Friday, July 21, 2017

Where have all the council estate christians gone: CONCLUSION

Following on from my last post here
My conclusion is that we need to supplant the middle class dream with Psalm 1. Instead of thinking, 'location, location, location', we need to think 'Spiritual transplantation'.
 Alex Motyer has explained how Psalm 1:3 is describing being transplanted beside living waters (Psalms by the Day). The idea here is not to move to a different location, but to be spiritually transplanted into God's word.

For me, there's always been a pull to move away from my estate. It seems life would be easier and better if I did. There may come a time when it is wisest to move, but what I've had to keep learning over the years is to be the tree thats been transplanted by God's living waters, as I meditate on his word.

Our discipleship, as well as our hopes and dreams need to be about that transplanted tree, not the person who moves to a 'better' location.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Where have all the council estate Christians gone pt.7 Assimilation

Following on from the last post: Many of us have assimilated to middle class culture. We've lost our accents (I lost a lot of mine in boarding school). Some have lost their tracksuits and found chinos instead. Its so easy to do because Christianity is so middle class in this country.

The problem is that....

1) We lose our missionary power.
In 'An Introduction to the Science of Missionw' J. H. Bavinck talked about indigenous people who were trained by foreign missionaries, losing their culture and finding it hard to reach their fellow tribesmen.
Given that so many people on estates feel that Christianity is only for 'prim and proper' people, if local converts start to look prim and proper too, this only reinforces a major defeator to locals getting saved.

2) We Reinforce the blindspots of middle class Christianity.
We need a multitude of different cultures sitting at the table together, helping each other see our respective blindspots. If a majority culture in the church makes everyone fit their culture, the same blindspots will continue unchecked.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Where have all the council estate Christians gone pt.6 'Christian' jobs

Following on from pt.5 
One day someone offers them a 'christian' job far away. It seems like a dream job, they get to serve God 'full time' and get paid for it! They move to the job's new location, which is often not on an estate.

I've gotta admit there's plenty of times I've seen ads for 'Christian' jobs that I've been tempted by. But here are my reservations about how common this pattern is:

1) It robs estates. 
Estates are constantly looted by outsiders. People these days use estates cheap housing (even by christians who don't attend the local estate church), business opportunities (under the guise of helping the community), and organisations poaching streetwise Christian workers. People see a lad with a story, they're amazed they got saved, and they think, 'Wow, we could really use this person in our ministry!' What they're not realising though is that this person's estate really need them. It takes so much hard work to church plant and disciple on estates, why would anyone want to poach off these places?
Of course, you might reply, well what if the lad wants to go? I'd say, well then it needs a careful decision, but lets not assume going to that job is the best thing. After all, there was once a bloke who wanted to go and follow Jesus everywhere, but Jesus told him to go back to his own people and tell them about Jesus (Mark 5:19-20).

2) It prevents people growing their own streetwise converts
If organisations can poach, they won't bother to plant or make disciples on estates. If we have more planting and discipling happening on estates, maybe we'll eventually reach a point where we have more spare people to send out, but right now we might be cannibalising estate ministry.

3) It's a false notion of full-time Christian Ministry.
When we go to work, whether we're paid by a believer or a non-believer, we're doing Christian ministry. Whatever our job, we're to do it for Jesus (Eph 6:5-8).

4) It leads to pt.7.....

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Where have all the council estate Christians gone? pt.5 Fleeing Temptation

Following on from my last post, Some have left their estates to avoid being in close proximity to temptations they succumb to.
I'm very sympathetic to this. At the same time, its worth considering that the Bible doesn't teach to move house when you get tempted. Instead God tells us to pray (Matt 26:41), and promises the Spirit's power to be a good witness (Acts 1:8), as well as a way out (1 Cor 10:13). Of course, in some cases it may be that the way out is to move! Let's just be careful to make wise decisions.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Where have all the Council Estate Christians gone? pt.4 Backsliding

Last time, I wrote about how house prices have caused some council estate Christians to move off estates. Today, I'm looking at the saddest reason we don't have as many council estate Christians and it looked like we would have, backsliding.

Its heart wrenching how many we used to roll with who no longer walk with Jesus. The pull of the old life is strong. Backsliding takes many forms, its not always the pull of an old lifestyle of sex, drugs, and raving, its also the pull of the middle class dream (as mentioned earlier).

Because of the high backsliding numbers, and the low number of cultural insiders ministering on estates, we badly need more discipleship. We need discipleship resources, and disciples who are willing to take the time to disciple others.

The contextualised resources we need should ideally map out the spiritual journey of a typical council estate believer, pre-empting the challenges that arise. This is what I've tried to do with the Urban Catechism (pts 1-4) and the Image Bearers discipleship course. But resources are only useful if you have the people ready to make the time to use them, and again, the middle class dream gets in the way of that.

more next time.....

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Where have all the council estate Christians gone? pt.3 House prices

I've asked the question here, and given my first answer here. My second answer is that many estate Christians in London have moved because its very hard to buy or rent a home on an estate in London.

Most of the youth I used to reach out to no longer live on our estate. Some have moved to more affordable areas, where they could rent/buy a home suitable for their growing family. Last year one of the blokes I grew up with moved to Ireland because he couldn't afford a home big enough for his family. Years ago, a couple in our church had a baby, and then found the only place they could afford was further out of London through a government new build home ownership scheme.

So our church can keep on making disciples, but we're going to have a challenge with keeping those disciples on the estate.

It would be great if there were more Christian philanthropists who help house Christians on estates to be salt and light. We might also need to get more creative with house sharing and budgeting etc.

pt.4 tomorrow ...

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Where have all the Council Estate Christians gone? pt.2 'The Middle Class Dream'

Yesterday I posed the question and gave some quick answers. Today, I'm gonna look at one of the biggest reasons a lot of Christians have left their estate, the Middle Class Dream.

We've all grown up with it, even if we're from the endz. As a kid, I dreamed of moving off my estate. I was gonna buy a house for my mum in the suburbs, and a house for myself somewhere like Putney. The worldview I grew up with was that you need to do well, move out of the estate, and live in a nice house with a nice job. And I think that this is where a good number of our estate Christians have gone, and are going.

Its not automatically wrong to move to a nicer area, but I'd like to challenge the assumption that its automatically good.

Here's 3 very brief reasons:

1) A brief answer from the Bible
The Old Testament law and land system encouraged living close by to relatives, looking after relatives, and helping the poor in your community. The Decalogue tells us to not covet. The New Testament encourages us to use our station in life to glorify God. Acts outlines God using people's cultural backgrounds to reach people closer to those backgrounds. Now the Bible does also give exceptions but in general it points away from the British middle class dream.

2) A brief answer from missionary experience
Local people have a 'missionary power' that outsiders don't have, especially on estates. If you look at Paul, God used his Greek background to help him reach out to Greeks. Estate culture is suspicious of outsiders, so we badly need many of our insiders to stay to reach out to the lost.

3) A brief answer from common street knowledge
Remember how we used to look down on rappers who didn't live in the hood anymore, but we looked up to the rappers who still lived in their neighbourhood and supported it. There's something in us that just gets how good it is to support the empoverished tribe you're from. After a talk I did on reaching estates, a lady came up to me crying saying she deeply regretted leaving her estate years ago after becoming a Christian.

Where are you? Will some of you come back to reach the estates? Will the rest of us sell-out to a dream that falls so far short of God's glory? I know there are godly exceptions, but I'm heart broken over the lack of people staying.

pt3 tomorrow...