By Dan Wooding, ASSIST News Service
“The Higher Place” exists so that ordinary people can be transformed to passionate followers of Jesus.
Europeans, and many others from around the world, have to a large extent, walked away from traditional churches, feeling that their faith is meant to be kept private.
Undeterred, however, "The Higher Place" ministry, with its tag line "a place of community," is attracting people to its out-of-the-ordinary meeting space in London's historical Devonport House, King William Walk, Greenwich, London, UK.
Like many new churches in the British capital, it was founded by leaders with links to Nigeria who are showing their gratitude to British missionaries, like my parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who brought the Gospel to West Africa all those years ago, and now they are leading the way in bringing the Good News back to Great Britain.
"The Higher Place" is meeting once a week in this elegant 1920s building, located in the University of Greenwich, close by the River Thames, for a Sunday morning "worship experience" starting at 10:30 AM, and on Thursday evenings at 7:00 PM for a "life group" gathering in various locations across London.
And what a location that they have chosen to gather to worship the Lord. You see, Devonport House is part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, with the classical buildings of the Old Royal Naval College that were designed by England's greatest architects and are considered amongst the finest in Europe.
This site, features the sumptuous Painted Hall and the neo-classical Chapel, has seen a variety of uses, as Greenwich Palace, the Royal Naval Hospital of Seamen and then the Royal Naval College. And they gather in Devonport House, which is now a hotel.
The church was founded by Pastor Paul Ilo, born in Ogun state, southwestern Nigeria, and his London-born wife Debi, who are only two years into their marriage. They are young, passionate in their faith, and are bi-vocationally working in professional careers while pursuing their spiritual destiny by birthing "The Higher Place."
Paul is following in the footsteps of his father, Pastor Samson Ilo, in planting this outreach ministry as the twenty-second to compliment twenty-one mature Disciples of Christ Bible Churches founded by Samson in Nigeria. Paul revealed that it was during "Amsterdam '86," the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists, organized by Dr. Billy Graham, that his father first received the call from God to start the Disciples of Christ Bible Churches, first of all in Nigeria, and then in different parts of the world.
"'The Higher Place' is a fulfilment of that vision under 'different parts of the world,'" he says.
Paul then says that he chose "The Higher Place" name for the church after reading the scripture: "The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' feet, And makes me walk on my high places." (Habakkuk 3:19 | NASB).
He stated that "The Higher Place" is a church with a three-fold objective: Connecting people to Jesus; Connecting people to life-giving relationships; and connecting people to their God-given destinies.
Pastor Paul Ilo told me that, at the age of seven, while still in Nigeria, he first embraced a grass-roots effort to lead fellow children to a relationship with Christ. he founded the Royal Diadem Int'l Network where he serves as International Director. He also founded Joint Action for Peace and co-founded Education to Africa. He has a BA (Hons) English, as well as MA International Relations.
Now living in London, Paul's aim is in "reaching out to the nations." He has written thirteen books including "Wisdom Bank," "United Nations Mediation in West Africa" and "Success: Your Inheritance." Paul also is the host of a series of worldwide annual events that include Leadership Conferences, Transformation Conferences, Academic Excellence Summits, Change Your World Conferences, and Pastors' Children Int'l Conferences to name a few.
He also hosts a program called "Wisdom Bank" on radio and writes for media houses and various journals.
"Through 'The Higher Place,' Debi and I encourage everyone to enter all conversations with an open mind and treat others with dignity," he explained. "As a result, 'The Higher Place' is attracting people of all cultures and race. We already have members from Bosnia, England, Nigeria, Turkey, the West Indies, and Zimbabwe."
This is his first time pastoring and Paul's inaugural worship service was on July 17, 2016, and also marked the first in a sermon series he has been presenting entitled "New Beginnings."
In it, Paul weaves together Biblical stories inspiring hope with what he calls "culturally relevant take-aways, that free people to turn the page and begin a new chapter in life."
One new member of the church is Karl, who told Pastor Paul recently, "This is refreshing. There is something different about you guys. This is the place I want to attend."
Karl had previously received an invitation to experience "The Higher Place" for himself, but waited six weeks before his first visit.
"Soon after that, he became transformed into a passionate follower of Jesus and memorialized his decision by being baptized," said Pastor Paul.
"While resting in God's grace, Karl is moving ever onward and upward by offering to play the keyboard in our worship services," he added.
Paul's communication style centers on four words: "Make it their idea!" He endeavors to talk with people rather than at them while embracing the notion that ultimately we are an audience of one -- unity.
He stated that this is based on the Scripture: "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, THAT THEY MAY BE ONE ... that they may be perfected in unity." (John 17:22-23 | NASB).
The seed money for the startup of "The Higher Place" is the small savings that Paul and Debi have accumulated. With about twenty committed members after eight weekend services they are off to a humble start.
So, if you, or anyone you know, feel led to pray or help in providing financial support, Paul looks forward to you reaching out and connecting with him through e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also directly make a donation through the web page as follows: http://www.thehigherplaceuk.com/awareness/.
You are invited to visit their website at: http://www.thehigherplaceuk.com/, and if you live in London, why not join them for worship.
Paul concluded by saying, "Together, we can encourage Europeans, and others from around the world, to find their spiritual voices here in the UK, and beyond, where too many have been silenced."
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist, who was born in Nigeria, West Africa, of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, who then worked with the Sudan Interior Mission, now known as SIM. Dan now lives in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for some 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder/president of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and is also the author of some 45 books. His latest is a novel about the life of Jesus through the eyes of his beloved mother, Mary, and is called "Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary." (http://marythebook.com/). Dan has worked as a writer with Dr. Billy Graham during his overseas crusades in Moscow, Russia; Essen, Germany, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and wrote the cover story for the Saturday Evening Post about Franklin and Billy Graham.
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