I often get asked how and why we have so many contacts and have so many unchurched people attending our services throughout the week. The answer is quite simple:
1. We pray for people. Are you really praying for people in your area, consistently, specifically, and intelligently? When I first came to Niddrie, I started an early morning prayer meeting (on my own) in order to pray for more contacts. I prayed for the salvation of the contacts I had made and have continued this process for the last six years. Now, even though I am not present at many of these prayer meetings, I have a team of people who meet every morning to pray for our area (and beyond). We pray for: contacts, salvation, openness to the Spirit (to surprise us with opportunities and for boldness with the gospel). We ask that God would intervene in our day and interrupt our plans so that we can tell people about him. Above all other strategies and plans, we must be praying for lost people. Even those who feel that they just don’t know where to begin with a ministry among the poor and needy are able to pray intelligently for them.
2. We love all people, but we play to our strengths in building a ministry team. That seems so obvious that it shouldn’t need stating. But, do you find yourself drifting naturally toward a particular kind of person? I do. Therefore, we have to check ourselves. Is our evangelism and outreach skewed? Are we loving all, regardless of class, skin colour, etc.? Are we attempting to reach all of the people on our scheme? I know I struggle with those moving into the new buildings. Very often they work in the city, come home at night, lock the door and we never see them. I struggle to make contact or even know how to begin to minister to them (see point 1). That’s why we need to build a ministry team of different kinds of people, united under the gospel, who will reach a broad base and love all. Instead of guilting ourselves over the people we cannot reach, we should be celebrating the diversity of a team approach to ministry in our schemes. I have a mix of single parents, young couples, middle class people, internationals, indigenous people, and myself, and we are all reaching people the others cannot. A one-man band on a scheme may have success if his personality and gifting allow him to but, sooner or later, he is going to peak and the church is going to stagnate. Building a team helps keep momentum moving forward and keeps thoughts fresh.
3. We speak their language. “The transcendent love of God is inescapably drawing you to himself in an act of cosmic grace.” A lovely phrase (and true), but meaningless in our context. We reach our people by grounding gospel truths in everyday language. This is not the same as ‘dumbing down’ the gospel message. Nor is it ‘over contextualisation’. We communicate the truth in a way that is comprehensible to our listeners. If you are a cultural outsider to schemes, then take some time to listen to how people talk, what are some of the common phrases (apart from the usual litany of swear words), the stories they like to tell, and the humour they employ (super important). Then bring the gospel ‘home’ in ways they can relate to. God’s Spirit will do the rest (or not).
Continue to preach the glorious gospel of Christ in all of its simplicity and fullness, and pray, in faith, that the Holy Spirit will draw God’s elect to the heavenly Father for the glory and honour of both his name and his Word.