Last week I attended the Reaching the Unreached conference organised by the regional gospel partnerships and hosted by St Helen’s Bishopsgate. It was exciting to see around 150 people there to talk about we can reach people living in the marginalised areas and estate in our cities. It was still at the level of ‘this is something we should be doing’ without a great deal of ‘this is how we might do it’, but it was a good start. I’ll post notes on David Smith’s opening address in a future post. He emphasised that we need to see this is a missionary challenge. This means setting the challenge of reaching these areas just as we set the challenge of reaching unreached people in other parts of the world. But it also means learning from the experience of communicating the gospel cross-culturally. One of my great frustrations is that despite the rhetoric of seeing the UK as a mission field, we still do not learn from the mission world – we still do not think the principles apply to us. My one concern with the conference was the extent to which people kept emphasising the need for preaching (as in sermons). It’s frustrating because they made the error of assuming being word-centred means being sermon-centred. But what concerns me more is that I see this as a kind of test case of whether we really are prepared to see the UK as a mission field and to learn from mission elsewhere. Ah well.
Melvin Tinker from St. Johns, Newlands in Hull ended his address by ‘flying some kites’ …
Do we have a fascination with white, middle-class people and students that is keeping us from reaching the working-class?
Student work offers quick returns and creates people with money to sustain future ministry. So do we need an evangelical equivalent to the ‘Church Urban Fund’?
We will need to educate our congregations to see this as an integral part of the Lord’s commission. We need to seek out and train people for this ministry. We will also need to esteem such workers. Working in poor areas creates ministries that do not look like the models of ‘successful’ ministry heralded elsewhere.
We need a network to provide theological and practical support for such ministries.
The movement will not be only in one direction: rich churches funding poor ministries. The rich churches will receive lessons, prayer and gratitude from poorer ministries.