‘How can the gospel go viral on estates and schemes in the UK?’
Friday 17th May, 4pm-9.15pm and Saturday 18th May, 9.30am-4.30pm
This year’s conference looks at how the gospel can go viral on housing estates and schemes in the UK. It’s a look at the new strategy of RTU for the gospel going viral in the UK.
There are a limited number of spaces so book your place!
This year the conference is held in Derby at:
St Giles Church
A full programme will be sent out after booking.
I often have very encouraging conversations with people who are not yet Christians. Many of these are people that I have met through door to door ministry. I have a distinct advantage in that I have known many of these people for somewhere in the region of six or seven years. My first visit, in some sense, was “cold.” But going regularly to the same people means that people get to know me and notice when I am not around. They sometimes complain that I don’t call often enough or they tell me who else I should be visiting.
Some people I have met through door to door visitation have become a part our church, others have been content to talk about spiritual matters in their homes and a few have read the Bible with me.
We are looking for long term relationships where we love each household individually – and we want to take opportunities to share the Gospel that are genuine and go to the heart.
I know that people sometimes want privacy – and it is important to respect this. If people are busy I can always go round another time. But a wonderful privilege in this work is that people have actively invited me into their homes and into their worlds and have spoken openly about the struggles that they face. The degree of openness is sometimes overwhelming.
We want to build genuine relationships in which to share the Gospel. So the last thing I want to be is a door to door salesman that is only interested in his commission. I want people to know that there is a community that loves them, that there is a saviour who loves them. Going round to their flats opens the door to many, many gospel opportunities that are genuine and effective.
It is also true that many of these people will never meet a local Christian unless we take the first step to reach them.
John Stott, in his book “The Living Church” (2007), says this:
Local church evangelism can claim to be the most normal, natural and productive method of spreading the gospel today. First there is the argument from scripture …
Secondly, there is the argument from strategy. Each local church is situated in a particular neighbourhood. Its first mission responsibility must therefore be to the people who live there. The congregation is strategically placed to reach the area around it…
Thus biblical theology and practical strategy combine to make the local church the primary agent of evangelism.
My personal view is that door to door ministry, done sensitively and regularly, can make a contribution towards fulfilling this ambition.
Getting Started & Keeping Going:
Building estates ministries with enduring gospel impact
In the estates of the UK new churches are being started, established churches are being renewed, and forgotten communities are being reached. Yet there remains so much to do. How do we get started? And how do we keep going?
Getting Started & Keeping Going is a weekend of discussion, prayer and teaching for all those with a heart to see enduring gospel impact on UK estates.
You can find more information and book your place here, or watch the conference trailer above.
Video produced by 2V design
Watch the last of the sessions from this year’s conference, by Pete Jackson.
To watch the rest of the videos from the weekend, go to the 2011 conference page.
Watch the first of the sessions from this year’s conference, by Andy Mason.
To watch the rest of the videos from the weekend, go to the 2011 conference page.
Guest post by Martin McNeely
Not long ago I was asked to take part in a seminar organized by the Urban Mission group of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland entitled “Keller Unplugged”. It was not, as it might sound, a performance of acoustic tunes extolling the virtues of New York’s Presbyterian pastor, author and teacher! Rather, it was a gathering of like-minded church activists who wanted to see if Keller’s ministry could teach us anything in urban and missional contexts closer to home.
At first glance, some would bypass Tim Keller. He’s working in a context far removed from the UK, particularly our estates and unreached areas. Redeemer Presbyterian concentrates on Manhattan urbanites, post-modern younger professionals in a cosmopolitan and socially liberal city. Without doubt, Keller’s ministry and philosophical style reflects this.
But deeper appreciation of Keller gives us good ground for a study of his teaching, not least because his formative ministry development was forged in Hopewell, a blue collar Virginian town. It was there, for the first ten years of his ministry life, where Keller learned to preach. It was in that setting where his theology of evangelical social conscience was worked through, via his DMin studies at Westminster Seminary.
So what did he learn? In a recent exploration of his life at desiringgod.org Keller shared three main influences. The first was the Covenant theology taught at Westminster by Meredith Kline. Keller has also been influenced by and closely associated with the approach of Ed Clowney and his desire to share Christ in Old Testament preaching. I find this emphasis on covenant, or as others may term it, ‘Biblical theology’ most helpful. In our broken, dysfunctional society it is so helpful for the preacher to know that God does have a plan and that He does not break His promises to His people. What a challenging message in a society where promises are broken all the time.
Secondly, Keller emphasizes the doctrineof Justification by faith. He argues from his reading of Richard Lovelace in Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal, that justification has played a role in every major revival of God’s Spirit in Church history. And again, in our society what a Gospel of hope! Broken people in sinful situations can be forgiven and declared blameless by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Finally, Keller speaks much of the importance of works as a result of our having experienced mercy. The key influence here is Charity and it’s Fruits by Jonathan Edwards. Tim Keller particularly expounds the Good Samaritan parable as evidence of not only God’s great mercy which saves, but of our response as mercy showing people. In his book Ministries of Mercy (P&R), Keller argues that good works provide a “plausibility structure” out of which Gospel relationships and conversations develop. His recent work “Generous Justice” is an extended exposition of the wider Biblical arguments.
Now, I’ve neither studied all of the above names or profess to be an expert on Tim Keller. But neither do we need to be in downtown Manhattan to appreciate him. I find his balanced teaching very helpful in my context. I hope you do too.
Martin McNeely is minister of Ballykeel Presbyterian, a community church based in Ballymena, NI.
Gospel discipleship over the long haul
Council estates, urban priority areas, low income households: the gospel is powerful to save anyone, from anywhere, but what does making disciples look like in the ‘hard places’ of our country, where progress can seem heartbreakingly slow?
For more details and to book click here, or watch the conference trailer below.
Massive challenge for church leaders:
The world and the culture in which we live is this: Marriage is the issue. From gay marriage to divorce to adultery – people need to know how to love one another, and live together and raise kids and finish well.
And here’s the hard, cold, sad truth: you’re gonna take your marriage, and you’re gonna put it as the most important human relationship in the church, you’ll make it the epicentre of the culture that you create, and from there, everyone else is going to photocopy your marriage.
So if your marriage is jack you will have a church filled with jack marriages. If your kids are not loved and led, you will have a church filled with kids who are not loved and led. You will get a church, but you’ll get just another poor, dysfunctional, unhealthy church.
We don’t need more of those.
Watch the whole talk at marshillchurch.org
A few weeks back Pete Jackson and me did a seminar together at the Northern Evangelist’s Conference about reaching out to council estates. Pete’s material was excellent and he’s kindly agreed to let us all have a look.
Something strange has happened in conservative evangelical circles in recent decades. It seems that a strategy for gospel ministry has developed that goes something like this: Let’s reach the brightest and most influential people in society, because if we reach them we’ll reach the nation. And so there has been a concerted focus for the evangelization of our nation on university cities and towns (but mainly the bits of those cities and towns where the predominantly middle-class students and graduates live). To our shame the working class and, for want of a better term, the ‘benefit-dependant underclass’, have by and large, been ignored by our constituency.
But it seems that God’s strategy is very different to the way we have played things. A quick look at how Scripture reveals that God has operated in redemption history should give us confidence to take the gospel to the council estates and the high-rise flats and the visibly broken communities – as well as the other places!
We already know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s power to save those who are perishing – and that alone should be enough to send us to wherever people live, for there is no other power, no other good news that will save those who are perishing.
But it seems to me that God’s word gives us further reasons for confidence to take the gospel to those places which from a worldly point of view would be considered the lowliest: the places where many people, given the choice, might not choose to live.
1. Through the gospel and for his glory, God chooses the places and people that we would never choose.
In salvation history God chose a people for himself – he chose a nation through which he would draw men, women and children from across the globe to himself through Jesus Christ. But God didn’t choose one of the large, great, powerful nations of the time like Egypt or Assyria. No, he chose a small, unimpressive, often dysfunctional nation – Israel (raised up, incidentally, from one of the most screwed up, dysfunctional families in Scripture!)
Over and over again we see God choosing and using individuals that the world would never have chosen… Abel not Cain; Isaac not Ishmael; Jacob not Esau; Rahab (the prostitute); Ruth (the Moabitess); Gideon (least in his family and from the smallest tribe); Nineveh (a place with a human-rights record worse than China and North Korea put together); and David (the shepherd boy with seven brothers all of whom, in worldly terms, were far more impressive than he).
When Jesus was born, to whom did the angels announce the birth of the Saviour? Not to kings or princes but to smelly shepherds – the equivalent of young men with an ‘ASBO’ who were only good for looking after dumb sheep. Then there are the twelve apostles – the world would never have picked them! How about that woman in Mark 5 – an unclean social outcast due to twelve years bleeding? She came trembling to Jesus aware that having touched his garment; his power had healed her and turned her life around. In the previous chapter, Mark tells of how the disciples were also terrified of Jesus when they saw his awesome power to calm a storm. Both the woman and the disciples were afraid… but Jesus calls the female social outcast ‘Daughter’ because of her faith, but criticizes his disciples at that stage for their lack of faith.
Jesus was not impressed with social status or riches. He commended the poor widow who gave two small coins to the work of the LORD, and implicitly criticized the rich who gave proportionally very small amounts from their vast wealth.
And there are plenty more examples in Scripture of God choosing those that the world would never choose. But why does He do it?
All for very good reason: Listen to what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian church (a church, incidentally, with probably more ‘issues’ than any other that he wrote to). 1Corinthians 1:26-27
‘Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many of you were influential; not many of you were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are…’
Isn’t that brilliant! God intentionally chose those who the world would not choose. He did not target the well-qualified or the respectable, but instead, chose the low achievers and the people whose lives were a right mess (as a quick read through of 1Corinthians confirms).
The church then (and today) is living proof that salvation is not a human trick and is not to do with human wisdom or greatness. We look like a pathetic and feeble bunch compared to the wealth and celebrity and greatness of many in the world.
And the reason? So that on the last day, no-one may boast before Him. On the last day, no-one will say, ‘Of course he’s here in heaven… he was so wise, he knew so much… She was such a bright cookie – I knew she’d work it out eventually.’ No! On that day, apparently insignificant people who have responded to God’s word of the cross (the foolish message of the cross), will shame the one’s that the world in it’s wisdom would have chosen… the beautiful, the so-called ‘wise’, the rich, the famous, the powerful – and all who with them who turn their noses up at the word of the cross.
I used to be in a bible study home-group made up predominantly of professional working people most of whom had been Christians for many years. There was also a dear lady in the group from the local council estate. Her son was an alcoholic and drug addict, and her husband was chronically depressed. The family lived entirely on benefits and in worldly terms were nothing special. But this lady got saved. The striking thing about her was that although she was not academically bright… and though she was a new believer, she had a humble willingness to actually see what the Bible said (rather than assume that she knew the answer already), and so had understanding of the Scriptures that put the entire group to shame. And God gets all the glory!
I have a Christian friend who has been in and out of work – eight jobs in six years and various spells of unemployment. I have sometimes (perhaps naively) thought to myself that if things don’t work out for me I could get a job in Tesco. My friend aspires to work in Tesco – he has applied several times, but they won’t have him! He is inarticulate; he has no qualifications, but… he understands the gospel, loves Jesus, and is one of the best evangelists I know. The world would never choose him – not in a month of Sunday’s, but God is glorified through him.
God uses the weak, lowly and despised to shame the proud and strong. Glory be to God!
James 2:5 ‘Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him.’
Yes he has – because that way, no one will boast before him. And he will receive all the glory. God uses the lowly to shame the wise. That’s the way God operates… and so it should drive us to the places we have avoided, and cause us to sit a bit more loosely to the humanly ‘strategic’ places. The council estates of Britain are great places to be doing gospel ministry!!! Interestingly in James 1:18, James tells us that is through the word of truth that God chose to give us birth. God chooses and draws people to himself, as the word of the gospel goes out (it’s the gospel that brings people to new birth). So we must have confidence to preach God’s word in the so-called ‘hard to reach’ places.
So first, for his glory (and through the gospel), God chooses the places and people that we would never choose. Second…
I came across the great quote from B.B. Warfield in John’s Piper book, Don’t Waste Your Life …
Now dear Christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ. If so, you must be like him in giving … ‘though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor’ …
Objection 1. ‘My money is my own.’ Answer: Christ might have said, ‘My blood is my own, my life is my own’ … then where should we have been?
Objection 2. ‘The poor are undeserving.’ Answer: Christ might have said, ‘They are wicked rebels … shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.’ But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving. (continue reading…)