May 23, 2013

The UK Church and the Poor: Why Have We Fallen So Far and What Can Be Done About It? (4)

This week we are looking at the problem of the lack of churches and indigenous leadership training in council estates and housing schemes across the UK. This is the penultimate part of a short series looking at some practical ways we can seek to redress some of the current issues involved with church revitalisation and planting in these needy areas.

We have to re-evaluate the current status quo when it comes to theological training in our country and how it works against people from council estate and housing scheme backgrounds. The cold, hard facts are that Bible Colleges are not catering for the needs of our communities, nor will they do so once we establish healthy local churches. Many of our indigenous converts and future leaders will just not go to these places. Nor do I see a great need to send them there (unless for specialist training such as linguistics).

What we really need in our estates and schemes, alongside spiritual revival, is a return to grassroots, local church driven, theological education for our particular context. Theological institutions, internships, and the way we think about training for ministry needs to change in the UK, or at least incorporate proper, indigenous models if we are to make progress in the years ahead. People will argue for the current existence of urban ministry modules at Bible Colleges but, again, largely aimed at (and only afforded by) middle class people, and not really for the indigenous community.

We need to be working out how to combine contextualised theological education that is helpful for our people and is retained, governed, and assessed on the ground by the local church. A fantastic example of this can be found with Duncan Forbes and his new Urban Ministry Programme in conjunction with Oak Hill. At Niddrie, we currently train people with a programme that incorporates the Porterbrook Network Training among other material. We, too, are looking to develop our own, indigenous and contextualised, material to provide as a resource to the wider church in the years ahead as (we hope) 20schemes grows.

In conjunction with the RTU, Duncan’s New Life Church in London and my own congregation, Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, we are partnering to become on site learning centres to train cross-cultural missionaries, cultural insiders, and indigenous leaders for ministry in UK estates and schemes (I will blog more on the partnership between Duncan and I in a later blog). We need more of these initiatives (not less) and a small group of us currently seeking to move RTU forward are looking to establish specialised training centres in local, estate/scheme based churches across the UK. The vision is tap into the many cultural insiders spread out across churches who will never go to a traditional Bible College, yet can learn from our“cultural insider” experience and theological training. To be clear, we are not saying training is not needed. On the contrary, it is the type of training currently on offer, its lack of relevance, and how it is being under-used by our constituency that is the issue.

We believe this is going to greatly benefit local churches and the advancement of the kingdom of God in many of the poorest places of our country. Pray for us. Contact us if you would like to benefit from some of this new training or if you are interested in partnering with us or helping us to hone our vision.

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