Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Learn some of the songs we'll be singing this Saturday at the RTU conference

Hi, we'll be singing some new songs that you might not know yet, so here's a chance to get familiar with them. Me and Shay are really looking forward to singing them with you.

Don't wait for our conference video to come online!

At each RTU conference we film and put the talks online for people to watch later. We're still gonna do that this year, BUT don't miss the conference thinking the videos will suffice. This year will be different to previous years in that we will be getting YOU to do some of the work. We'll have handouts for you to fill in, and breakout groups to discuss. So, its not so much a sit back and listen conference, as a get involved conference.

So if you were wondering if you should just save the train fare and watch the videos online, don't!!!!!!!! Come along. If you can't afford the train fare contact me and I'll see what I can do.

For those of you who absolutely can't make it, we will endeavour to get the videos online by Christmas. Hopefully you'll still be able to learn and apply the concepts discussed on the day.

The conference is Sat 4th Nov 2018 at LCM HQ in London. Bookings can be found here. And more information about RTU can be found here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reason 6 for coming to RTU: The History of Reaching the Unreached

The conference is Sat 4th Nov 2018 at LCM HQ in London. Bookings can be found here. And more information about RTU can be found here.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Reason 5 for coming to the RTU conference, free giveaway!

The conference is Sat 4th Nov 2018 at LCM HQ in London. Bookings can be found here. And more information about RTU can be found here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Reason 4 for Coming to the RTU conference: Interested in Discipleship?

The conference is Sat 4th Nov 2018 at LCM HQ in London. Bookings can be found here. And more information about RTU can be found here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

3rd Reason for coming to RTU: WC people welcome!

The conference is Sat 4th Nov 2018 at LCM HQ in London. Bookings can be found here. And more information about RTU can be found here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

2nd Reason for coming to RTU

The conference is Sat 4th Nov 2018 at LCM HQ in London. Bookings can be found here. And more information about RTU can be found here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

1st reason for coming to RTU 2017

Hi, I'm presently making some videos to help you see if our upcoming Reaching the Unreached conference (Sat 4th Nov) would be helpful for you. Here's the first vid

Bookings can be found here.

If you want more information on what RTU is about please go here.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

What's this November's RTU conference about?

'Real Growth' (Reaching the Unreached 2017). 
How should we measure growth in contexts where we have so few resources? Some of the techniques for growth we read of on the internet aren’t possible on some small estate church plants. Some people look at numerical growth, others try to look at fruitfulness— but how do we measure that? At the conference, we’ll be looking at a new way to view growth. We’ll be hearing from Duncan Forbes, Efrem Buckle, Simon Smallwood and Julian Rebera, as well as having group discussions on how to grow with what we’ve got.

Hope to see you there
Bookings can be found here.

If you want more information on what RTU is about please go here.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Bookings open for the RTU conference

Just got back from a long holiday and am very pleased to announce that bookings are now open for the Reaching The Unreached conference which will be at LCM, London Sat 4th November
Please book here
If you want more information on what RTU is about please go here.

Monday, September 25, 2017

How do you define Spiritual growth?

A friend recently emailed me this question, and here's my response,

Based on my doctoral studies on discipleship, I'd say that Spiritual Growth is about how well you image Christ. We were made to be image bearers of God, the image got cracked, now Christ (by his Spirit) helps us become more like him the perfect image of God.
What are the key areas of this image in our culture?

1. Power 
a)  how do we use our power? Do we use it to serve and protect? Are we making disciples with our power? Are we spreading God's loving rule with our power?
b) do we depend on the Spirit's power or our own strength?

2. Authority
a) how do we respond to authority in our lives?
b) how do we use our authority?

3. Assesments
a) Do we evaluate situations based on faith and God's word?
b) are we making fear-based (and flesh-based) assessments?

4. Voice
a) Are we using our voice to speak the truth in love? Are we passing on God's words to others?
b) Are we using our voice to put others down, and big ourselves up?

5. Relationships
a) Do we have grace-based relationships with people?
b) Do we use our network of relationships for discipleship?

6. Enjoyment
a) Are we enjoying life as God intended us to?
b) Are we enjoying forbidden fruit?

7. Representation
Based on the above points, are we representing God well?

This is why I take people (including my own family) through the Urban Catechism parts 1 - 3 and then the Image Bearers course, its all designed to gradually help us become more like Christ.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Simon Smallwood has joined the 'Reaching the Unreached' leadership

We're very glad to announce that Simon Smallwood recently jointed the leadership team of RTU. He brings a wealth of experience, humility, and encouragement to us (Me, Efrem & Julian). Simon is a pastor in Dagenham, and has been a real Barnabus figure to many working class pastors like myself. As a cross-cultural missionary, Simon has also done a great job of equipping indigenous believers to do ministry on their estate. We are pleased to see how God has been cultivating an ever increasingly diverse leadership team at RTU.

Don't forget the next RTU conference is Saturday 4th November 2017 at London City Mission headquarters.

More info to follow.

Please check my website for more info on Reaching the Unreached.

RTU's vision is to see 
‘a movement of Christ centered churches reaching the social deprived in a grass roots way.’

Our mission (how we do this) is through, 
‘Linking and Training.’

Monday, September 04, 2017

How do I deal with my own bias?

I have implicit bias. Inside my heart there are biases in many forms. I believe my heart is infected with sin (Jer 17:9), so I believe that it contains racist and classist ideas. So how do I deal with this?

1. Being honest that I'm prejudice.
The Bible says that if I say I'm without sin I'm a liar (1 John 1:10). Psychologists say we all have implicit bias. So I openly say, 'I'm a recovering racist, a recovering snob, and a recovering pharisee!'

2. Enjoying Christ's righteousness.
The more I focus on how much I'm accepted by God the Father BECAUSE OF Christ's righteousness, the more happy I am, and the more I can be honest about my sin.

3. Soul Searching before meeting with people.
The Bible tells me to ask God to search my heart and let me know if there's any offensive way in me (Ps 139:23-24). Therefore, before I meet with people, I try to spend time reflecting and praying about what ways I might be biased with this person. Then I repent, and ask God for the grace to treat this person as a fellow image bearer, and a fellow heir of salvation (if they're a believer).

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Isn't classism just as much a lower class problem?

Yes and No! Whenever I talk about prejudice, I hear people say, 'But its also a problem for the lower classes.' This is true, but also misleading.

One the one hand, all unloving attitudes are wrong, and all untruths are wrong.
But on the other hand, the level of power you wield with those attitudes is very significant.
This is why some people define power as a necessary component for true racism (my view is a bit different but that's a whole other convo!).

Notice how the Bible is full of condemnation about those with power being unfair to those without power. This topic is missed out a lot in British preaching, but its all over the Bible. However, the Bible doesn't say much about so called inverted classism. Class prejudice is not a symmetrical sin amongst the classes.

What does this mean for us in the UK? I think it means we need to consider how much power we have. And the more power we have, the more aware we need to be of implicit and explicit bias. Because the leader of church group that has lots of sway and resources is not the same as the homeless bloke in a small church. Both people will have implicit bias, but one will have much more serious consequences than the other. We want both people to have a humble other person centred attitude, but we recognise the church leader could be causing much more harm.

A little note on Centering:
Its interesting when you read American literature on racism to see how white people often center the conversation around themselves. Similarly, in the UK, its common to see those with more power centre class conversations around themselves. This centering tends to either be, 'Well I'm offended by you talking about this,' or 'well I'm actually really down with the culture, I've got black friends!' If we look at the Bible though, correct 'centering' on those with more power tends to be more along the lines of 'you need to repent of how you don't really care about those poorer than you.'

Next time, I'll write about how I try to deal with my own bias.....

Monday, August 21, 2017

Implications for church planting and implicit bias

Many companies now are recognising we all have unconscious bias when we hire people. Even journalists are recognising they cannot write anything without bias (check out what they teach at Stanford about bias). It seems its time for church groups to start looking at how implicit bias might be impacting our ministries.

1) Your bias might effect where you choose to plant.
Even though you might think you're objectively being strategic, or even lead by God,  subconsincously bias will be kicking in. So, think about how bias plays a part. Ask people from other cultures to weigh in on your decision.

2) Your bias could give your group a majority culture, which leads to:
a) subconsciously hiring people who are like you.
b) having micro-behaviours that are hindering diversity and love.
c) having a slight aversion to people from other cultures, but not even aware of this.
d) disempowering people different to you. e.g. If you want to plant in a working class area, but have a large middle class team, chances are that working class people will think, 'These middle class people know what they're doing, they can do a better job than me, I'll sit back and let them do their thing.' In this case bias leads to a monocultural team as well as the other culture's response to that team.

3) Your bias could affect your preaching:
If you want to preach to working class people, bear in mind they may well have unconscious bias towards middle class preaching. You have to work hard to counter that. This work may involve improving your preaching, but also getting a more diverse group of preachers. In all the consultancy work I've done, this has been the most resistant thing to change. Many preachers sadly don't want to change their preaching style to appeal to the lower classes.

4) Your bias could hinder you understanding God's word.
If you want to avoid a myopic white middle class theology, you need different types of people involved in theologising. This is one of the reasons why I developed the Urban Ministry Program, rather than encouraging people to do an already established white middle class theology program. Its the only course I know of that teaches how to get different cultures theologising together.

5) Your bias could be hurting people you work with.
Implicit bias leads to micro behaviours and aggressions. Good counsellors, knowing that certain types of people rub them wrong way, try to prepare their hearts before meeting.  Let's follow their example.

6) Your sympathy to the lower classes doesn't exclude you from bias. 
Sometimes its harder to persuade cross cultural missionaries of their biases. They can wrongly assume their limited experience of your culture means they don't have bias. 

7) Your education can make you more biased than the uneducated.
I recently read a snippet from Mark Maynell's Wilderness of Mirrors where he writes that the educated are more susceptible to propaganda whilst thinking they are immune.

What's the solution?
We need a deeper understanding of justification by faith. This is necessary, so that we can be honest with ourselves, and admit bias. We need in our teams to be able to admit to bias. Then, from that position, we can start to check our biases, to see how they are playing out. Then, with a secure identity in who we are in Christ, we can ask brothers from other cultures, 'What micro behaviours do you think I'm giving off?'
From this position, we can then work in more diverse groups, and allow our brothers and sisters from different social groups to have an equal seat at the table where we can theologise together, and love one another better

Monday, August 14, 2017

My experience of implicit bias

Those of us from minority cultures have often experienced implicit bias from others, yet also had the question, 'Was this bias, or something else? Maybe I was the problem?' We never know for sure, and we question ourselves a lot, and get fatigued by the perceived bias.

It has therefore been very freeing to discover psychologists explaining that implicit bias really is a thing. Its can also be helpful to hear other people's stories of bias, and discovering that you're not the only one experiencing it. 

For me, from a young age I experienced teachers demeaning me (the only estate kids in the class). Consequently, I believed that I was stupid. When we were taught long multiplication, I could do it in my head without any working, but when I did this in a test, I was told off for cheating. The teacher said, 'You've got all the answers right, but you don't have any working, so you must have cheated.' I couldn't tell if that was bias or not, but it felt unfair. Years later, when I did well in the 11+ exam, beating the rest of my class, I was offered a scholarship at a prestigious London school. When I told my teacher this, I was shouted at, told I was lying, and sent to the headmistress for punishment. I had many more similar experiences with teachers that I will not bore you with.

My middle class friends growing up also showed me bias. I remember one friend being stunned when I understood one his cultural references to 'The Importance of being Ernest'. Funny thing was he actually said to me, 'Of course you know what this means don't you?' and when I answered correctly. he said, 'Oh!' and looked very surprised and hurt.

In careers advice I also experienced bias. Firstly, I gave up my dream to be a barrister because I was told they would not let my sort pass the bar. When I turned to the Army, I was told I must drop my working class accent in order to become an Officer. However this was not implicit bias, this was conscious bias.

When I went onto various Universities, I regularly experienced bias. None of it was meant maliciously, but it did communicate how I didn't fully fit in. During one lecture, a professor said in front of over 100 people, 'Duncan, you really are an example of urban youth!' which was met with a roar of laughter from everyone. Even in seminary, years later, I would hear comments like, 'So how do your people sit through sermons? What do you teach them? How come you know so much?' One good brother told me how his school told his class they were in the top 1% of the country, better than people like me, and now meeting me challenged his whole paradigm. Another dear brother came to me years later, confessing that he'd had an attitude towards council estate people, but by God's grace, that changed from sitting in lectures with me. Praise God for humble brothers who admit bias.

As a disabled man, I've had a lot of dealings with medical professionals. In general, I feel like I've been talked down to, and treated as if I don't know what I'm talking about. It's hard to not think this is because they see me with my tracksuit, silver chain, tattoo, and make assumptions about my lack of scientific knowledge (prob not aware I have a BSc and have read the seminal text books on my condition).

The church scene isn't a whole lot different: When I arrived at a church as a visiting speaker, a couple of people went to complain to the pastor as I clearly wasn't the right sort. After the sermon, they came up to me, and confessed that they'd had wrong thoughts about me, and been convicted through my preaching. I have multiple similar examples I won't bore you with.

Even when dealing with Church leaders there's still bias. Again, its not malicious, sometimes its throw away comments that reveal people don't think about your culture the same way as you do. For example, 
'You shouldn't be doing a doctorate, you're one of those guys who should be out on the street doing evangelism,'
'I suppose most of your congregation are drunk a lot',
'you must homeschool because your schools are no good', 
'you've got a high chance of one of your children becoming a teenage mum',  
'you say we need more diverse leadership, but we don't want tokenism brother'
'this estate has the worst stats for ....'
These statements, said mostly by good brothers who I respect, don't massively offend me, but they do indicate their perception of my culture is different to mine. Other times, its not what's said, but the patronising way its said. I'm guessing these brothers don't recognise that they sometimes switch into a patronising mode when they talk to people in a lower class.

Now there's also been situations where I don't know for sure if there was unconscious bias at play. Once I got turned down for funding because 'the paperwork wasn't in order' (even though I followed their guidelines), once I corrected this, I got told, 'the application isn't very strong.' Which is it? Could be both? Could be bias? There's so many situations where you wonder, 'Did I get passed over for that job because of bias, or because I'm not right for the job? Did I get passed over for that opportunity because of bias, or because I'm not suitable. Does that person not like me because of bias, or because I'm a muppet? And that's the problem with bias, neither me nor you know about it, because even when it is bias, its often subconscious.

Here's a video of someone elses' interesting story about implicit bias that at places echoes my own:

Monday, August 07, 2017

Are Medical professionals objective about disabilities

One of the things the recent Charlie Gard case brought out was the widespread belief that medical professionals are objective about disabilities.
As a presuppositionalist, I don't believe that any of us make judgments in a vacuum, we all have deep seated beliefs driving us. I believe over the years, our society (including the Government and medical profession) have demonstrated a bias against disabled people.
Two examples of this can be found in the following article.

Firstly, notice how the disabled Lord Skinkwin was effectively sacked from his role as Disability Commissioner to the EHRC within days of being appointed.

Secondly, notice how he claims that the assessment for whether a foetus's disability has enough severity and risk to be aborted (at any time up till birth) is 'subjective, which he says “is borne out by the abortion of 11 babies in 2015 for surgically rectifiable conditions such as cleft palate and hair lip”.
Lord Skinkwin warns us that we are heading in the direction of wiping out disabled people before they can be born.

In the Charlie Gard case, I so often heard people saying, 'But he's in pain, he should be put out of his misery as quickly as possible'. But in response I say, 'The parents say they didn't think he was in pain', and further more, 'I am in constant pain with my disability, should you put me out of my misery?' I'm not saying there's not a time and place for turning off life support, I'm merely challenging how quickly our society assumes its time to kill because of disability.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Why I posted about Charlie Gard

I almost never get involved in Facebook debates. Twitter, yes, but my personal FB account is just for relaxing. If someone sends me a work related fb message, I even ask them to email me instead. So why did I get involved about the Charlie Gard case?

In my world, which is primarily a South London working class world I've seen nothing but support for the wishes of Charlie Gard's parents. Whether its been the wishes for him to die at home, or to have experimental treatment. People have thought the parents should have more say than the hospital or the courts. In my world, people have been shocked at GOSH's response over the months. My world is a world that often sees 1) the courts refuse good working class dads access to see their kids, and 2) social workers hastily remove kids from their working class parents. My world has been continually told that 'we don't know what's best for our kids'. That we're emotional, whilst others are objective. But we don't think that's right, nor do we think the courts and medical professionals are as objective as they think they are. So, I just assumed that my Christian brothers and sisters felt the same way. So in this sense, my bad, I was ignorant (see previous posts for the inside joke here)!   

Last Saturday I saw articles being shared on Facebook that reminded me of the typical narrative that if working class people have a different view, they must be ignorant and manipulated, and not objective. One of those articles was by Melanie Phillips. She didn't go so far as to explicitly say that Charlie's parents had been ignorant, but calling the campaign 'ignorant' was close, and she used emotional language when describing either the parents or protestors. So I wrote that, ' it immediately reminded me the spin put on the Brexit referendum. This spin goes like this, 'working class people have fought for an opinion they have, they must be ignorant.' If you listened to Melanie's later article you know that she thinks that the courts, GOSH and herself are objective and only used the facts. She does not however include the working class parent's own assessments of Charlie's condition as facts. I on the other hand believe (as a former doctor told me the other day), that usually its the parents that know best about their children's health. I suspect that some people would agree, but more so depending on the class of the parents.

I wasn't shocked by Melanie's article, I've grown up hearing this narrative for over 40 years, I was shocked, because I was seeing these types of articles being shared and liked by Middle Class Conservative Evangelicals whose comments reflected this narrative. Now, I was a little bit shocked because of Christians siding with the State and assuming its impartiality - but that probably wouldn't have caused me to write a response. But I was more shocked that people felt moved to share and like this POV when its so provocative for the majority of my fb friends who are from council estates and not believers yet. This was similar to how during Brexit, one council estate friend left social media because of the shocking statements they were seeing from middle class Christians. You see, if people see Christians promoting this view that has a lot of classist baggage with it, it makes it harder for them to embrace the gospel that already seems so middle class in its trappings. You might say, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but when a Christian organisation that I respect, shared Melanie's article, praising its 'perception' (as opposed to the ignorance of others) it meant that this narrative was now being clearly aligned with Christian values. At this point, I felt compelled to weigh in on the subject.

I don't for one second think any of my Christian friends INTENDED harm. But I would suggest there could be the IMPACT of harming the gospel message here. Usually in these situations, the majority culture can't see the impact. For example, I've seen so many Christian blog posts in the USA that have unwittingly offended African Americans. When there have then been complaints, the majority culture has usually pushed back (as people do with me in the UK) complaining that:
1) the minority culture is misunderstanding, 
2) the minority culture is seeing things that aren't really there, 
3) the minority culture is getting too much into justice issues. 
4) The minority culture doesn't get how 'down' I really am with their culture. Over here this includes claims as bizarre as 'my grandad was working class'.
5) The minority culture is showing their own bias (admitting the problem of bias, but claiming its a problem for the minorities, not for the objective majority culture).

Sometimes, people within the minority culture join the majority culture's POV and are used as examples of how there really is no problem. This doesn't however disprove implicit bias at all, because even minorities can be biased against minorities, and we're not a monolith. All the while, even if there's some validity in these points, the teachable moment is lost. Instead of asking questions, the majority culture defends itself. But even journalists and HR departments today admit bias, so we should be all the more open, for the sake of the gospel to consider how our biases hinder the gospel (Ps 4:4; 139:23-24).

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Do you take consultants more seriously than working class parents?

I wrote previously about how with both Brexit and the Charlie Gard case, middle class people in general, easily accept the narrative that the working class are ignorant. This isn't necessarily done maliciously, its just part of unconscious bias. Although Charlie Gard's parents had certain views about the state of their son, and the approach of GOSH, many people have readily seen them as 'ignorant' and 'easily manipulated.' In a similar way, working Brexit voters were portrayed as ignorant and manipulated. Meanwhile, some of the key issues about GOSH, and about Sovereignty (re Brexit),  get ignored.

So today, it interested me to see in the news that a number of hospital consultants at GOSH have in the past had concerns about patient care and senior staff. Will people more readily accept these consultants' views than many working class parents' views about GOSH? For example, when I said in a previous post that 'The automatic assumption that GOSH can do no wrong is troubling.' How did people respond? Did implicit bias play a part in your response? Am I an ignorant working class bloke? A couple of brothers did write to me saying I had misunderstood the Philip's article. Am I manipulated by social media? (As opposed to middle classes being informed by broadsheets) Am I a 'worked up' working class man (as opposed to an enthusiastic middle class man). These are the narratives that are constantly put on the working classes. Now, it might be true, I might be ignorant, manipulated, and worked up, and I might be totally wrong! But the question I want to ask is, 
How do you respond when you hear Dr. Kim a consultant at GOSH say, '"Medical staff have growing concerns over patient care. They feel that Great Ormond Street is not really living up to its name and is living on its reputation."
Do you more readily accept his view? Do you naturally think she is ignorant, manipulated, and worked up? Does she not really understand the situation at GOSH properly? You might say, 'But she works at GOSH, you don't!' That's true, but I have a child who is a regular patient at GOSH. I've also experienced doctors assuming I don't know biology (I studied Kinesiology at University), and that they know my body better than me. I've been misdiagnosed by doctors who haven't listened to me, leading to disastrous consequences. I've also grown up seeing how the State takes away working class children more readily than middle class children. I also studied journalism at Uni (for one term only), and learned about bias and coded language in journalism. I'm not claiming these experiences make my views correct, I'm merely arguing these possibilities of my knowledge base don't get considered with implicit bias. 

If you read my previous post explaining implicit/unconscious bias, you know that its not rational. We don't use the rational part of our brains when we make these judgments. But you can slow down next time, and ask yourself, is there any bias at play here? What if I flip the script? What if I were to imagine a consultant saying what Chris Gard said about his son, would I then take him more seriously? Why? What bias are going on? In what ways do classism, and scientism play a role here? 

What did you think when you read the title of this post? That might reveal bias either way.

For the record, working class people can also have implicit bias against working class people. I'm working class but I'm actually inclined to believe what middle class people say over what working people say! Terrible isn't it! Lets get to know our biases.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What exactly is implicit / unconscious bias?

The following video is helpful, I'll follow it with some bullet points:

1. Our brain processes so much information, that it creates categories of people for making quick judgments. 

2. These judgments are based on our experiences, including stereotype portrayals we've seen in the media. So these judgments are often not accurate.

3. We all do this, no-one is exempt.

4. This affects who people hire to work with. Which means it effects hiring in churches and christian organisations.

5. Unconscious bias leads to micro-behaviours.

6. Following on from my Charlie Gard post, I believe that unconscious bias has been at play in how some people have reacted to the parent's own appraisal of Charlie's condition. In a different way, implicit bias was at play in the sad Madeleine MacCann story. In both cases, there is a general difference of opinion between working class and middle class people. Swap the parents for both sad stories, and you would have found very different public responses.

Charlie Gard and Implicit Bias

I could be totally wrong about this, but felt moved to write it, so here goes.
When I saw a middle class Christian post on Facebook the link to a Melanie Phillips article that called the Charlie Gard campaign an 'ignorant' campaign, it immediately reminded me the spin put on the Brexit referendum. This spin goes like this, 'working class people have fought for an opinion they have, they must be ignorant.' This comes from a false narrative about working class people that has been believed in the UK for years, and leads to implicit bias. In a similar way there is an implicit bias towards Americans in this case who surely cannot possibly understand how our system works (which is contrary to my experience of Americans being far more knowledgeable of our system that we are of theirs)!

Implicit bias means that a middle class person will often not be aware that they are judging a working class person in accordance with the narratives they've grown up hearing. They will conclude the working class person is ignorant or misguided, after all how could a working class person be right over a middle class person?

Implicit bias means a well meaning middle class friend once asked me, 'How come you know so much?' He had been taught a narrative of the council estate man that meant I could not be knowledgeable, and if I was, there must be something mysterious going on.

Implicit bias means that when a middle class family leave their child unattended in a hotel room, and the child is kidnapped, they will still get the full support of the UK police and more. Meanwhile, had the same happened to a council estate family, they would have been vilified. Furthermore, when a postman dad fought hard for Charlie, many working class non-christians supported him, whilst many middle class christians judged him.

This implicit bias means that the smokescreen of 'ignorance' covers over other key issues:

1. Who decides what's best for a child, parents or the state? And how do they decide this?  It might be easier for middle class people to say the state, but look at the state's track record of 'caring' for the working class. I still remember when the state decided it was best for many working class kids to be put in care homes where they would be abused. Its particularly troubling to see Christians advocating for the State's powers over parents.

2. How are the 'best interests' of a child decided? The recent judgment claimed the court could be 'objective', whilst parents might be affected by 'emotion'. To claim objectivity without clearly stating the worldview of the court or the state is disingenuous. GOSH's decision months ago to not allow Charlie to go to the states was not made in a neutral vacuum, there was a worldview behind it. British society needs to acknowledge it has a non-neutral worldview that impacts decisions.

3. What does the state mean when it says it does what's best for the child? As a disabled man in constant pain and low quality of life, I am deeply concerned about some of the implications here. Look at the trend for how disabilities are being treated in the UK. What is the worldview behind this?

4. Is the state consistent with this message? The state has killed millions of children under the premises of 'its better for the child to be aborted than unwanted' as well as 'its the mother's choice'. How can we know when to trust the courts' statement that, 'its in the child's best interest.'

5. Do parents have the right for second opinions, and experimental treatment they can pay for? And if they do, why criticise parents who do so? GOSH could have very easily allowed Charlie to go to the States when first requested, why were they so obtrusive? The BBC say, 'Prof Julian Savulescu, an expert in ethics at Oxford University... believes Charlie's parents should have been allowed to take him to the US earlier in the year - even with the low odds that the treatment would have worked - given that they had raised £1.3m themselves. He says GOSH - and the doctors the hospital consulted - made a "value judgement" that was reasonable to disagree with.''

6. Do wealthy parents have the option to get their child the help they think they need? Had Charlie been born into a wealthy family, with private health care, could he have traveled to the USA and had treatment? I genuinely want to know what my options are if one of my children is sick under the NHS.

7. We have not yet been given any conclusive evidence that Charlie would not have benefited from treatment sooner. What narratives were at play that prevented this? What about all the other children who were told they should pull the plug, only to then see that child grow all the way into adulthood whilst contributing to society? What role should hope play in these situations (Love always hopes).

8. Some of us do have a distrust of doctors. Sometimes this is based on bad diagnoses, and incorrect operations (both in my case). Other times it is because us working class people are used to having medical professionals talk down to us, telling us our opinions about our body or our children's bodies are wrong (also my experience). Medical staff need to be trained in implicit bias, so that they can become more trusting of us, and rebuild trust.

9. The automatic assumption that GOSH can do no wrong is troubling. The medical profession itself is very confused right now with remnants of the hypocatic oath mingled with abortion services.

10. What does 'die with dignity' mean? My belief in the afterlife affects my understanding of this phrase. But the phrase is used far too broadly today without clear definition.

Lastly, if the word 'ignorant' is being used, why is it being used of the parents who knew Charlie better than any of us? Should it not be used of those sitting in their armchairs pontificating on how they know what's better for Charlie (based on reading the GOSH statement that was written by their lawyer)!

I take comfort in the fact that God is not classist. If anything, he shows special favour to the needy. I thank God that one day he will bring about a world devoid of classism. Even if Charlie's condition was something that could not be stopped, surely classism can?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

At the Cross

I wrote this two years ago when going through a hard time. We've only recently got round to recording the vocals for it. Enjoy.

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...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Where have all the Council Estate Christians gone? pt1

Remember 2005? Christian rap and UK garage coming out of bedroom studios ran by Christian crews on council estates. Remember the outreaches? Remember the evangelism? Remember the excitement that street boys were turning to Christ? By now there ought to be a ton of indigenous estate Christians reaching out to the estates. But sadly that's not the case. What happened?

One of the things that happened was the power of the middle class worldview. Another thing thats happened is assimilation. Another thing is house prices. Another is the Christian job market. Lastly, and most tragically, backsliding has played a big role. I'm gonna try to respond to these with a series of posts over the next few days...

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reaching The Unreached Conference 2017!!!!

Hi, we're pleased to announced another RTU conference Sat 4th November 2017 at
London City Mission
Nasmith House
175 Tower Bridge Road

Booking is not open yet. Follow this blog to receive the latest info.

To see talks from previous RTU conferences, go here

Monday, May 15, 2017

Image Bearers 6: Voice

Here's the video and discussion guide for part 6 of our New Discipleship tool

Image Bearers 6 ‘Voice’

Feedback on how you got on with the tongue assignment of only building people up?

Read Matt 12:36, and discuss for a couple of minutes (how does it make you feel? How important is it to say the right thing? How easy is it to say the right thing? How long does the Tongue assignment really last for?)

Read Eph 4:15

What are we supposed to speak?______________

How are we supposed to speak? ________________

What will the result be? _______________________________________

Your mouth is your most useful tool for making disciples (helping people become more like the image of Christ).

Read Luke 6:45  
According to this verse, what’s going on when we don’t speak the truth lovingly to others?

So the real problem with our voices is our heart!

Tick the boxes for ways that you often use your voice. Circle the corresponding verses, and add them to your armoury of truth to pray through them during the week.

How you often use your voice
What’s in your heart
Replace with the good (meditate on these verses)
Speaking more than listening. Giving lots of advice
Pride: What I have to say is more important than what you have to say
Prov 3:7
Not sharing gospel truths with people
Fear: I can’t do this. Fear of man: They’ll think badly of me. Pride: They don’t matter enough for me to share God’s word with them.
Prov 29:25-26; Rom 1:14
Speaking in a harsh tone
Fear: I need to protect myself
Anger: I’m fed up with you
2Tim 4:18; Eph 4:29-32
Not encouraging people
Pride: They don’t deserve encouragement. Selfishness: All that matters is if I’m encouraged
2Cor 13:11; 1Thess 5:10-11; Heb 3:13
Pride: I know all the information about that person, let me be your guide about that person
Prov 11:13; 16:28; 20:19; 26:20; 2 Cor 12:20
Selfishness: I want you to like me, or to do something for me
1Thess 2:5; Rom 16:17-18; 1Tim 3:8 (NET)
Pride: I know better than everyone else
Prov 3:7; Jas 3:13-18;
Not giving constructive criticism
Fear: I might lose this friend if I correct them.
Eph 4:15
Accusing people
Pride: I’m all knowing and  you are definitely wrong.
Zech 3:1-4; Rom 14:4; Rev 12:10
Self-righteousness: Its impossible that I did anything wrong
Rom 3:23-24; 1John 1:8; 1Tim 1:15
Pride: I should be treated better than this
Phil 2:14; 1 Pet 4:9; Phil 2:3-11
Not speaking out on injustice
Selfishness: I don’t want to get caught in the cross fire
Prov 31:8-9
Self promotion
Pride: I want you to know how good I am, to win your approval.
Acts 5:1-10; 2 Cor 12:6
Putting people down (even with jokes)
Pride: I am putting myself in a superior position to you
Eph 4:29
Self-righteousness: I must be right.
Jas 3:17 ‘submissive‘ here means ‘open to reason’
Pride: I’m better than you
Prov 29:23; Jas 4:6
Pride, self-righteousness
Gen 3:12; Prov 28:13
Not owning up to sin
Pride, self-righteousness
Jas 5:16; 1 John 1:9

Read John 1:14
If we want to be like Jesus, our words need to contain ____________ and ___________

a) How can your words contain truth?
1)    Listening to God’s word (so that it informs your words)
2)    Listening to the person your speaking to (to avoid misunderstanding them)
a.    HUG without RESQ
Why do both these things require humility?

b) How can your words contain grace?
By exposing the hardened parts of your heart to God’s word. As the heart becomes softer, the more grace we will give others (Heb 3:12-13). Preaching the Gospel to ourselves each day.

So we need to be constantly:
1)    Hearing God’s word.
2)    Applying it to our hearts
3)    Hearing other people
4)    Passing on God’s words to them

There’s an interplay here of relationship, assessment, and voice:
a) To know the right way to use your voice with someone, you first need to assess where they are at.
b) To be able to use your voice in a patient way, you need to assess where you’re at and remove the log from your eye, and fill your heart with God’s love through his word.

Read 1 Thess 5:14, How can you know which category someone is in? ____________

If they’re weak – don’t speak, instead patiently _____________

If they’re disheartened, patiently ______________

If they’re idle or disruptive, patiently _____________

Memorize Eph 4:29