Eddie and Sue Arthur

I’m Not Going THERE!

I was fascinated by the following tweets from my friend Stuart, a minister in Enfield in North London.

Without wishing to seem to blow our own trumpet, our experience was exactly the opposite of this. When we went to Bible college, we didn’t know where we would end up, but our expectation was that it would be somewhere that would be a huge challenge. We underestimated the amount of challenge that we would face – but we had the right general idea. The thing is, we were training as missionaries and we knew that life would be tough.

I think there are all sorts of reasons for the differences between our experience and those of the people that Stuart has mentioned. However, one of them is to do with the way that we’ve reduced being “missionary” to people with a special calling. Missionaries are expected to do odd things like go and live in an African village, but the rest of us can keep the British dream of upward mobility alive – even Church ministers, apparently.

Another tweeting friend, added his thoughts to the discussion, including the following.

The phrase “downwardly mobile” isn’t ideal, but it does capture the idea.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think that the issue here is to do with theological training. I think that there are some issues to do with the way that current models of training remove people from their context and can (unintentionally) inculcate middle-class values, but these are not insoluble. I think that the real problem is that the church in the UK has bought into the British way of life to such an extent that we do not challenge the myth of the “middle-class” lifestyle. Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels paints the picture of a topsy-turvy world in which the first are last and the meek inherit the earth. It isn’t just ministers coming out of training college who need to be challenged to reach the needy rather than aspire to a comfortable life in the suburbs – everyone in the church needs to hear this call and be encouraged and empowered to to heed it.

We need a vision of a different lifestyle; of churches which offer an alternative to the middle-class, consumer orientated dream and who reach out into all of our communities with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can tweak things at the edges by improving ministry training and starting new courses, but fundamentally, we need to take the gospel more seriously and challenge the materialistic values of our society head-on.

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