There is lots of talk around at the moment about ‘cultural defeaters’ (a la Keller) and ‘common grace bridges’ when it comes to talk about the ‘Post-Christian’ West. Personally, I think we need to be more careful about what we mean by using the term ‘Post-Christian’, because we certainly wouldn’t want to confuse it with ‘spiritually disinterested’, and we certainly wouldn’t want to stick that tag on those who live in our many schemes around the nation. In my opinion, for much of the middle class of ‘Post-Christian Europe’, the church is irrelevant, largely because God is irrelevant. However, that’s not generally true for people in schemes: For them God is irrelevant because the church is irrelevant. The difference, whilst slight grammatically, has profound implications for how we ‘do’ church and evangelism in this context. Here are some pointers concerning people who live on schemes:
1. They, largely, believe in a God of some sort. But they don’t see what good church is outside of marriages, funerals, and baptisms. There aren’t too many atheists on housing schemes!
2. They are extremely ‘supernaturalistic’ in their outlook on life. A massive proportion of women, particularly, have a real interest in mediums, spiritists, tarot cards, etc. It is seen to work, therefore it is thought to be ‘good’.
3. They commune, but not generally in homes around the dinner table.
4. They prefer events that are participatory rather than merely sitting back and being entertained.
4. They will read if it is interesting.
5. They will listen to your life story.
6. They are generally scared of church, often regarded as an ‘outsider, middle class or do-gooder’club.
7. They are less hung up about church practice than many Christians. They expect certain things in a church: hymns, prayers, preaching.
8. They like plain speaking because, very often, they see the world in black and white.
9. They have huge cultural pressures and barriers to overcome when it comes to the church. Interestingly, it is easier to say they’re a Christian than it is to be seen at a church in their scheme.
10. They are territorial. They will almost never go to church on a neighbouring scheme. In fact, they will almost never leave the scheme to go to a service of any kind.
11. There is still a tremendous sense of ‘community’within schemes, and people will turn out in droves for local events.
These are just a few pointers, so we must be careful not to tar housing schemes with the same cultural philosophy as the more affluent classes. People here are not opposed to spiritual things and will be as open as you like with questions of faith. But, because the middle class are the ones often in control of the Christian media and publishing books about the world as they view it, these insights are often missed.
The fields are white unto harvest in the housing schemes of our nation. The labourers really are few, and we need prayer and support as we work to bring the light of the gospel back into Scotland’s housing schemes over the coming years.