Why We Need to Preach the Sovereignty of God in Deprived Areas Part Two

These notes are from a talk by Duncan Forbes at the recent Reaching the Unreached [http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk/] conference in Barnsley. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Duncan intended. Part one is here.

3. God has sovereignly arranged deprived neighbourhoods for our benefit

‘From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.’ (Acts 17:26-27) Everything and everyone has told me I need to escape my council estate. But if I know that God has arranged my council estate and he has arranged for me to live there so that I would search for God then it will change my attitude. It means we cannot complain about our up-bringing. God arranged that I would be a scared kid living high up in a tower block with a sick mother so that I would find him. If I had grown up somewhere else then I might not be a Christian now. God arranged my deprived neighbourhood for my benefit. And not only is the estate given to us by God to save us, but also to make like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29). It is his means of sanctification in my life.

It is important that we proclaim this because many people cannot stand living on their estate. Many of us have seen ministries grow only to see them die back because people have moved on. It is not always wrong to leave an estate, but we must not see it as an enemy to be avoided. It changes everything if we view our council estate as God’s means to save us and make us like Jesus. This will help people stay on the estates and cope with hardships. Continue reading


Why We Need to Preach the Sovereignty of God in Deprived Areas Part One

These notes are from a talk by Duncan Forbes at the recent Reaching the Unreached [http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk/] conference in Barnsley. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Duncan intended. Duncan grew up on an estate in south London and is now planting a church there.

Living on a council estate does my head in. It is hard to cope. It is not where I want to live. The most helpful doctrine to me in helping me live on my estate is the sovereignty of God. It is will help people continue living on your estate. It will help people continue in ministry in deprived areas.

Here is a council estate view of God, albeit a generalization:

God does exist, but he is not control of everything. God has a dealt me a set of cards and now it is my job to do the best I can with the set of cards he’s given me. I’m going to take care of number one and my family, because no-one else is going to care for me. Life is a big struggle. We are trying to take care of ourselves. But this is tough. We commit sins along the way. We need to protect ourselves so we have a vicious dog or carry a knife.  We feel like a victim. We spend our life being aggressive towards injustice. ‘Are you going to take that?’ we ask each other. It sometimes leads to vigilante attacks because no-one else is going to establish justice. So we set ourselves up as God. We want to be the person in control. We want to be the provider, the judge, the avenger, the enforcer.

But the Bible teaches that God is in control. He is the Provider, the Judge, the Avenger, the Enforcer.

So we need to correct people’s view of God.

Here are some aspects of the sovereignty of God that are important to proclaim in deprived areas.

1. God is in charge

We know this, but we all act at times as if this is not true.

Consider Psalm 2. Other people think they are in charge (2). But God laughs at them (4). And God declares that he has installed his King (6). God is in charge. Jesus is installed at the right hand of the Father and he is running things.

Some people think the youth on their estate are in charge and they are afraid. Or people think the council or the police are in charge and it can make them feel unsettled. But the truth is that the estate is run by God. This is a great source of comfort for people. Continue reading

Two Conversations: the Unthinkable Reach of the Gospel Part Two

These notes are from a talk by Steve Casey at the recent Reaching the Unreached [http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk/] conference in Barnsley. They are my notes from a talk so they may not accurately represent what Steve intended. Part one is here.

2. Peter Converted: Who the Gospel Is For

Why did God go to all the trouble of getting Peter to come to Cornelius when he had an angel on site?

See verses 9-16. The privileges of the Jews – that they did not earn – had become a source of pride and prejudice (14, 28). It is not just food that is unclean, but people have become unclean in the eyes of the Jews

But what did Peter expect? Peter knew the gospel would go to the nations (Luke 24:45-47), but it seems Peter expected the Gentiles would have to become like Jews.

‘The gospel is for people like us. You have to come on our terms.’ It is all too easy to assume that people have to flex to my cultural preferences and take up my cultural baggage.

Peter’s heart was: ‘People need to come to us and be like us.’ The heart of God was: ‘Go to them.’

Although Cornelius is part of the majority culture in his context, he remained excluded from access to the gospel. God has to arrange the meeting because Peter would not have crossed the cultural barriers.

Implication: the Missionary Heart of God’s People

1. You cannot divide people up
You cannot divide people into respectable and unrespectable, good people and selfish people, self-made people and lay-abouts. Before you get the gospel you instinctively divide people up in these kinds of terms. But when you get the gospel you realise you are more wicked then you ever realised and more loved than you ever dreamed.

The only difference between you and a corrupt businessman or a drug dealer or a spiteful policeman is that the seeds of sin in your heart have not been watered. You can never say, ‘Well, I might do this, but I’d never do that.’

Peter’s prejudices were laid out on the sheet that was lowered from heaven. What is on your sheet?

2. You need to beware against the slip to worldly evaluations of people
The Romans despised the early Christians because of their social background. But the early Christian apologist, Marcus Minucius Felix, said: ‘That many of us are called poor is not our disgrace, but our glory.’

We need to be careful not to move towards the Establishment and to seek respectability. We have a tendency to want to make the gospel look strong. But the gospel is at its strongest when it is weak.

Us Converted? How We Live out the Gospel

Who was the most difficult to convert? Who said three times, ‘Not me’? Was it the outsider or was it the majority Christian culture?
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Slow church

In recent years we have been offered all sorts of options for church: organic church, messy church, simply church, total church.

Let me add another: slow church.

There is a slow food movement that extols the merits of hand-cooked food made from local ingredients cooked for as long as takes – an antidote to fast food. The slow food movement has extended so that people are advocating slow cities.

I’ve reading through Proverbs over the past few weeks and have been struck by how many call for us to slow down. The books of Proverbs extols the virtues of:

Slow speech

See 10:19; 12:18, 23; 13:3; 17:27; 18:6-7; 21:23; 25:15; 29:20. It’s an idea picked up and encapsulated in James 1:19-20: ‘My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.’

Slow wealth

See 11:18; 20:11; 22:8, 16; 28:20, 22. ‘Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.’ (Proverbs 13:11) This is an important reminder after the credit crisis. Get-rich-quick schemes either destroy you or someone else (and Proverbs has plenty to say about exploitation). Wealth earned slowly through diligence and hard work – and given away quickly – this is creditable in God’s sight.

Of course Proverbs also warns against those who are too slow – the sluggard who is lazy. See 10:26; 12:24, 27; 20:4, 13; 21:25: 22:13; 24:30-34. (for more on the imbalance between work and rest see my book, The Busy Christians Guide to Busyness purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US.)

Slow actions

See 14:16-17; 15:18; 16:32; 19:11. ‘A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.’ (Proverbs 14:29) Also character takes time to form so grey hair is honoured (16:31).

Our culture is always in a hurry. We want to achieve everything today. It is striking that Jesus waited for 30 years before beginning his public ministry. I wonder if most of us had had our way we would have urged him into ministry earlier.

A former boss once used to say, ‘We over-estimate what we can do in a year and under-estimate what we can do in five years.’

Reaching the unreached

Last year I ran some posts on the the Reaching the Unreached conference organised by the South-East Gospel Partnership at St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, London with a view to raising the profile of mission to the council estates and disadvantages areas in the UK. My posts were Melvin Tinker on success, David Smith on the missionary challenge, David Smith on evangelicalism and social class and the conference audio.

A second conference is being held on Saturday 22 May 2010, this time at St Andrew’s, Kendrey, in Barnsley. The conference blurb says:

Does the gospel work in the hard places of our land?

Council estates, urban priority areas, low income households: the gospel can seem so weak in the areas where we’re ministering – are we doing something wrong? Is the word of God as powerful and effective here as in neighbouring areas where churches seem to be flourishing? Should we change our methods – or even our message?

Following last year’s first ‘Reaching the Unreached’ conference, this year’s programme is aimed at those already involved in ministry in the ‘hard places’ of our country. Through the day’s talks and case studies, our speakers will reaffirm the confidence we have in the gospel as the power of God for salvation, whilst thinking carefully about how we apply these truths in our particular ministry context. As well as encouraging one another and providing a forum for urban ministers to network, we also want to identify and think about the key issues we all face.

Here’s the programme:

Session 1: Acts 10: ‘Two Conversions: the unthinkable reach of the gospel’ –  Steve Casey

Session 2: Why we need to preach God’s sovereignty – Duncan Forbes

Session 3: Case studies, discussion and prayer

Session 4: Zechariah: ‘Persevere’ – Simon Smallwood

For more information go to www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk.

Highlights from Hauerwas on Matthew

Yesterday I posted a review Stanley Hauerwas commentary on Matthew in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series (Brazos, 2006) purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US. Here are some highlights from the book …

For Matthew, Jesus has changed the world, requiring that our lives be changed if we are to live as people of the new creation. Accordingly, the gospel is not information that invites us to decide what we will take or leave. Our task is not to understand the story that Matthew tells in light of our understanding of the world. Rather, Matthew would have our understanding of the world be fully transformed as the result of our reading of his gospel. Matthew writes so that we might become followers, be disciples of Jesus. To be a Christian does not mean that we are to change the world, but rather that we must live as witnesses to the world that God has changed. We should not be surprised, therefore, if the way we live makes the change visible. (25)

The Sermon [on the Mount] is not a list of requirements, but rather a description of the life of a people gathered by and around Jesus. To be saved is to be so gathered. That is why the Beatitudes are the interpretive key to the whole sermon – precisely because they are not recommendations. No one is asked to go out and try to be poor in spirit or to mourn or to be meek. Rather, Jesus is indicating that given the reality of the kingdom we should not be surprised to find among those who follow him those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek. Moreover, Jesus does not suggest that everyone who follows him will possess all the Beatitudes, but we can be sure that some will be poor, some will mourn, and some will be meek.’ (61)

When he called his society together Jesus gave its members a new way of life to live. He gave them a new way to deal with offenders – by forgiving them. He gave them a new way to deal with violence – by suffering. He gave them a new way to deal with money – by sharing it. He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership – by drawing upon the gift of every member, even the most humble. He gave them a new way to deal with a corrupt society – by building a new order, not smashing the old. (67)

Jesus’ use of wisdom to help us understand the character of the kingdom made present in his ministry is sometimes mistakenly used as a general policy recommendation. Jesus is not suggesting that we should not plant crops or weave cloth, but rather if we plant crops of weave cloth to “store up treasures on earth” we can be sure that our lives will be insecure. We can perhaps know that the desire to be secure is a self-defeating project without being a disciple of Jesus. But that wisdom is transformed through the recognition of him who has come to call a people into existence capable of praying for their daily bread. They are able to do so because their lives have been transformed through the call to be a disciple, making it possible for them to live in recognition that God has given them all they need … Abundance, not scarcity, is the mark of God’s kingdom. But that abundance must be made manifest through the lives of a people who have discovered that they can trust God and one another. Such trust is not an irrational gesture against the chaos of life, but rather a witness to the very character of God’s care of creation. So it is no wonder that Jesus directs our attention to birds and lilies to help us see how it is possible to live in joyful recognition that God has given us more than we need. (82-83)

The parable of the sower is not often considered by those concerned with the loss of the church’s status and membership in Europe and America, but it is hard to imagine any text more relevant to the situation of churches in the West. Why we are dying seems very simple. It is hard to be a disciple and be rich. Surely, we may think, it cannot be that simple, but Jesus certainly seems to think that it is that simple. The lure of wealth and the cares of the world produced by wealth quite simply darken and choke our imaginations. As a result, the church falls prey to the deepest enemy of the gospel – sentimentality. The gospel becomes a formula for “giving our lives meaning” without judgment … This is a particular problem in America, where Christians cannot imagine how being a Christian might put them in tension with the American we of life … It may seem odd that wealth makes it impossible to grow the word. Wealth, we assume, should create the power necessary to do much good. But wealth stills the imagination because we are not forced, as the disciples of Jesus were forced, to be an alternative to the world that only necessity can create. Possessed by possessions, we desire to act in the world, often on behalf of the poor, without having to lose our possessions. (129-130)

In truth, it is not easy to know how to read “the signs of the times,” but such a reading is required of those who would follow Jesus. Too often, however, Christians believe that we know how to read the signs of the times by reading the New York Times. But to so read the signs of the times is to be captured by the assumption that the way things are is the way things have to be. Pharisees and Sadducees read the daily newspapers and adjust. Followers of Jesus must read the same papers to show why Jesus offers an alternative reading of the times than that offered by the New York Times. Faced with such a daunting task, followers of Jesus can begin to sympathize with the Pharisees and Sadducees … Rightly reading the signs of the times requires a church capable of standing against the legitimising stories of the day. (147)

If we do not fear God our lives will be possessed by fears produced by our possessions. Jesus will command the disciples not to be afraid, but not to be afraid requires that we see, as they saw, no one but Jesus. To see Jesus, to follow Jesus, means that they too will be clothes in the bright white of martyrdom. (155)

It is not for us to try to create risk in Jesus’s name in the hope that we may recover some sense of what it might be to be a disciple of Jesus. To do that would only further our temptation to “play” at being Christian. To try to create risk would be an attempt to be heroic rather than to be disciple. (221)

Jesus’s command that the sword be put away is not a conclusive text, committing his followers to some version of pacifism. Arguments for Christian non-violence, just as arguments for the Christian justification of violence, depend on how the story is told and the kind of community that exists to tell the story. Jesus’s command that the sword be put away is but one expression that testifies to his willingness to be given over to sinners and crucified so that we might be made part of the new age inaugurated by his birth, death, and resurrection. Therefore, Christian non-violence cannot be a position separable from what it means to be a disciple. Rather, Christian non-violence is, in the words of John Howard Yoder, the pacifism of the messianic community. Such pacifism would “lose its substance if Jesus were not Christ and would lose its foundation if Jesus Christ were not Lord”. (224)

Jesus must be killed because Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus must be killed because Jesus has called into existence a new people who constitute a challenge to the world order based on lies and deceit. Jesus must be killed because he is a threat to all who rule in the name of safety and comfort. Jesus must be killed because we do not desire to have our deepest desires exposed. Jesus must be killed because we do not believe in a God who creates us and who would come among us after our likeness. So we have learned from Matthew. (235)

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The local church changing the world

When I worked for the evangelical development agency Tearfund, nearly ten years ago now, one of the things I championed was the local church as God’s primary agent of change in the world. In my role as Research and Policy Director I initiated a small project to get the organising discussing the issue. At the time the centrality of the local church was met with theoretic acceptance, but I think people struggled to see how Tearfund, as a large, professional organisation, could work effectively with small local churches.

So it’s been exciting for me to observe from a distance Tearfund recognising the local church as central to its mission and central to mission among the poor. This weekend it publishes a report called Thick Of It on the importance of the local chruch in development.

A dramatic untold story is unfolding in some of the poorest places on our planet. Here, at the heart of HIV epidemics, at the epicentre of disasters, the church is bringing transformation to some of the most vulnerable and remote communities on earth – sometimes singlehandedly. Often the church is reaching these places in a way that other institutions do not – and cannot. Its long reach and presence extends even into war zones, refugee camps and mountain hamlets. Crucially, it is tackling poor people’s material and spiritual poverty to bring development that is truly sustainable.

It’s two headline conclusions are:

  • Governments and international donors serious about achieving the MDGs should actively engage in partnership with the church.
  • The church in the West should recognise its role and potential to help bring root-and-branch transformation to poor.

I hope Tearfund will make the logical next step and recognise that where there are no local churches, it needs to be involved in church planting – planting churches among the poor with a vision for the poor. One of the phrases I coined at Tearfund was ‘sustained Christian development requires sustainable Christian communities’.

Transforming the World? The Gospel and Social Responsibility

I recently received my author copies of a new book entitled Transforming the World? The Gospel and Social Responsibility (Apollos) purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US edited by Jamie Grant and my good friend Dewi Hughes. (I know, it’s the same title as the book by David Smith I recently reviewed; even down to the question mark – I did point this out to them.)

It’s a collection of academic papers on Christian social involvement. My chapter on is on eschatology and social involvement: ‘Eschatology and the Transformation of the World: Contradiction, Continuity, Conflation and the Endurance of Hope.’ In some ways it’s a summary version of my book Mission and the Coming of God. Anyway, here’s the line up …

Introduction – Jamie A. Grant and Dewi A. Hughes

1. Protecting the vulnerable: the law and social care – David L. Baker

2. Failing the vulnerable: the prophets and social care – M. Daniel Carroll R.

3. ‘Why bother with the vulnerable?’ The wisdom of social care – Jamie A. Grant

4. Biblical paradigms of redemption: exodus, jubilee and the cross – Christopher J. H. Wright

5. The compassion of the Christ – Alistair I. Wilson

6. Luke’s ‘social’ gospel: the social theology of Luke-Acts – I. Howard Marshall

7. Theology in action: Paul and Christian social care – Jason Hood

8. The Servant solution: the coordination of evangelism and social action – Melvin Tinker

9. Understanding and overcoming poverty – Dewi A. Hughes

10. The biblical basis for social ethics – C. Rene Padilla

11. Public execution: the atonement and world transformation – Anna Robbins

12. Eschatology and the transformation of the world: contradiction, continuity, conflation and endurance of hope – Tim Chester

13. Evangelicals and society: the story of an on-off relationship – David W. Smith

14. An appeal to moral imagination and commercial acumen: transforming business as a solution to poverty – Peter S. Heslam

And here’s the blurb …

Evangelical Christianity has long been plagued by a dichotomy between evangelism and social action. The debate about whether evangelicals should attempt to make this world a better place in tune with God’s will as well as prepare people for life in a better world is the background to this stimulating volume, which seeks to demonstrate that there is no tension between the task of evangelism and the Christian’s obligation to care for those in need. The issue should never have been one of ‘either/or’ but rather should always have been voiced in terms of ‘both/and’. The Bible’s teaching makes it plain that God’s salvific work is both spiritual and physical.

The first seven chapters survey relevant material in the Old and New Testaments; the second seven explore the theme of world transformation from the perspective of social ethics, systematic theology and church history. The clear message is that the proclamation of God’s salvation must address both the desperate spiritual need of a sinful humanity and the desperate physical need that is all too apparent in our troubled world – and that there is theoretical and practical work yet to be done as we think and work under the dominion of Jesus, who as a result of his death and resurrection has been given all authority in heaven and earth.

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Review: Transforming the World?

Following my notes on David Smith’s address at the Reaching the Unreached conference on evangelicalism and social class, I thought I would post a review I wrote of his book, Transforming the World? The Social Impact of British Evangelicalism purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US. The review was originally published in Themelios, Vol. 25, No. 3 (June 2000), 130-131.

At the risk of gaudy dramatization, this book carefully sticks dynamite under a number of evangelical myths and then lites the fuse.

I have always thought ‘The Rise and Fall of the Non-Conformist Conscience’ would make a great title for book. In truth, if I was going to be the author, it was always going to be a title in search of a book. Now I think the book has been found.

In the heart of the busy Broadmeads shopping centre in Bristol is the first purpose built Methodist chapel. Sitting in the pews, imagining what it must have been like as people gathered, one is struck by the social impact of the eighteenth century revival. The working people who gathered to hear the gospel were leaving the Church of their masters, rulers and employers and organising themselves in alternative social bodies. It must has felt subversive to all sides.

Smith sets out to argue that the evangelicalism that arose from the Great Awakening of the 18th century was, what he calls, ‘world-transformative Christianity’. This was because so many of the movements leaders including those like John Wesley who rejected other aspects of Calvinism, traced their roots to the Reformation via Puritanism.

He describes how evangelicalism fragmented in the nineteenth century and the world transforming tradition was largely eclipsed, though with significant, if often neglected, dissenting voices.

The eighteenth century revival was largely movement among working people, usually despised by the privileged classes. Victorian evangelicalism, and especially the Clapham sect, sought to extend its appeal to the privileged classes. Simeon made it acceptable within the ecclesiological establishment while Wilberforce made it acceptable with the political establishment. Wilberforce, for all his social reform, argued against any change in the structure of British society. The Clapham Sect ‘were not just concerned to ensure that the form of the message would not be offensive, its content should assure the rich and privileged that they might attain personal salvation in Christ without the slightest hint of a threat to their ‘station’ in life.’ (17) In extending its appeal to the ruling classes evangelicals lost it world transforming vision. An elite do not welcome challenges to the status quo. While it thrived among the poor, evangelicalism, perhaps against its better judgment, was world transforming. When it sort acceptance among the powerful, it lost this vision.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that, in the form it took at Clapham, evangelicalism came perilously close to being a religious ideology in the Marxist sense of that term. If this conclusion is correct it has serious implications in relation to secularisation: in its Wilberforcian form evangelicalism may have achieved the success it sought in renewing the Establishment, but a high price was paid for this if, by identifying the Gospel with an élite culture and a deeply conservative approach to domestic politics, it alienated the growing numbers of people who were now challenging the patriarchal structures of British society and calling for radical social reforms. Without intending it, the movement associated with the Clapham Sect may have been a significant factor in the long-term decline of religion in the United Kingdom. (19)

The second generation leaders of Methodism fare not better in Smith’s hands. Despite Wesley’s political conservatism, Methodism had a profound impact on the social order. Gospel freedom led to calls of political freedom. But after Wesley’s death, the revival and moves for social change and were, demonstrates Smith, ruthlessly suppressed by the movement’s leaders in order to gain respectability. They boasted not only of their loyalty, but that Methodism made the poor content with their lot.

There were other voices. Evangelicalism had a profound impact on political dissent. (It is interesting to read the same story, as it were, from the other side in E P Thompson’s A History of the English Working Class.) But these voices did not prevail or were subsumed in frustration into the secular labour movement.

The best history is often polemic and Smith is no mere chronicler of the past. What he perceives as the growing crisis of Western culture offers evangelicalism a great opportunity for the renewal of mission but only if it can regain world-transformative vision. The Lausanne Congress of 1974 was a watershed, but evangelicalism faces other temptations: to retreat into an irrelevant fundamentalism or the easy triumphalism which mistakes numerical growth for genuine discipleship.

As we grapple with the challenges of postmodernity there are those who suggest that evangelicalism is inescapably a modernist expression of Christianity. What Smith shows is that, while much of evangelicalism has been high-jacked by the modernist relegation of religion to the private sphere, evangelicalism’s authentic voice offers a challenge to modernism and a biblical alternative to the vagaries of postmodernity.

If there is a disappointment in the book it is tha Smith asserts rather than proves his claim that the evangelicalism of the Great Awakening was world-transforming. He is good on its emphasis on personal experience. He demonstrates, although the books size prevents a satisfactory treatment, that early evangelicalism had profound social impact. But he fails to show the intentionality of this. Indeed he concedes John Wesley’s deep political conservative and oppostion to democracy. Indeed Wesley’s opposition to Calvinism, argues Smith, was motivated by his suspicion of the social transformative to which its all-embracing view of life led.

The work is enlivened by some lovely gems. Smith tells how a number of people left Charles Simeon’s congregation to join that of a brilliant, but poor, dissenting preacher named John Stittle. Simeon’s response was to personally give Stittle an allowance ‘for shepherding my stray sheep’. Or the Baptist writer John Foster’s description in 1802 of royalty ‘and all its gaudy paraphernalia as a sad satire on human nature’.
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Reflections on evangelicalism and social class

Here is my final installment of notes from David Smith’s address at the Reaching the Unreached conference in which he provides some contemporary reflections and questions arising from his look at the history of evangelicalism and social class.

There are a number of key differences between the 19th century and where we are today.

1. The working-class that emerged in the 19th century and gained social and political rights in the 20th century has largely been replaced by an under-class that have rarely known work and have little hope. They do not have the aspirations of the 19th century working-class. John Matthews, a minister in poor area of  Glasgow, says powerlessness best describes these areas. They are the communities of the left-behind. He calls areas like the one in which he ministers ‘wrecked communities’.

2. Immigration has brought religious pluralism. Our training must now include an engagement with Islam. But immigration also brought into our cities southern Christianity (Christianity from Asia, Africa and Latin America). We need a dialogue with Christians from the South whose Christianity has not been filtered through the Enlightenment.

3. We need a global vision so we see the connection between urbanisation in the UK and globalisation.

Smith concluded by suggesting some of the questions that arise from our history.

1. Is the gospel an a-political message with no relevance to social and cultural life so that those with access to power and wealth have nothing to fear from gospel proclamation?

2. In view of the divisions between evangelicals in the 19th century, how do we avoid reading the Bible with lenses that distort its meaning and empty it of its prophetic power?

3. How do we ensure the church becomes a new community transcending the divisions of a fallen world instead of merely reflecting them.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:18-20)

If you want to pursue the themes in these notes then a warmly recommend David’s book, Transforming the World? The Social Impact of British Evangelicalism purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US. In the next few days I’ll post a review of the book that I originally had published in the journal Themelios.