I was talking to a friend and Gospel Partner the other day and he described his longing to see a Gospel Movement reaching into our urban areas. He also expressed the concern that work in our urban areas is too often seen as a fringe thing for the mavericks.
Alongside that I’ve picked up on some real tensions among those working in urban areas – even an air of grievance. This is reflected in recent letters to Evangelicals Now expressing concern that church planting is targeted at student, graduate and more prosperous areas. Additionally, on twitter and blogs I see the occasional challenge to put workers, funding and resourcing into neglected urban areas instead of into student/graduate areas.
In response to the letters in Evangelicals Now, I wrote a couple of letters of my own. I argued that
– There are natural reasons why we see a lot of activity and movement among student and graduates.
– We should not decry what God is doing in those areas. Those mission fields bring their own challenges and so we should praise God when there is fruit
– There are many Christians persisting in urban mission. They are often quietly getting on with the work of evangelism, planting and pastoring. If we are concerned about urban mission then the best thing we can do is get involved in supporting them.
The reason I made those points is that I don’t want us to see this as being “either/or.” We want to see churches flourishing and the gospel message bearing fruit in all sorts of communities.
At the same time, I think there is an important challenge in my friend’s comments. There is a risk that mission and planting in our inner cities becomes something of a fringe issue. If we see things through “church eyes” and the world we inhabit is essentially middle class and white with the majority of young people gaining degrees from Russell Group Universities, then that will become “normal” to us. Urban Mission then becomes something for a few passionate mavericks to worry about.
Yet, for much, if not most of the UK, that isn’t the norm. Take a look at a map of The West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester etc. Significant parts of those regions consist of Council Estates. There are large areas of multi-ethnic populations. Many young people will not be going to a Russell Group University, if to University at all, this summer. Many older people will never have been to University and for others, student days are a long distant memory. They are no less valuable and precious to the Gospel for it. They are the norm and if our mission sees them as the fringe then it is skewed.
I love the message that is coming through from people like Mez McConnell about Church in Hard Places and Tim Chester about reaching “The Unreached.” But I want us to hear loud and clear, when we talk about “church in hard places” and “The Unreached” we don’t mean a few isolated places, we mean “The whole of the UK.”
So, who is ready to be part of a movement to reach the millions of unreached people up and down our country. Who is ready to say that there shouldn’t be any “no-go” areas for the Gospel.
#BePartofSomething Here’s some great places to make a start.