Month: October 2012

Unreached

Just a quick heads-up about a book that was released today by my friend Tim Chester. Tim is a prolific author and has blessed the church with some phenomenal books over recent years, not least You Can Change, Captured By A Better Vision and A Meal With Jesus, as well as co-authoring Total Church and Everyday Church, to name just a few titles! He’s also director of Porterbrook Seminary and pastor of The Crowded House, Sheffield.

However, his latest book is especially exciting as it addresses an issue that I’m deeply passionate about. The book, titled “Unreached: Growing churches in working-class and deprived areas” is a timely, provocative and much-needed book that Tim has spent a long time researching and writing.

Here’s the blurb:

‘When I became a Christian, I didn’t have many Christian men to look up to. There were few who could show me what a council-estate Christian looked like.’ Duncan Forbes

Think of the thriving evangelical churches in your area, and the chances are that they will be in the nice areas of town and their leaders will be middle class.

Unreached is about reaching deprived, urban, working-class areas, often estates or housing schemes. It offers us the combined experience of the Reaching the Unreached working group http://www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk, an informal network of Christian leaders from different parts of the UK.

This book doesn’t claim to offer the final word, but it presents us with a vision of what can be done. We pray that it will start a vital process in all our hearts and minds.

Much of the content of Unreached has been shaped and inspired by the Reaching the Unreached working group, of which I am a member. I’m humbled that several of my blog entries that featured on the RTU site have been included in this book, but that’s not why I’m profiling the book here on my blog. I’m profiling it because it raises important questions about the mission and gospel ambitions for our churches in the UK to grapple with, not least how do we best serve and see the gospel take root in the poorest and most deprived communities in the UK? I’m so grateful to Tim for the thought, passion and courage that he has so clearly poured into this work.

Check out some of the things that people have been saying about Unreached:

“Tim Chester has done the church in the UK a great service. This is thoughtful analysis at its best, supplemented by some excellent practical suggestions and ideas for reaching a part of British community that is seriously under-represented in the life of the national church. Tim’s passion is to make sure that the under-represented are not the unreached!”

Stephen Gaukroger, Director of Clarion Trust International and former President of the Baptist Union.

“This book is the fruit of passionate engagement of local churches with struggling neighbourhoods across the UK. It offers flashes of penetrating insight and perception into the challenges and opportunities of ministry in our more deprived areas.”

Frog Orr-Ewing, Rector of Latimer Minster and Chaplain and Missioner to the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

“This is excellent. It breaks new ground, is outspoken and provocative, but issues a straightforward challenge which the evangelical community in the UK desperately needs to hear. In some places it will not be popular, but it is absolutely clear that the writing is driven by a missionary passion and by a profound desire to see truth transforming areas of our society which for far too long have been closed off to effective Christian witness because of the middle-class captivity of the majority of congregations., The work is enhanced by being based on actual experience, both of Tim and the colleagues he draws into this narrative, and it is further enriched by the intensely practical nature of its conclusions and suggestions.”

David Smith, Senior Research Fellow at International Christian College, Glasgow, and author of a number of books on Christian mission, including Seeking a City with Foundations.

“Tim Chester has worked hard to show how the raw, uncut gospel must be applied in the ‘unreached’ people groups of once ‘Christian’ nations. He writes form both ministry experience and a passion for the gospel. He is also wised-up about the missional challenges before us, bringing valuable practical insight and needed advice for the reader.”

Joel Virgo, Church Elder, Church of Christ the King, Brighton

So, GO BUY THE BOOK! You can find it here.

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No longer a slave but a son

So on Wednesday I eventually made it back into the studio for the fist time this year. As always it was a pleasure (and a good laugh) to hook up with my friend MakMizzle at Shockwave.

The goal was to start recording some material for my next project “Lyrical Liturgy”. There’s still a long way to go before the project is finished, but we did manage to get one track recorded – a track called “No longer a slave but a son”, based on my favourite verse in scripture – Galatians 4v7. I’m stoked with how it came out.

I’ve posted the track below for you to check out. I’d love to know what you think, so feel free to post a comment.

Blessinz

20 Schemes

For your prayer and encouragement I just wanted to draw your attention to a new church-planting initiative that my mate Mez McConnell is launching up in Scotland. 20 Schemes, as the name suggests, is a vision to see gospel preaching churches planted in the 20 most deprived housing schemes in Scotland. 20 Schemes was recently launched in the US at the 9 Marks conference and my prayer is that it will be the start of something very special and spiritually significant in Scotland’s poorest communities. You can check out the launch video below. You can also visit the 20 Schemes website, follow them on Twitter and find them on Facebook.

I thank God for Mez, an inspiring brother who loves Christ, loves the lost and is driven by a passion to see the gospel light shine in the darkest corners of Scotland. Please pray for him, his family, his church and for 20 Schemes. Make sure you check out his blog too – it’s updated daily and always packed with challenging stuff.

On a personal level, I’m especially keen to see how 20 Schemes works out as it’s a very similar concept to something that we are looking to launch in the Welsh valleys in the near future. Stay tuned for A Vision For The Valleys.

[vimeo 50348962]

A Valley Boy’s Response to MTV’s The Valleys

Last month I travelled to Kent to take a wedding ceremony for a friend. I arrived the evening before and stayed in a local B&B. As I was settling down for the night I had the TV on and an advert came on that I really wasn’t ready for. To me, it was vulgar, sexually explicit, degrading and offensive. But what blew me away was what it was for – it was advertising a new show that MTV have just launched called The Valleys. You might have heard of it by now. Anyway, being a proud valley boy (Pooler born, Pooler bred and when I die I’ll be Pooler dead!” I was intrigued as to what the dickens this show was all about. (Pooler is short for Pontypool, in case you didn’t know!)

So here’s the general idea – MTV locate a bunch of young people from the Welsh valleys (though they’re not all from the Valleys…but that’s another story) who apparently have aspirations to ‘make it’ in the music industry and who think their only chance of making it is to leave the Welsh valleys and try their luck in the big city (Cardiff). These are some of the things that the cast had to say about the Welsh valleys:

“There’s nothing in the valleys!”

“There’s no jobs.”

“I’m sick of the fresh air, the hills, the sheep and the pound shops. Get me out of here!”

“There’s no opportunities there for us at all.”

For those of us who live here, those sort of statements are hardly new, and not entirely out of place, especially regarding employment. However, having spent 12 years of my life in Cardiff I can safely say that there are plenty in the city who would also lament the lack of jobs, and who would say that they’re sick of the smog, the concrete and the stray dogs! In other words people seem to be discontent wherever they are.

But all that said, I still have a BIG problem with MTV’s The Valleys.

I could simply bang on about the drunkenness, immorality and irresponsible attitudes towards sex and relationships that the show clearly portrays, but that would be too easy, so I’ll leave that for all the legalists to kick off about! Besides, it’s that stuff that sells the show and people mouthing off about it is only going to generate greater morbid curiosity. Similarly, I’m not going to slam it for painting the Valleys in a bad light. Do everyone in the valleys behave like those guys? No. Do some? Yes. The same can be said of anywhere in the UK. But here’s the thing, I don’t think that anyone would really think that this show paints a true picture of what ALL people in the valleys are really like.

So what am I blogging on about?

Here’s my main concern about this show – it promotes laziness, cowardice and escapism. The idea that if somewhere is tough then you need to leave that situation rather than change that situation. It’s easy to be a thermometer (taking the temperature of how things are). Anyone can do that! But to be a thermostat (actually changing the temperature of how things are) requires significantly more energy, creativity and courage. It’s so easy to identify and criticise what’s wrong and, to be honest, many people in the valleys do. It is far more costly to actually do something about it.

Let’s assume that these young people all make it in Cardiff, will they then return to the valleys? I very much doubt it! What do I base that on? I base it on the use of the word ‘just’ on their promotional video:

“Will they make it in Cardiff or will they just end up back in the valleys?”

JUST end up back in the valleys!! That’s SUCH a derogatory statement. That word ‘just’ sums up my problem with this show. For what it’s worth, I left the valleys, got a degree in Cardiff, served in several fantastic local churches and made a shed load of fantastic friends. Would I go back if God called me? Yes! I love Cardiff. But God told me to go back to the valleys. And do you know what? The problems up here are exactly the same as they were in the city! Guess what? Both the valleys and the cities of Wales are full of broken people trying to make sense of life in a broken world. I haven’t JUST ended up back in the valleys. I’ve come home. Pontypool might not have huge multiplex cinemas, a vibrant nightlife or bendy buses with TV screens onboard. But we do have EPIC countryside, genuine community spirit and a tidy accent!

On top of all that, here’s my view as a Christian. Cardiff has some HUGE and active churches that are doing a great job of making Christ known there in the city. Up here in the valleys, with a few exceptions, there is not an abundance of growing, gospel-preaching churches. In other words, what we have up here is a PHENOMENAL mission-field! Shortly before I moved up to Trevethin, a friend in Cardiff told me that I was crazy for leaving Cardiff to go live on an estate that no one’s ever heard of! He said that I would have far greater influence if I stayed in the city and that my ministry would be more widely effective. But God told me to go to Trevethin, and His vote wins!

Is it easy seeking to make Christ known up here? No! Sometimes it’s painful and frustrating and hard! But we have seen God do some wonderful things that wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been obedient to come. Have we seen enough? Not by a long shot! But I’m not going to jack it in and join in the chorus of discontented voices that are determined to tell us how crap the valleys are. I’m going to fulfil my ministry and not stop in my task of being part of effecting gospel change here in the Welsh valleys, whatever the cost.

So a word to all my fellow valley commandos (especially the ones who love Jesus) and who are thinking stuff the valleys, the city is where it’s at: If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, perhaps you should water your own side rather than jumping over the fence in the hope that the next field will be a more blessed place to be. Be a thermostat, not a thermometer!

Rant over.

#lovethevalleys