I’ve written and spoken quite a bit about the need for people to come and help get churches planted on our estates and in our inner cities. I’ve also talked about the possibility of people starting to do this whilst benefitting from training for Gospel ministry.
One thing I’m mindful of is that a lot of people who hear this may well be thinking “that’s great but you couldn’t possibly mean people like me.”
If we are going to reach urban contexts, especially areas with people from working class backgrounds, then we need to be raising up people from those types of areas and backgrounds to plant, lead and pastor the churches. Yet, over I don’t know how long, we’ve been putting out messages that discourage the very people we need. Ways in which we have done this include:
- Portraying an image of what it means to be a leader which is culturally, and class based. In fact, this was for a long time connected to a belief that we needed first to reach the cultural and academic elites. This led to processes that focused on encouraging graduates into ministry in order to plant and pastor churches that would reach students and graduates.
- At the same time, because there have been few people planting into our estates, we’ve built up a hero image of one or two pioneers going to the hardest places and we’ve ended up giving the impression that you have to be like a Mez McConnell to reach the urban working classes.
- We’ve talked about “sending your best” and then added on strict recruitment criterier.
The result is that people are matching themselves up against others and deciding that they fall short. This means that men and women, often who would struggle with confidence, often who believe that they are woefully inadequate end up ruling themselves out of the very thing that God may well be equipping them for. We’ve created an expectation for what “normal ministry” looks like that excludes so many but we’ve also managed to rule them out of other things too.
Let’s stick with the idea of “sending your best” first of all. Now, I think we can get a feel for the point being made. When church planting, we shouldn’t be thinking “who would it be easy to get rid of?” It should cost us when we send people out because we know that we’ll no longer benefit from their gifts. However, let’s be clear, the Bible doesn’t really give us permission to think in terms of some of our church family being “our best.” The risk is that we are identifying people who are seen as successful, seen as fitting a particular image. The Bible makes it clear that none of us count as “the best” we are all completely dependent upon Christ’s work.
As I said, so many believers (it isn’t just about class), struggle with confidence. They are convinced that they couldn’t possibly use their gifts in the church. They worry about what others will think about them. We need to be encouraging them to see themselves as Christ sees them The reality is that none of us is “up to it.” Each one of us is saved by grace and equipped for the service God calls us to by grace as well.
So don’t be talked into a place where you believe that God couldn’t possibly be calling you to this type of work. In fact, why not get in touch so we can start to talk and pray about it.