Glory hunters look elsewhere

There are few worse reasons to serve than a desire for fame and glory within the tiny and insignificant world of British Evangelicalism. Sadly, the Evangelical world is replete with such people. Mark Jones was apt to note, ‘there is a game that has to be played in the church in the interests of personal advancement’. As I commented here:

I have lost count of the number of people I have met who have no regard for you when they believe you are but a mere pew-filler yet who suddenly cannot fall over themselves fast enough to get to you when they find out you are a minister who may be able to do something for them. I don’t mean those people who are in need so much as those people who want advancement, to make a name for themselves, within the Christian world of mission and ministry. Indeed, I have seen both when I was a serving church member and as a serving church minister.

The behaviour is odious. I previously highlighted here that we can spot them thus:

They are the ones looking for position in the church, those desperately hoping to catch the eye of elders and ministers. They shoehorn theological training into conversation, the places they have preached are mentioned apropos of nothing and, serendipitously, their latest set of sermon notes happen to fall out of their bible right in front of the minister. If they are musical, they happen to be at the piano after the service, just ‘messing around’ of course. They name-drop in the hope you may know and respect the people with whom they are connected. They are networkers, talking to all and sundry without ever really finding out about, or listening to, those whom they are speaking. They ask you about these same things to find out where you stand in the church pecking order. They cosy up to those who can get them on and laud it over those they perceive as inferior. They are the proud, superior church climbers seeking position and recognition.

Thankfully, we are almost certainly never going to get such people in Oldham. As I commented here:

I am not a well known pastor. I do not minister in a large or well known church. I am not related to anybody well known either. I am not connected to anybody well known. Nobody well known is backing any of our ventures and nor are they advocating for us in the circles in which they are well known. We are not big fish in the relatively small world of British Evangelicalism.

What this means is that we can do nothing to advance your standing in the Christian world. Coming to join us will not make you well known, it will not connect you up to other well known people and will not redound to your earthly glory. In short, there is no point joining our church if you are looking to make strides in the Christian world.

Whilst we have no interest in providing a home for such glory hunters, we are highly unlikely to have any apply for membership. Our ministry is not glamorous, high profile or readily noticed. Our call for workers is a call to unseen, unglamorous, plodding work that will not lead to much adulation or praise from anybody this side of glory.

There are really two main reasons to come and serve at Oldham Bethel Church. First, there is our love for the Lord. Second, there is the deep and serious need.

If you want to come and serve in Oldham for any other reason than your love for the Lord and a desire to see his gospel go out to those that don’t know him, there really is no point in coming at all. If it is for earthly glory, I am afraid there is very little likely to come your way. If it is for the thrill of the work itself, that will not sustain you when it is hard and slow and difficult. If it is the draw of the people, some of whom are wonderful and an absolute delight, inevitably we will all let you down at some point. The only one who can sustain you in this work is Jesus Christ. The only reason to involve yourself in this work is your love for him, your desire to make him known to lost people and a belief that he will honour you as you seek to honour him.

Of course, love for the Lord and his honour is the reason why you might consider serving anywhere. The need is fundamentally why you should serve in Oldham in particular.

Oldham is officially the most deprived town in England. The borough itself has c. 230,000 people and is severely under-reached with gospel-centred, bible-believing churches. Oldham is home to high numbers of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims and has the third largest Bangladeshi community in the country, behind London and Birmingham (cities 40 and 5 times bigger than Oldham borough). The borough is highly segregated with large ‘Asian areas’ totally separated from overwhelmingly white council estates.

In 2001, Oldham had the worst race riots in the UK since 1985 and briefly eclipsed the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. The epicentre of the 2001 race riots was the area of Glodwick. Oldham Bethel Church is sited on Waterloo Street in Glodwick. The area is almost exclusively Asian and contains Oldham’s largest mosque, a few hundred yards behind the church building. There are whole estates that are entirely unchurched within the borough and Glodwick itself, where the church is currently sited, is a particularly needy community. Many in the church are asylum seekers (predominantly from Iran and Afghanistan) while others are drawn from the poorest socio-economic backgrounds.

Yet, there is great fruit for the gospel going on at Oldham Bethel Church. In the last three years, the church has conducted 10 baptisms and seen a number of others come to faith. We are currently processing a further 5 applications for baptism and, further to these, another two applicants for membership.

The church is also making in-roads into the local community. We hold weekly English Classes that see people from variety of different nations coming into Bethel Church. Our current classes have c.30 regular students, many of whom are from Muslim backgrounds. We hold a monthly ‘cultural evening’ which regularly sees between 25-40 Muslims coming under the sound of the gospel. We are also engaged in open air evangelism, consisting of gospel talks, testimonies and Q&A in the town centre to engage local people. We are seeing the Lord move wonderfully and have long term plans to plant into some of the unchurched estates.

The reason to consider coming to Bethel Church is first because you love the Lord and his gospel. The second reason is because the need – both physical and spiritual – is great. The third is simply that the harvest is plentiful and we are in desperate need of more workers to take full advantage of the opportunities the Lord has given to us. Fourth, due to the type of people we are reaching, many are simply unable to support the work financially due to their status as asylum seekers or reliant upon benefits. We need people to join the work to both serve and give.

You can help support the ministry of Oldham Bethel Church in the following ways:

  1. Please pray for us. If you keep up with this blog, you will hear of various needs and ways you can pray for us. Alternatively, you can drop us a line using the Oldham Bethel Church contact form and ask what you can pray for us.
  2. You can give financially. We are a small church, working in the most deprived town in England, reaching some of the most needy people in the UK. Many of those we reach cannot stay with us long-term and must be moved to churches elsewhere. Others may stay but cannot give. We function on a significant monthly deficit that, at last quarter, was £5000. We simply are not big enough, nor reaching the kind of people, that will permit us to self-sustain. If you could commit to giving to the work of Oldham Bethel Church you will be supporting this fruitful mission. You can do this by going to the Oldham Bethel Church giving page.
  3. Consider whether you could come. Are you in a position to move to Oldham and commit to this work? Could you actively seek work in and around Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire and commit to Bethel Church? Might you consider meeting with us to discuss the possibility of moving to the area and seeing where you might fit in and how you might be able to serve helpfully with us?