bring high amounts of social deprivation. This means an increasing need for Christians to both show and share the love of God to their inhabitants.

A changing society

In the past, Christians have been able to benefit from a large amount of common ground with their non-Christian counterparts - including on authority, sexuality, truth, the place and relevancy of the Bible, and the right of any external being to tell us how to live, to name but a few. But those same foundations are no longer shared today.

In the past, people grew up with a shared knowledge of who was in charge, what the rules were and an understanding of when they were breaking them. Today, this has been replaced by 'cancel culture', 'fake news' and 'personal truth'.

Today, many in the UK are questioning the accepted basis for a national agreed set of rules – and maybe even the need for rules – with many fearful of or chastised for stepping out and sharing their thoughts. This is the culture in which God has called us to share his love.

The growing differences between groups and the falling number of conversations between them has created a nervousness in our Great Commission. But this is our explicit and exciting mandate, to share God's love with all nations. So, how can we talk to other people about Jesus without risking offence?

REACH: The City

Almost nowhere is this present-day culture more evident than in Birmingham, due in part to it being one of the youngest and most diverse cities in Europe in terms of population, helped by the city's gracious acceptance of refugees as well as immigrants. This is where REACH: The City (REACH) is based.

REACH is an initiative that aims to help Christians experience cross-cultural community and ministry. REACH helps to equip Christians to share God's love with their local communities who have not heard it and establish vibrant communities of followers among the nations.

Through REACH, I have learned that effective mission and Christian outreach needs to be long term, showing Jesus' love to our friends and those around us through our words and actions over a sustained period.

Being gracious and loving is unlikely to offend anyone, and for Christians keen to make a real difference in the world and in people's lives, patience is now more of a virtue than ever before. We can plant the seed, but it is God who gives it growth.

Anyone can share their faith

It is because of this that anyone can share their faith. We don't need to have a specific sense of direction, to have the best theology, to be a specific age, or to go to an exotic foreign nation. God has given us all skills and personalities that He can use through us, and REACH is about helping every follower uncover their skill set and find their place with God, whether in their locality or overseas.

I was terrified of going to Africa for the first time, but I quickly learned the joy of mixing with other cultures and learning new languages. When I was at a Bible school in Guinea, working with students training for cross-cultural ministry in a Muslim-majority nation, I was struck by the realisation that the Gospel needs to be re-framed to respond effectively to different cultural norms.

Jesus crossed social and religious norms to spend time with the Samaritan woman, who was regarded as an enemy by many of the Jews at the time, and we must follow His example.

My life has been changed by my time at REACH, and I have developed a hunger to do even more mission, both local and overseas, and to keep having more conversations with people about Jesus.

I have built new friendships across cultures, been able to safely explore what it means for me to be a follower of Jesus and received training from experienced mission workers. I have learned how to share God's love for people through my volunteering in a way that has led to positive conversations about Jesus, and I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with a new generation of students.

Arthur Magahy is the REACH: The City programme leader. He is an ordained Baptist minister with 14 years in local church ministry who, along with his wife Nicky, joined BMS World Mission for 15 years to train pastors in Guinea, Uganda and the UK for overseas service in some of the least evangelised states in the world. Arthur and Nicky - who has a speciality in understanding Islam and relating to Muslims - then joined OM to head up REACH: The City.

If you would be interested in signing up for REACH: The City, or would like to find out more about the programme, click the button below!

REACH: The City