A few days ago, I commented on some of the practical ways you might partner with churches such as ours in deprived communities. You can read that post here. I followed that up with a recognition that there are some barriers to the sending of workers. None of them are insurmountable and some were more serious than others, but it is right to acknowledge they are there. You can read about those here. I want to write some suggestions as to how we might facilitate the sending of workers to churches in deprived communities.
First and foremost, even before we begin discussing the sending of workers, we need to give our people a gospel vision. I have seen church planting reports that have considered going to unchurched areas and yet wound up in well-heeled suburbs, next to existing churches, because ‘we couldn’t get our people to move elsewhere’. The point is not that we should never plant in nice areas, it’s that if we don’t have a proper gospel vision we will never go anywhere else. The purpose of church planting isn’t to find some Christians to fund our particular hobby, lifestyle or attachment to the label ‘planter’, it is to make disciples. That necessarily involves going to the people who are not currently being reached and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them. I hate to break it to you, there is usually a reason why unreached people remain unreached and it’s not usually because the area is so aspirational that we just couldn’t scare up a team to go!
The same is true of sending workers to urban deprived churches. Without a clear gospel vision there will never be any thought of going. We need a right understanding that there is a real place called Hell to which the lost will spend eternity. We need to grasp the fact that there are swathes of souls currently going there because we don’t like the schools and cafes and, if we’re being really honest, often the people in deprived communities. We need to remember that the gospel call is to take up our cross, not to live in comfort however we please. Unless we truly understand the problem of sin, the reality of Hell, the lost estate of unbelievers and grasp the fact that few seem willing to go to places that are considered undesirable (usually by people who have never been to them), we simply will never go. If we are to even hope of sending workers to needy communities, we need a real gospel vision.
Second, we need a proper view of God’s sovereignty. All too often, we worry about who will step up into the vacant roles left behind when people are sent. If not that, we worry about losing their regular giving. Otherwise, we are concerned that it’s going to be vastly more work to train someone up to do the things that were being done and we just don’t think we have the time. There may be a bunch of other reasons we worry about sending workers elsewhere. And yet, at heart, almost all of these things represent a lack of trust in God. It is he who builds his church, not us and not our specific workers. If he brought the guys you are about to commission to you in the first place, why presume he won’t raise up the people you need once they’ve gone? If he’s sustained you financially thus far, why think he won’t continue to provide for you still? If we really entrusted ourselves to the Lord’s care, and honestly believed that he (not we) builds his church, many of the concerns that leaders have about sending workers would simply melt away.
Third, as I said in my previous post, those of us doing the asking need to recognise that not all the barriers and concerns people have are frivilous attempts to get out of doing hard mission (sometimes they are, but not always). We need to accept that we aren’t asking for something really easy and nor is it commonplace either in our wider culture or in Evangelical culture. That doesn’t make it wrong to ask, or right not to come, it just means we need to temper our expectations and ask in a spirit that recognises we are asking a bit more than neighbour bobbing over for a cup of sugar. We need to be clear with people that we recognise we are asking something significant from them, that is not easy and yet would serve the church and glorify the Lord if they were to sacrificially move. Those with a solid gospel vision may just respond to that call if we recognise it won’t be easy but we will support them as a receiving church.
Fourth, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to say ‘yes’ to the suggestion of moving to a deprived community. As I’ve just said, there are very real barriers to moving such as work, finding places for children, if people were being lined up by their existing church for theological study how they will complete that, and other such questions. The question is, how do we make it as easy as possible for people to move to a deprived community? I want round off with a few practical suggestions.
One way we can help is to recognise the financial upheaval of moving and seek to meet some of those costs. If we feel able to do that as a receiving church, it shows a mutual will for the worker to come if we try to meet some of those costs. If we aren’t in a financial position to do that as a church, access to a ‘workers moving grant’ would be welcome. We already offer grants for training and the like, it would be wonderful if FIEC or other such bodies could consider helping potential workers (especially those who aren’t due to do further training or won’t be coming in for a formal staff role) with the costs of moving to a new area.
A step on from that would be to incentivise workers to move to deprived communities. This is easily done with those leaving Bible colleges through the use of funding schemes and the like, if the will is there to utilise them this way. But what of those people who aren’t coming for a formal role? Most people move to new areas for work. Transfer growth (when not a result of falling out with another local congregation) is usually due to job change. But churches in deprived communities are always going to struggle if this is our only means of receiving non-staff workers. If, however, we had some way to incentivise workers moving to deprived communities, this may just help matters. For example, it may be possible to encourage a worker to live in a deprived community and commute into a larger connurbation either by offering to cover removal costs to join the deprived church or by finding other potential incentives.
Another means of making things easy is to encourage partnerships between churches. It is much easier for workers to move to a new church if they have already been involved in gospel work with those people. If larger churches committed to twinning with smaller churches, it would be relatively easy to send regular teams in either direction to help with respective gospel works. It is a much shorter step from that to moving than it is to consider a cross-country move from a cold-contact of some sort. If there is already a relationship between churches, and with certain individuals, it makes it much easier to send those people later on and for them to say ‘yes’ when the suggestion is made.
Finally, rather than just making the suggestion, we can help people go by joining with them in their fundraising efforts (if that is what is required). Some will be willing to go because they are excited about a particular aspect of the work, whether reaching the homeless, dealing with drug-dependents, working with Muslim people or whatever it is. There are some who would be glad to go without a specific ‘role’ being on the table for them but, rather than getting a secular job, will work as self-funded home-working missionaries. It would be helpful for churches to generate interest in such people, give them opportunties to share about the opportunity in other church and for the church leaders to advocate both within and without their church on their behalf. It is inevitably true that Rev Reputable Speaker asking other churches and organisatons to support the worker they are going to send will carry more weight than Ms Eager-But-Unknown-Worker being sent to drum up their own support. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be send to personally fundraise; it is to say perhaps the sending church could be particularly helpful in this regard.
There are just a few suggestions as to how we might facilitate the sending of workers to churches in deprived communities. You may well have other thoughts on how we could do this. No doubt some of those things won’t be applicable to your situation. But if we are all about the business of making Christ known where he is currently not known, we should all be interested in sending workers to under-churched deprived communities. If some of these ideas can facilitate workers being sent then that is all to the good.