Yesterday, my home city, Bradford one the contest to be the UK city of culture 2025. The City of Culture designation is given to an area every 4 years and lasts for the year. The place hosts cultural events and receives significant investment.
I’ve written before about Bradford’s bid and about both what the city has to offer and the great need that there is in the city. I wanted to use the opportunity today to focus in on the need and specifically on the need for church planting.
My personal desire is to see our cities and urban areas full of churches bearing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I write from an evangelical perspective and unashamedly from the point of view that the Gospel shines most brightly in a community when Evangelical churches are present with a commitment to expository preaching, to evangelism and to full dependence on the work of the Holy Spirit. This is very simply because what people most need is to be forgiven for their sin, to hear God speak to them and to know his life changing presence in their lives.
There are a few evangelical churches in the district. This includes a few medium and larger sized ones around the city centre and a cluster of churches in the north and up into places like Shipley, Bingley and Baildon. However, there are large parts of the city with little by way of meaningful witness. This is particularly true of the south of the city where I grew up. There, many churches have sadly closed down, their buildings bought and reoccupied as carpet warehouses, clubs and mosques.
The metropolitan district of Bradford has a population of 539,776 putting it in the top ten urban districts in England. It’s part of the West Yorkshire conurbation which has a population of 1.7 million. Bradford has a proud history and along with the Black Country was at the heart of the industrial revolution so that at one point it was considered the wool capital of the world and back in the 19th century knew great prosperity. Like much of urban Britain it fell on harder times after the second world war and went into serious decline.
Focusing in on the South side of the city, you first of all find inner city areas including West Bowling, East Bowling, Little Horton and Great Horton. Great Horton is home to the University and many students. Along with Manningham to the north of the city centre, this is an area with a significant population of people with a Pakistani background. This means that Islam has had a significant influence on Bradford’s recent history.
A little further out and you find a network of large Council Estates, Buttershaw, Woodside, Odsal and Holme Wood. These estates have often proved tough places to live with significant levels of deprivation and crime.
If the “city of culture” doesn’t give enough reason for you to consider a move to Bradford, then consider this. The city is within easy commuting distance of Manchester and Leeds whilst also being on the edge of beautiful countryside including the Dales to the north and the Peak District to the South.
It would be wonderful if the City of Culture 2025 provided a catalyst and focal point to encourage people to consider church planting in Bradford. What if a few people were to commit to move to the South of the city, to get to know their neighbours and to start to meet together to look at God’s Word? Imagine what could grow from that?
Whilst we are primarily called to the West Midlands, I continue to have a deep concern for my home city and would love to hear from anyone who is considering going there. It may be that it would be possible for us to partner with you, particularly by offering training and mentoring for those who would appreciate it.