April 1, 2013

A Working Class Manual on how to Reach the Middle Classes with the Gospel of Jesus

Congratulations. You have been saved from a housing scheme background and you have taken the step to enter into cross-cultural ministry. Ministering to the middle class is fraught with many pitfalls and dangers, and is therefore not to be entered into lightly. Please take time to read the following.

  1. As a people group, they are difficult to penetrate without a prior appointment. They like using diaries, and a good phrase to familiarise yourself with is: ‘having a free window’. However, be warned that more and more are resulting to syncing their iPhones, their Macs, and their calendars with alarming frequency. Often, any Apple based product or even a prominent sticker often leads to a ‘way in’ to the culture.
  2. Hollister is a brand name that they are very familiar with. Also, Jack Wills. Bear this in mind when fundraising for this ministry because the expense of these goods catch many by surprise. We should point out that a hoodie from Nike will cause slight panic and be regarded as ‘chavvy’ amongst the MC’s. However, the same hoodie with a rooster logo will suddenly be transformed into a ‘nice, even fashionable, top’ and will result in a calmer demeanour from the person/people you are trying to reach out to. A small rooster with a walking stick can make a big difference!
  3. Related to shopping, please try to familiarise yourself with shops like Waitrose, Marks & Spencers, and the shrine that is John Lewis. This is the Holy Trinity of the MC shopping world. For those of us used to Lidl and Farmfoods, just pressing our faces against the windows of these establishments can be quite an intimidating experience. Our suggestion is that you buy some of the garments listed in point 2 and then try to familiarise yourself with the layout of these places. Practice buying something exotic like Salmon and maybe even some fruit. Be warned, at some point you will have to purchase fresh vegetables, but we do offer specialist training before leaving you in an area on your own. Don’t worry about it for now. But, for those who can face it, practice at home with a tin of canned carrots (Ketchup helps initially with the unfamiliar taste).
  4. In formal settings, particularly Sunday Services, try to keep the conversation on superficial things for as long as possible. Do not ever talk about feelings. Remember your week has been ‘fine’. Do not break this carefully crafted cultural norm. Many missionaries have gone down this path and experimented by trying to ‘hold a conversation’. In most cases, it has resulted in the end of their ministry. It is a cultural no-no. Related to this, don’t worry when they ask you ‘how you’re doing’. Respond with ‘OK, thanks. How are you?’Then quickly move on. They are not really looking for a response. This can be disconcerting at first because it often appears like a genuine inquiry. Coupled with this, ‘I will call you’ or ‘give me a ring’ are not to be taken literally. It is a polite way of extrapolating themselves from a conversation with you without wishing to cause offence. Whatever you do, do not flip out your phone and ask for their number on the spot. Ask them to text it to you and thus give them an out of what is a potentially embarrassing faux pas.
  5. Don’t be disappointed when they say ‘let’s get together’and it never materialises. It is their way of saying, ‘I do not think we’ll be seeing each other again.’
  6. Take your time with the language. Remember, they don’t like direct questions and certainly not forthright answers. For example, when we are asked, ‘What did you think of that?’ Our response will tend to be, ‘Yes, it was great’, or ‘that was really bad’. When the MC’s don’t like something they will say, ‘That was different’ (not good), or ‘That was intriguing’ (they didn’t understand) or—and this one takes time to get used to—when they really hate something they will be too afraid to say it first for fear of being ‘blunt’ and they will often use ‘What did you think?’ as a way to test the water before stepping in with a firm opinion. Even then, they will chuckle at your brazen attitude, comment on it and use it as a launch pad to say exactly the same thing in a more ‘tactful’ manner. I know, it is complicated, but trust me it gets easier to comprehend with time.
  7. This is a long-term ministry. You must settle in for the long haul as you take time to try and be open and honest with the MC. Keep persevering. I have heard many testimonies of middle-class people opening up and even being saved.
  8. Remember to break their spiritual poverty gently to them. Most of them are on a mission to save YOU. Friendship evangelism is a good one. They love that approach.
  9. Remember when giving to the middle classes. There are deserving and undeserving. Missionaries have been caught out in the past by giving money and people ended up purchasing something hideous like a Mocha or a Chai Tea Latte. Be aware of ‘rice Christians’ like these.
  10. Don’t panic them by turning up unannounced or popping in without an appointment. ‘Pop in any time’ can be quite deceptive. They don’t like it. And only stay for 15 minutes maximum so as not to outstay your welcome. Keep points 4 and 5 in mind and you won’t get into much too much trouble in this situation.
  11. Only help those who are ready to make a commitment of some sort. Start with something basic like: having a genuine conversation and then progressing on to developing a relationship.

We don’t pretend to have all the answers and these are just a few pointers to help you get started in this ministry. The work in this area can be difficult and depressing but it can also be immensely rewarding. Be assured that nothing is impossible with God. God has a plan for the middle classes and you can be a part of it as you serve him in these difficult strongholds.

Happy April 1 to all!