Why I hated a blogpost that the middle class loved

There has been a lot of chat about class and inequality within the UK church and how the middle class church has to do more to reach the poor and the working class with the gospel. There was one particular blog that had been wrote this week, which gained lots of plaudits, particularly from middle class Christians, ministers and leaders of organisations.

The blog was a transcript of a talk given to a Christian organisation about the the failure of the church in reaching the working class and poor. Many middle class readers of the blog found this challenging and encouraging, but I found it sad. What many found to be the answer, I found to be the problem.

Many applauded the blog, and the discussion about reaching the poor and the working class, yet I criticised it, and here is the reasons why:

Paternalism

The author of the blog is a good man, with a heart for the gospel, and he is ministering to the lost in a deprived area. However his struggles are quite different to the struggles of the working class and the poor. Regardless of what school he went to, what job his dad had, and whether he would of been regarded as working class 30 years ago, today he is an articulate, educated professional, middle class man.

The author of the blog is a good man, with a heart for the gospel, and he is ministering to the lost in a deprived area. However his struggles are quite different to the struggles of the working class and the poor. Click To Tweet

There are enough working class and poor Christians in todays church who could of been invited to highlight their needs, the struggles and the problems, yet somebody safe, somebody who fits in, somebody who speaks the language was invited to this meeting.

I am constantly hearing middle class people, practitioners, charity directors wanting to lead conferences and discussions on how to help the poor and the working class, but Ive only found one who wants the discussion to be led by the working class and the poor.

We see your struggle, but we need to be in charge, because we know what we are doing. Click To Tweet

If you want a discussion on how to help the working class and the poor, you need it to be led and directed by them. If we constantly see the middle class leading debate on how to reach the poor and the working class, we are basically saying we want to help you, but your not able to help your self. We see your struggle, but we need to be in charge, because we know what we are doing.

This called paternalism, and whether intentional or not, it is wrong.

Right problem only half a solution

My second issue with this blog, is that it highlighted the problem that there is of lack of churches, resources, and gospel workers in poor communities, yet it only presented half a solution.

The solutions given where:

Plant Churches

If our middle class led and dominated churches, in middle class areas, are failing to reach the poor and the working class, then how will replicating the middle class church on council estates and in poor communities fair any better? The simple answer is, It wont.

We need more than churches planted, we need churches planted by people trained and supported by organisations and churches led and directed by indigenous council estate leaders, such as 20schemes and Medhurst Ministries. Ministries that have been developed by and developed for, the very people that are missing from the UK church.

Send People

No people are better than the wrong people, the wrong people can bring harm to the gospel, the church and the communities that we are trying to reach. So how do we determine who is and who isn’t the right person for reaching the poor and the working class? Well it is assessment and training and the best people to assess and train workers for reaching the poor and the working class, are the poor and the working class. Acts29 Church in Hard Places, 20schemes and Medhurst Ministries provides training and assessment, developed and ran by the very people the church is trying to reach. This type of training and assessment helps churches in working class and poor communities, to get the right people, not just any people.

Send Money

Who to and why? Does a church deserve funding just because it is situated in a working class or poor area? How will partnerships look, who will decide the criteria for churches that will receive funding and how much? How will wealthier churches know that their gift will be used to support a church with a long term mission for reaching the poor, rather being used a temporary life support for a clapped out church that should of been allowed to die years ago.

Without setting up a structure to manage partnerships well, we risk seeing churches that need supporting, miss out and churches that need to be allowed to die, stutter on for a few more years.
Partnerships need to be managed well and funding needs to be directed by boards dominated by the people the funding is intended for, the poor and the working class.

Listen to us

I am grateful for the the subject of class and the church being talked about, I am thankful that people like the author of the blog is wanting to see change, yet I am saddened that people like me, like my brothers and sisters are still missing from the table, and I am angry that whenever we challenge the status quo we are banded as divisive and excluded further.

If you don’t start to listen to us, you will never see us. Click To Tweet

If you seriously want to see the poor and the working class in our churches, the poor and the working class need to be seen at the table, in the pulpit, guiding training and assessment, and allocating funding. If you don’t start to listen to us, you will never see us.

Author: Ian Williamson

Ian Williamson is a church planter and the pastor of New Life Church, Middlesbrough. Ian has lived and worked in the town his whole life and has been in full time Christian ministry since 2007.

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