Over recent years, there has been a lot of talk about urban mission. Sadly, most of it hasn’t gone any further than mere talk. Generally speaking, we do a good line in talking about supporting urban mission without doing very much to help in reality.
There are lots of potential reasons for this lack of help. Some are too taken up with their own situations to have an eye on anybody else outside of their church. Some are just pessimistic about their situation and genuinely believe they are in no position to help meaningfully. Others, to be frank, simply don’t care about the struggles of churches in deprived communities. Others still just don’t know how to help or what to do.
In essence, there are three main ways that you can support urban ministry: pray, give and send. At heart, these are the three ways we can meaningfully partner with anybody. If we say we support gospel work, it must be reflected in our ongoing prayer, giving financial support and the active sending of workers to needy churches in deprived communities. These are the main means of gospel partnership exhibited between the New Testament churches.
The easiest means of partnering in urban mission, that will cost you nothing and barely impinge on your own work as a church, is to commit to praying for churches in deprived communities. Our church is now sending out monthly prayer letters to update those who want to support our work this way. You can actively support our work by ministering to us in prayer. If you would like to support our work this way, please do use the contact form at the top of this blog and request your name to be added to our mailing list. We covet the prayers of believers on our behalf.
Whilst we are extremely grateful for the prayers of other churches on our behalf, a practical means of support is to give to the work. The standard Evangelical response to almost any statement of need is, ‘I will pray for you’. Whilst I don’t want to denigrate that form of care, John and James are both quite clear about the need for our prayers of faith to drive us to meaningful action. John speaks about having the world’s goods yet closing our heart to our brother. James talks both about religion that is pure and undefiled and the nature of dead faith, both being worked out in our practical care and support of those in need.
If our support ends with our prayers, having no effect on our behaviour, how much faith do we really have? If we have the world’s goods and yet do not use them to meet the needs of the brethren, how deeply do we really mean the prayers we offer up on behalf of those in need? They surely amount to little more than a request for the Lord to find someone else to help.
You can actively partner with us in urban mission by committing to support the work of Oldham Bethel Church with your mission budget. Perhaps instead of sending the entirety of your missions budget abroad, you might consider supporting gospel work to under-reached areas of the UK. We have just chosen to do precisely this with another church working in a similarly deprived area of the country. We believe in the important of urban mission, and we do a lot of talking about it, so it is only right that we support churches actively involved in urban ministry. If we really care about the poor and needy, this ought to be reflected in our missions budgets and church bank balances.
Although we cherish the prayers of our supporters, and we need their money to maintain our gospel witness, by far and away the greatest help any partner could give us is to send us workers. There is good evidence of larger churches in the New testament sacrificially giving their best staff to help in other areas (e.g. Paul and Barnabas from Antioch in Acts 13:1-3). If we really believe in the work of urban ministry, and we genuinely care about the plight of the poor and needy, we will see the value in encouraging workers to go to deprived communities and serve in mission through the local urban church.
There are various ways we might do this in practice. For instance, a couple looking to heed John Piper and not waste their retirement could consider committing to the work of a church in a deprived community. Alternatively, churches within a given region who are able to support full-time evangelists and others might choose to ‘loan out’ their staff members to a deprived church who could not afford such workers. Students looking for a university church would do well to consider churches in areas that are not typically ‘studenty’ and those churches that rightly own that epithet could help by pointing students in the direction of churches in urban deprived areas. Likewise, those looking to become church apprentices would do well to consider churches in areas with which they are not familiar. Those churches with large apprentice in-takes (by which I mean, generally have more than one at any given time) would also do well to partner with churches in deprived communities and encourage their apprentices to consider the urban deprived church.
There are various ways you might do this with Oldham Bethel Church. We have just been given the green light to become a Union School of Theology learning hub. This means, from September, we will be able to offer their Graduate Diploma in Theology in conjunction with our urban ministry training programme. Churches can send their workers to us for two years and either bless us with them long term or receive them back fully trained in urban mission with an accredited seminary qualification to show for it. Likewise, retiring couples who have always wanted to undertake some theological study would have the opportunity to do that with us whilst enriching our church. Moreover, given that Oldham is the most deprived town in England, one can enjoy a very comfortable retirement in a pleasant house and make use of local amenities with a very modest income. Oldham is a surprisingly good place to retire.
If we really care about ministry to the urban poor we will be those who pray regularly, give financially and send workers to churches labouring in deprived areas. I would ask you to really consider, what do you prayers, missions budgets, personal giving and sending of workers say about your view of the poor and needy? Would you consider praying, giving and sending to support the work of Oldham Bethel Church?
If you would like to partner with us in urban mission or would like to consider training with us on the 2-year Union School of Theology GDip, please fill in the contact form at the top of this blog.