Urban Ministry

In recent times, conservative evangelicals in the UK seem to have been beginning to switch on to the need to reach out with the gospel to those in urban priority areas in the UK.

Currently, Tim Challies is doing a series of blogs on the 20Schemes project in Scotland.  Tim Chester has recently written a book called Reaching the Unreached and there is a regular conference of the same name.

This is a good thing.  It addresses the fact that the evangelical church and perhaps especially the conservative evangelicals, have tended to be rather middle-class.  This wasn't always the case if we think back to the Wesley and Whitefield revivals.  However, it would probably be fair to say that most conservative evangelical churches are middle-class, most seeking training for full-time ministry are middle-class and most of the money (not surprisingly!) resides in middle-class congregations.  To be fair, those things are probably true outside conservative evangelicalism.  Certainly within the Church of England there is a perception of an Oxbridge/Public School bias in evangelicalism, although I think that is probably changing.

Although I have a middle-class background (not public school or Oxbridge admittedly), my more recent ministry has involved churches that are in these urban priority areas.  My curacy was in Blackburn and I am now vicar of two churches in Rochdale.

Over the next little while, I thought I would write some blog posts on my reflections on that sort of ministry from a conservative evangelical perspective.  Clearly I'm no expert, but it'll certainly help me to put the observations down and perhaps it'll help others to read them.

However, my first observation for what it's worth, is not to throw the baby out with the bath water.  I think, understandably, it can be frustrating for those of us working in non-middle class areas, that training and conferences found in conservative evangelicalism can feel quite remote from our situation.  I can think of a friend being frustrated on a preaching conference, when he was required to structure his sermon in a way that would never work with his congregation, because that was how it must be done!  I know at times I've felt that the illustrations and applications from big name speakers, who usually come from big middle-class churches, are remote or irrelevant.

That said, I think the main skill in reflecting on ministry in a different situation is the separation of principles, which are valid in every situation and the application of those principles, which might change.  We don't want to throw the principles out, even if we might want to throw some of the applications out.

So that's what this series will be about, trying to be principled in thinking about urban ministry.


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