So, the next time you’re tempted to think of 20schemes as being a ‘hard’ ministry, please don’t.
Don’t get me wrong; there are difficulties, but nothing as hard as many of my brothers face in more (so-called) ‘well to do’ areas in the UK and Europe. In cities and countries where less than 2 percent are Christian. 20schemes is a ministry of necessity, not danger. It is a ministry to get the gospel back into schemes that have been left behind by a culturally middle-class Christianity.
We’re not after churches marketed solely for the poor. We’re after churches that love the gospel and reflect life within these needy areas.
We want to see the city worker and the reformed addict saved, discipled and serving together in the life and ministry of the local church. We want the guy from the schemes to have the same opportunities to become a leader as his educated neighbour.
On a schemes, I can have a conversation about Jesus any day of the week.
I can call a man a sinner and he will probably agree without it denting his pride (too much). I rarely meet atheists in schemes. People here tend to have more time to stop and chat. They have more of a sense of community. They will come to an event knowing you will preach at them and they won’t blink.
Of course, there are many who don’t. But my point is that we operate within a culture that is incredibly open to the gospel. Any hostility here is to the church as an institution because it is seen as a posh person’s club. The hardest part comes in discipleship and discipline.
So, in effect, we have it easier going in the front door than many of our middle class counterparts. It’s just keeping the house tidy once we’re in that’s the problem.
What’s so hard about living for Jesus in a culture where everybody knows everybody and where you see your neighbour every day of the week?
What’s hard about sitting in a community cafe for a buttie and a chat at a moment’s notice?
What’s hard about popping in to your pal’s house for a brew any time you’re passing by? (Yes, really—without an appointment!)
What’s hard about not needing to have ‘house/life/small groups’ because we see each other so much anyway and it just happens naturally?
Nothing my friends. Nothing at all.
Hard is trying to build authentic community among a scattered congregation. Hard is trying to foster meaningful relationships in a diarised culture. Hard is trying to engage in spiritual conversations with disinterested individuals. Hard is not having the freedom to pop into your friends house uninvited because it might not be polite.
So, please, let’s not compare our ministries on who has it toughest.
I promise not to if you don’t. Let’s just get behind one another in concerted prayer and support. Let’s get rid of this spiritual one up-manship and face the facts that it’s all a privilege anyway.
We serve the King of the Universe. Just let that sink in. We get to do what we love AND get a sweet reward at the end of it. Much better than arthritic fingers and a worn away ball joint from a lifetime of laying bricks.
Let’s remind ourselves often of Paul’s words to the church in Colossians Chapter 3:
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.