Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Council Estate Christians 9: Not being told the Gospel

In my last post on Council Estate Christians, I said that there are so few of us because of a lack of people going to council estates to plant churches, and preach the gospel. I also said I would later explain the relevance of my previous posts on council estate Christians.

Today, I want to talk about what happens when people try to plant churches on estates with the misconceptions I have been trying to address. This made up story is not about any particular person - but is a made up composite of what I have seen around different council estates:

The story sort of goes like this:
Tom is from a decent area, and he has recently been thinking that he would like to bring the gospel to people on council estates. He has been told that council estate people don't read much, and that they can't handle bible studies or expository sermons very well. So he starts trying to find ways that he can reach these people who will find the Bible too difficult to grasp. He decides in the end that the best thing to do is acts of service in the community, but not to worry about telling them the gospel - in the end they will work it out by just seeing his good example in the community.

The people on the Estate get to know Tom as a good bloke and a Christian. They used to think that Christians were stuffy middle class people, but now they can see that Christians are good people. In fact they would probably like to be a Christian themselves - except that they know they would never be good enough - they could never be like Tom.

The problem is:
Tom never told them what a Christian was. He thought that 'Justification by faith' would be too difficult a concept for them to grasp. In his efforts to show them what a Christian is without preaching the word - he inadvertently gave them a false view of what a Christian is.

It is commendable that he did such good to the people on the estate, and that he demonstrated that Christians are good people - but you cannot properly convey biblical truth without using the Bible. C. S. Lewis talked about this once - how different types of information need to be communicated through different mediums. For example, you don't give knee surgery instructions through a mime! Unfortunately Tom was doing a similar thing.

A second problem with this approach:
This approach not only results in people thinking they could never be good enough to be a christian themselves, but also in anesthetizing people to the true gospel. For example, sometimes I talk to young people from council estates, and I try to tell them the gospel, and they act like they already know the gospel. They don't wanna hear what I've got to say, because they've heard it all before - and it doesn't scratch where they're itching. Sadly many of them have not heard it before - they've just seen a mime of the Gospel - one that didn't properly communicate Christ's work on the cross to save sinners from judgment.

A 3rd Problem:
Some youths I talk to say they are Christians, but what they mean is that they are doing good work in the community like Tom. They are not trusting in Jesus, sadly they are looking to their good deeds rather than Christ's sacrifice.

All of this comes from misconceptions of Council Estate Christians, which is why my previous posts were so important.