Among the conversations about mission and particularly urban mission I’ve picked up on a tendency to polarise mission fields. We seem to talk in terms of two mission fields
1. Prosperous/well to do contexts where people are aiming to evangelise the elite as some kind of strategy in the hope that they will be reaching current and future leaders/ opinion shapers through camps, CUs etc
2. Ministry to the down and outs who have nothing and are trapped by crime, gang violence, drugs, alcohol etc.
Both of those mission-fields are valid in that both are full of people who need the Gospel. Both are dangerous in terms of the ability to encourage “shadow-missions” and idolatry. The risk with the first one is that whole business of a strategy to try and reach some people in the hope that they will lead everyone else to faith “trickle down evangelism” if you like. The second is dangerous because we can confuse mission with virtue signalling, finding our own value and identity in being needed and being seen as missional heroes.
But also, if focus on one or two mission-fields blinds us to other mission needs then that’s another risk. Now, I don’t mean individually. Christians will be called and focused on a particular situation that they are passionate about. However, if as churches together, we only think in terms of the two contexts we will miss out on so much.
From where we are in Bearwood, we have contact with people who would fall into both categories. We know people who live within walking distance of where we meet who are relatively affluent. We also know people living in hostels or on the streets without anything. However, I was struck again the other day when a pastor from another church described his desire to work with everyday people. Most people don’t fit into either of those pigeon-holes. There are lots of people just getting on with life, people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds. Some may have jobs, others will be unemployed or retired. They will not be well off but nor will they be in gangs, doing drugs etc.
If we get our value from either being the saviour/rescuers who come to help people out of their poverty and crime traps or we get or value from being the ones who initiate great gospel strategies then we will miss them. Yet, these are people who need to hear the Gospel too.
Are you prepared to be an everyday person living among everyday people? Would you move into an area and join a church where you are not going to rub shoulders with high flyers all the time but nor will you have the kudos of being the “missional hero” who has Jacqui Pullinger style turned up in a crime/drug hell-hole? If you are considering Gospel ministry, would you be willing to go and church plant or pastor a church in such a context. No heroics, just faithful, everyday Gospel witness.