I’ve written a couple of articles in the last few days about some changes I think we need to our thinking and approach if we are seriously about mission and church planting into urban Britain. Here’s my third article in the series.
This level of partnership is going to take a significant level of mission. There have I think been two extremes within the UK church over many years. On the one hand, there have been those who have been content to focus their attention on the elite. This has meant that a lot of resources have gone into student work and camps. The hope is that this will lead to a trickle down effect with the Gospel. The problem is that we have been waiting far too long for the trickle to even start.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who see urban mission primarily in terms of heroic endeavour into the roughest areas. In their view, there are only a few people, preferably those who are from a particular background or failing that are willing to be inducted into a set method who can reach the working classes. They also think that our middle-class Christians are both unwilling and unable to help in the mission beyond at best some financial support.
This polarising view has in my opinion contributed to the continued stratification and segregation of the UK church into homogenous, class-based groupings. Such a situation is both wrong in principle and in practice. It is wrong in principle because the church should not be homogenous or segregated. It is wrong in practice because we will find that the strategy isn’t working. I identified one of the reasons for this in the first article. Our cities are not divided in binary terms between the prosperous bits and the deprived areas. There’s a lot in between and we risk missing those areas.
Another reason that this is wrong in practice and principle is that we need Christians to work together for this mission. That’s why I am saying here that we need churches of all different types, large ones and small ones, rich middle-class ones and poor working class ones. Furthermore, I want to be explicitly clear that this is not merely about the richer churches coughing up the dosh and stepping back.
My vision would be to see a partnership of a mix of churches in a locality, some would be in middle class neighbourhoods, some in working class communities and others in the hardest to reach areas. Each partnership would be committed to praying for one another, arranging regular events for fellowship, teaching etc, partnering to support trainees and church planters as well as delivering the training together. They would also work to reach their neighbourhoods together by partnering in evangelistic outreach.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a pipe dream. I think it is possible, indeed necessary.