Last week I was at a church planting conference in London and one of the speakers spoke about his own parish in an inner city run down estate. From the whole day with some pretty inspiring speakers including Mark Driscoll and someone from HTB, I found this guy the most inspiring. I am not giving his name only because I assume some of what he said was not to be publically shared.
It was very interesting going straight from his seminar into one about HTB plants and noticing the huge differences between the two and the completely different (and necessary) approaches to church. This guy has been in his praish for 16 years, prior to him no one had lasted longer than a few in 50 years! What I found most inspiring was in how he was reaching his parishoners. He said this was an area where people just hadn't ventured out to do mission, for years. When he came to the parish people were wary, skeptical, rude even! Offers of dinner were refused on the basis that 'we don't do dinner' and that people didn't enter each others houses, even close friends. He said he had to learn so much about the area before he could understand how to reach them, that it can take years to see any or little progress in an area like this.
One thing really stood out which was the prejudice that he suffered for his middle class accent! He said people will admit to him now, that when he first came they just wouldn't listen, as soon as they clocked his fatface top and deck shoes and the accent they had preconceived ideas and just thought he wouldn't understand them, that he would be speaking down to them. He has found that he has had to completely live amongst them to understand their ways, every aspect of his life has to be considered carefully. The perception is often that church is 'charity', or that being a Christian is a 'weak' choice and they lose respect. So for example a guy who had been a drug dealer and became a Christian is continually being beaten up because of his faith. It actually becomes dangerous for them to openly admit to having a faith. And this is in England, in our capital city, not some far flung corner of the earth. It's no wonder other nations think Britain needs evanglising like we once thought other nations needed it. We need to send missioniaries into these areas, not Africa and India, but on our own doorstep.
He also said that he finds people don't resond to 'reason' but to 'impression', so you have to find a totally different approach to church, to outreach, to even socialising. Their attitudes to serving are those of 'well why should we be serving when we are on the lowest income and need help' - not like your average middle class congregation who all want to be seen to be 'helping out' or offering some small hand of charity to make themselves feel good.
I was so inspired by this guy. I want to reach those kind of people, I want to be reaching the unreached, the ones who are so far from God, that have never been in church. I have no idea if I will have the strength to do it, to make the sacrifices that he has, and there have been many, but just hope that in His strength I will...