Growing churches in working-class and deprived areas
by Tim Chester;
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‘Unreached’ equips you to face the challenge of growing churches in working-class and deprived areas.
“The book comes out of a working group convened by the ‘Reaching the Unreached network’. We hope it will encourage people to get involved in reaching our estates and cities as well as giving people a sense of how they can go about this work.” - Comment by the Author, Tim Chester.
With the facts, social economic and historical background, Tim Chester looks to a challenging future offering the motivation and the means to reach the unreachable with the gospel message. With an urgent wake up call to Christians and churches, the key gospel themes relevant to working class and deprived areas are explored and plans for evangelism, discipleship and teaching discussed in the context of real world needs and issues.
Tim is a Bible teacher and church planter. Married to his wife, Helen, the couple have two daughters, Katie and Hannah. Tim is the pastor of The Crowded House in Sheffield and a leader of The Crowded House church planting network. Here, Tim’s congregations or ‘gospel communities’ meet in homes and then come together for a regular ‘gatherings’. The communities emphasise sharing life together rather than programme and structure.
‘‘Ordinary life with gospel intentionality’ is one of our catchphrases,’ says Tim. The Crowded House is often described as part of the ‘emerging church’ movement. It’s true that it has a different approach to traditional churches, Tim’s model is different again in its strong emphasis the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel word. Tim Chester is also the director of Portebrook Seminary which provides an affordable, Bible college-level programme of study that enables students to integrate theological training with involvement in ministry through residential weeks, seminar days and distance learning.
Unreached by Tim Chester was published by IVP in October 2012 and is our 16816th best seller. The ISBN for Unreached is 9781844746033.
Reviews of Unreached
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UnreachedDavid Ford, via The Good Book Stall
Chester takes six key themes - contextualisation, culture, key gospel themes, evangelism, discipleship and teaching the word in a non-book culture - and explores their relevance and application to working-class and deprived areas. The author's writing is crisp, his analysis clear: the church is essentially a middle-class institution that has a great deal still to learn about how to share the gospel amongst communities whose culture is so different from that which the church assumes is the norm.
As a minister in a growing church in an urban area north of Nottingham this book is causing me to engage in some deep reflection. To what extent do churches grow as a mirror image of the prevalent culture of the church leadership? Most of the growth at our church is amongst aspiring middle class incomers to the town, rather than amongst the indigenous working class community. Is this simply like being attracted to like? Chester writes insufficiently for me about the importance of indigenous church leadership and perhaps this is an area for further study.
A remarkable book that deserves to be much more widely read than by the narrow evangelical market alone for which it was clearly written.
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Think of the thriving evangelical churches in your area, and the chances are that they will be in the nice areas of town and their leaders will be middle class.
Unreached is about reaching deprived, urban, working-class areas, often estates or housing schemes. It offers us the combined experience of the Reaching the Unreached working group www.reachingtheunreached.org.uk, an informal network of Christian leaders from different parts of the UK.
This book doesn't claim to offer the final word, but it presents us with a vision of what can be done. We pray that it will start a vital process in all our hearts and minds.
1. Contextualisation in working-class and deprived areas
2. The culture of working-class and deprived areas
3. Key gospel themes for working-class and deprived areas
4. Evangelism in working-class and deprived areas
5. Discipleship in working-class and deprived areas
6. Teaching the Word in a non-book culture
"Tim Chester has done the church in the UK a great service. This is thoughtful analysis at its best, supplemented by some excellent practical suggestions and ideas for reaching a part of British community that is seriously underrepresented in the life of the national church. Tim’s passion is to make sure that the under-represented are not the unreached!" - Stephen Gaukroger, Director of Clarion Trust International and former President of the Baptist Union
"This book is the fruit of passionate engagement of local churches with struggling neighbourhoods across the UK. It offers flashes of penetrating insight and perception into the challenges and opportunities of ministry in our more deprived areas." - Frog Orr-Ewing, Rector of Latimer Minster and Chaplain and Missioner to the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics
"This is excellent; it breaks new ground, is outspoken and provocative, but issues a straightforward challenge which the evangelical community in the UK desperately needs to hear. In some places it will not be popular, but it is absolutely clear that the writing is driven by a missionary passion and by a profound desire to see truth transforming areas of our society which for far too long have been closed off to effective Christian witness because of the middle-class captivity of the majority of congregations. The work is enhanced by being based on actual experience, both of Tim and the colleagues he draws into this narrative, and it is further enriched by the intensely practical nature of its conclusions and suggestions." - David Smith, Senior Research Fellow at International Christian College, Glasgow, and author of a number of books on Christian mission.
"Tim Chester has worked hard to show how the raw, uncut gospel must be applied in the ‘unreached’ people groups of once ‘Christian’ nations. He writes from both ministry experience and a passion for the gospel. He is also wised-up about the missional challenges before us, bringing valuable practical insight and needed advice for the reader" - Joel Virgo, Church Elder, Church of Christ the King, Brighton
ENDORSEMENTS FOR TIM CHESTER’S WRITING
Tim Chester writes extensively on the application of the gospel to modern life. In particular he has a passion for churches to reach again the unchurched. These endorsements relate to his book ‘Everyday Church’ co-authored with fellow Crowded House Church founder and Portebrook Seminarian, Steve Timmis.
“Another book by Chester and Timmis that is full of biblical insight and much practical wisdom for daily, street-level ministry in our Western culture today.” - Timothy Keller, Senior Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City.
“I was deeply convicted and excited after reading Total Church, so it was great to see the principles of that book further developed in Everyday Church. Because these principles are so clearly biblical, they are therefore not optional—which means we must all find ways to live out these truths if the church is to be the radiant bride she was meant to be. I look forward to the new joy that believers will experience as they pursue church as described in this book.” -Francis Chan, New York Times best-selling author, Crazy Love and Forgotten God.
"Chester and Timmis have once again challenged us to think differently and diligently about gospel-centered community and gospel-centered mission, and in so doing have given us inEveryday Church some answers of how to engage the growing chasm between the church and world with faithfulness to the Gospel." - Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network; author, The Explicit Gospel.
“There are few whom God uses to rattle my bones about true gospel focus, few who can help me to organize and declutter the simple and sacrificial applications of the cross like Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. God has raised them up to help us to see the work of the church through a lens of soul conformity. God uses them to give us clear sight of why the church exists and what our gospel-empowered focus should resemble. Any church of any size and any location can hit the ground running with the biblically rich and accessible truths that resound from Everyday Church.” - Eric M. Mason, Lead Pastor, Epiphany Fellowship, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“Chester and Timmis remind us that Christianity is no longer at the epicenter of Western culture; it has’ drifted to the margins. As sobering as this reality is, I found myself inspired and hopeful while reading Everyday Church. After all, Christianity began on the margins yet became a juggernaut that changed its world. If you’re tired of the ‘same old, same old’ when it comes to church, and you long for something that pierces and transforms culture, then Everyday Church is for you.” - Bryan Loritts, Lead Pastor, Fellowship Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee.
EDEN ARTICLE: WHAT ‘UNREACHED’ IS ALL ABOUT
In the introduction to his book, Tim Chester invites you to think of the thriving evangelical churches in your area. He proposes that the chances are they’re in the ‘nice’ areas of town and their leaders are likely to be ‘middle class’. Tim goes on to say that he once attended a lecture at which the speaker showed a map of his home city, Sheffield. The council wards were coloured different shades, according to a series of social indicators: educational achievement, household income, benefit recipients, social housing, criminal activity, and so on. Slide after slide showed that the east side of the city was the needy, socially deprived half, compared to the more prosperous west.
Where were the churches? Counting all the various tribes of evangelicalism, the large churches were all on the west side. The working-class and deprived areas were not being reached with the gospel. Tim quotes supporting evidence from Mez McConnell at the Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh who noted that, of the fifty worst housing schemes in Scotland, half have no church, and most of the others only have a dying church. In our deprived and depressed inner city communities, very few have an evangelical witness. This book is about reaching those unreached areas.
Using research conducted for Tearfund in 2007, Tim shows that churchgoing in the UK is a middle-class pursuit. Adults in social grades AB (professionals, senior and middle management) are over-represented among both regular and occasional churchgoers. Meanwhile, adults of social grade C2 and D (skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manual) have the highest proportion of non-churched. Julian Rebera from New Life Church in Brighton concludes, ‘There are very few churches on deprived estates. Those that exist are not attended by people from the estates, but by people outside the estates. And very few people from the estates travel out to our city-centre, largely white, middle-class churches.’
Yet, he says, it was not always like this. The Great Awakening of the 1700s was largely a working-class movement. Although its leaders were middle class, the Establishment treated their open-air preaching with scorn. Instead, it was working-class people who flocked to hear John Wesley and George Whitefield. Wesley organized converts into ‘classes’ and ‘societies’. These were lay-led, often by working-class or lower-middle-class individuals. As Robert Wearmouth says:
“Methodism gained its greatest successes among the socially distressed and ostracised among the labouring masses. Never claiming to be a class or partisan movement, always emphasising the universal love of God, its most urgent appeals were addressed to the common people . . . The higher classes in English society were scarcely touched by Methodist influence, but the working men and women were profoundly affected.”
The Industrial Revolution saw increased social stratification. It was during this time that middle-class and working-class identities began to emerge. And in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, evangelicalism appealed disproportionately to skilled artisans, according to historian David Bebbington. Skilled artisans made up 23% of the population, but 59% of evangelical non-conformists fell into this category. Both unskilled labourers and the middle classes were underrepresented in Nonconformist ranks. Methodists made a greater impact on labourers, but the proportion of Methodists who were labourers (16%) was still just below the proportion in society as a whole (17%).
Tim’s introduction to his book goes further. By the mid-1800s, perhaps half the UK population attended church. But contemporaries remarked that the labouring population was largely absent. Many congregations in mining areas were predominantly working class, but the majority of the working classes were not worshippers. In the late nineteenth century, the trend towards class-specific suburbs accelerated, and church attendance varied accordingly. Middle-class Ealing had 47% attendance, while working-class Fulham had 12%. Religious practice was becoming more directly associated with class. This was accentuated by the upward mobility of churchgoers. By the 1930s, almost half of Methodist members were in non-manual occupations, and by the 1970s it was three-quarters.
Based on this introduction to his book ‘Unreached’, Tim Chester sets out to answer the question, ‘So why have we evangelicals been so ineffectual at reaching the urban poor, despite our origins?’ And make some solid proposals about what can be done now to restore that reach.
In Brief: Eden Video Transcript
“Unreached is an encouragement for you and your church to get seriously involved in those areas of your town where the gospel is most needed and least heard. Based on his experience with the urban evangelism organisation ‘Reaching the Unreached’, Tim Chester talks candidly about what’s gone wrong, and how to make a new start in reaching out to working class and deprived urban communities.”
Details for Unreached
|Page last updated||29th September 2014|
|Author / Artist||Tim Chester|
|Publisher||IVP (October 2012)|
|Number of Pages||192|