Unreached: Growing Churches in Working-Class and Deprived Areas,
Apart from the suburbs, there are few areas that the contemporary Church can point to as a success story. Even the most optimistic church worker will likely recognise that working class housing estates are among those areas where we have failed most. We know of the relative success among the urban working-class of the Wesleyan revival in the eighteenth century, the Salvation Army in the nineteenth century and what are now classical Pentecostal denominations in the first half of the twentieth century. Apart from isolated projects, the twenty first century success story is a lot harder to spot.
Tim Chester recognises and addresses this vital issue. For those that don’t know him, Tim is a prolific author in a wide range of mission and Christian living topics, writing with a sharp edge and dealing in realities. His church planting ministry in Sheffield is well worth a look, see
In this very readable book there is a clear systematic understanding of working-class culture, the key themes in presenting a contextualised gospel in such a culture are considered, and two excellent chapters on what evangelism and discipleship look like in such an environment. Some of this might seem relatively straightforward, but Chester’s articulation of the subject and how to address it is clear and precise. So, in the chapter on discipleship we are reminded that we are seeking to help people follow Jesus, not inculcate middle-class values; that we are seeking to see a change of heart before that of behaviour; that we share God’s word not advice and that we stress grace. Far beyond the abstract, this book partially comes out of informal gatherings of church planters in urban, working-class communities and is liberally illustrated with examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of the overall argument.
Most of us will fully recognise the problem Chester addresses, but aren’t great at moving beyond that. My own somewhat failed attempt is in recent years becoming an FA referee. So, I meet a large number of young, often working-class males and seek to be a Christian witness. I am coming to the conclusion that refereeing may not be the ideal role for sharing the gospel, but perhaps that is my way of excusing my failure to make much of an impact.
‘Unreached’ is well worth reading to give us the courage to engage in urban working-class culture. The Church has made a significant impact in this context in the past. God willing Chester will help to inspire and point us to ways to be the twenty first century part of this story.