Robert Lupton would call this a “redistribution of resources.” His logic being (albeit from a community development perspective).
- Christians should live in the area they are trying to reach.
- Christians should work toward a ministry of reconciliation at both a “Godward” and community level.
- Communities are then, hopefully, going to see a redistribution of community skills and resources.
What exactly does he mean by this? Basically, when God’s people commit to moving back into areas of urban deprivation then they will be bringing their specific gift set back in for the benefit of the wider community. In other words, they enrich it—almost by default. The creative and intellectual resources which left in large numbers over the preceding decades in many of our schemes will return if more Christians of all stripes—professional and otherwise—move back in.
Just by living in a community and trying to be a responsible neighbour, a Godly witness for Jesus, and seeking the good and betterment of the community, we will begin to see this principle in practice. If this is true for one individual, then imagine the power of a committed band of 20-40 Christ followers in 20 different schemes up and down Scotland? Imagine the influence for good they could have, even in the darkest places?
Imagine skilled and professional workers re-entering our housing scheme communities. These creative minds will certainly make their mark if and when they begin to engage locally. Community renewal will happen without even having to strategise it (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do this). With new people will come new relationships and new resources into our schemes. New skill sets can be taught to existing community members for the benefit of all. Cultural and economic transformation can start to come about in a one-to-one context, where some these new skills are learned and passed on. Worldviews can be shared to bring depth, understanding and a broadening of the mind. This, incidentally, is why I believe that gentrification is not really a completely bad thing.
Churches on schemes can get involved by developing ministries that seek to harness the often latent gifts of local people and find avenues in which they can express themselves, such as art clubs, drama groups, literacy classes, apprenticeships and work experience placements (indeed a whole host of ideas according to the particular contextual needs of the area). This is the sort of thing we are trying to encourage at Niddrie Community Church. We offer people chances to help with things like admin, office work, cooking in the cafe, basic accounting skills, and computing. And we have plans for a host of others with the development of our internship and apprenticeship initiatives.
All these things, of course, are merely avenues for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is to be proclaimed loud and clear. He will bring about the only true, lasting change, both spiritual and physical. But, we don’t hang about waiting for people to repent before we make a contribution to better our community. We do it regardless of the response to our message. It is a sign that the message we proclaim has a basis in reality by how we live our lives and share them as a body of believers, and with our wider community. Instead of looking at a community as a project where we enter in to do “ministry” we should be thinking of it as our “home” as we move in and invest in it completely.
Pray for the ministry of 20schemes and for our vision to see small communities of active believers living for the glory of Jesus Christ in our neediest schemes. We want to be ‘all in’ for these communities as we think these issues through.