Star Rating: 4
This book by Tim Chester of ‘The Crowded House’ in Sheffield, is a product of the working group ‘Reaching the Unreached’, which is composed of those seeking to evangelise and plant churches in deprived areas.
It is written from a firmly Calvinistic base. It aims to build on the insights of Roy Joslin’s Urban harvest, recognising that much has changed in ‘working class’ areas in the last 30 years.
In some places, these areas now consist mainly of immigrants from non-Christian backgrounds, single mothers and those who are from families with more than one generation who have never worked. How do we reach such people with the gospel?
The author states: ‘The church in the West is awash with material on reaching postmoderns and engaging with post modern culture … but the reality is that what is being addressed is largely a middle-class, professional or student culture…’
‘Compared to this wealth of resources, it is striking how little there is on reaching working-class and deprived areas … Missional discussions on reaching deprived areas seem to stop at the observation that we need to run social projects’.
Social projects are not seen as the answer. Rather, the perceived need, above all, is for self-sacrificial workers who will spend time with people in personal evangelism. ‘Social lift’ (where poor people saved move upward socially) happens. Where is voluntary ‘social drop’ (deliberately living amongst the deprived)?
There is an excellent analysis of what makes people tick in deprived areas (the reviewer speaks from experience). People expect traditional services, held in recognisable buildings (small groups meeting in houses are viewed as cults).
‘The problem is not that the church needs to be more contemporary or gimmicky. The problem is that people think they are not good enough for church’; ‘they’re scared of church … more than you’re scared of them.’
There is also much useful material on how certain doctrines establish a point of contact with people in certain life situations; for example, the sovereignty of God, when people feel authority is against them; the new creation, when they can see no way off a sink estate.
The book goes on to speak of how to disciple Christians whose lifestyle is chaotically made up of many sins. The answer given is to disciple people with the gospel: ‘I’m not talking to you about this behaviour but about the lordship of Christ’.
This refreshing, sane book with many helpful insights should be read by all. If no one in your church actually, or even potentially, comes from this kind of background, why not?