PART I: Live In

If we really want to make an impact for Christ in the many housing schemes up and down our nations then we must be prepared to move into the area. This is the GOLDEN rule. There are no exceptions for our leaders. Ministry will fail dismally, particularly if the leader(s) is(are) not part of the community straight away. I inherited a church for renewal so my elders don’t (yet) live in but the challenge has been laid to them. Also, I have (at the moment) one police officer in my congregation and it would be worse than foolish to move him into the scheme because his house would become a target. Even if he didn’t mind this (and he doesn’t), it would not be fair on his wife and young family left alone at night whilst he was on shifts. They have compromised by moving as close as is feasibly safe to do so. But, as far as possible, this rule sticks.

One of the great benefits of living in the community is that you seen get to see, experience and learn what the great needs of the area are. This in turns means that you are more than sympathetic to local needs, but you are fully aware of them because they affect YOU too. It stops us from becoming insular and only seeking what is best for our lives and our families. It gives us a true heart for our community, much more so than if we just travel in at weekends for the odd service and maybe a midweek meeting. Rob Lupton has identified three kinds of people who move in housing scheme communities:

1. Relocators – These are people who weren’t born in the area but have moved in to the neighbourhood.

2. Returners – These are people who were born and raised in the area, moved away for a time (usually seeking a better life) and have chosen to come back to their childhood home because they no longer feel trapped by the sociological pressures.

3. Remainers – These are those who understand the problems associated with living in the area but, despite them, have chosen to stay to work for community renewal.

It is a truism that we don’t really start to look at serious solutions to problems until they become our problems. Moving into a scheme soon gives us an appreciation for the troubles and concerns and causes us to think about how we best try to resolve them. It has been interesting to note in my church how the language differs between members who live outside of Niddrie and those who live within. Those who live within use words like, “we” and “ours” and those without are more likely to say, “theirs” and “them”.

Anybody hoping to begin a church plant in a housing scheme needs to give up now if your first thought is not to move into the area. The chances of developing deep relationships, building a witnessing community and seeing gospel growth are massively increased if we live in the scheme. So simple that it shouldn’t need saying and yet most Christian works on many of the schemes I know are done by para-church organisations with no real foundational base in the community that links them to a lively, local body of believers.

Whilst not decrying the work that many of my members do, it is fair to say that 100% of the relational work we are involved in is a direct cause of those members who live on the scheme. Attendance on Sundays is always helped when locals can walk into a building and be greeted by people they already know. It makes a huge difference when we can walk around the streets of the scheme and people either know us personally or, through their friends, know that we are ‘from the mission’.

Please pray for us as we encourage more members to move on to the scheme and as we work with the locals that God would save more of them and that they, in turn, would draw friends/neighbours/family members in to the community of faith in this place.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. John says:

    Mez will be praying for people to move into Niddrie. I really connect with your heart and thinking. It finds such an echo in my own heart and thinking. Be encouraged when the people down the road don’t “get it” as to why location is so important, there is at least one other nutter who “gets it” and is having the same discussions half way across the world πŸ™‚

  2. Peter says:

    This is very true and the evidence in Swindon is clear for all to see. There must be that continual relationship with our area with our neighbours and friends. I would think it is harder for people to move into a scheme like Niddrie but if we are serious then it is the only way to win people for Christ. We continue to pray for the work in Niddrie.

  3. Phildog says:

    Hypothetical question Mez. If you were to start a new plant, would you move into the new area with no contacts, probably in “secular” employment and make new contacts and from those contacts be sharing the Gospel? Alternatively, would you want a group of Christians to move in with you and start the plant almost immediately?

    • mezmcconnell says:

      Hey Phil

      That requires a longer answer than I have time for right now. her are some questions I would want to ask. What area? What is the demographic make up? Would the person be on their own? How would they make community contacts with a full time job? That would certainly slow the process. What research has been done? have the team been adequately trained beforehand? Is there a clear leader? Is there a clear vision? is there a clear, doctrinal statement? Moving in and working is always great but only effective as part of a bigger team and with at least one person able to be ‘full time’ in the community to pick up and develop ongoing contacts. What planting model will you use? there are many that could be effective depending on the area and the context? What is the score with any local Christian groups?

      Basic questions, but ones that would need answering before I could seriously answer those questions. Cheers big man πŸ™‚

  4. A Pastor says:

    Hey, Mez, interesting post, and makes sense, but can you back it with Scripture? Is “must” (in your first sentence) really Biblically founded?

    Our church began using hired accommodations in the town centre, and after a time the Lord handed us a building. Should we have all moved onto the scheme? My son and I were both assaulted, I’ve had a gun held to my face, etc. — you know the scene. I think it might have been as dangerous for my family as it would be for your policeman. If you don’t provide for your own, you are worse than an infidel, and I think that means protection as well as finance..

    That’s settled down some now, most of the more hostile people are Her Majesty’s guests now, so maybe I should move. It’s not a minor thing to uproot and move a large family, though, so I’d be interested in some solid Scriptural authority behind it — “Mez says” πŸ™‚ and “makes sense” probably isn’t enough to move me. Thoughts?

    I’d rather post this one anonymously, if that’s ok with you. If you don’t like anonymous comments, please just delete it.

    • mezmcconnell says:

      A Pastor
      I was inclined to delete this comment for reasons I am sure you understand. I have been stung before by anonymous commentators but I get a sense of the genuineness behind the questions, regardless of motivation. I also get a sense of humility and a bit of ‘push back’ which I like and keeps me honest πŸ™‚

      OK, some hesitations. I am uncertain of your exact context so I hope you appreciate my reticence in giving definitive answers to some of your issues. My context is not your etc etc. I am more than happy to make bold statements on my own little blog because very often they are half thoughts, just me thinking out loud and it offers me a therapeutic way to process.

      1. I agree that “must” is a strong word and not really biblically founded, no. Usually I bracket the term “in my opinion” on matters like this. I think the knee jerk reaction would be to run to the doctrine of the incarnation on this matter at a macro level. The usual, “God became flesh and dwelt amongst us” train of thought. The thought being that his incarnation gives us a model for ‘incarnational’ ministry (my point in this post). I have posted my thoughts on this in a previous post here regardless, we are a ‘sent’ people (Matthew 28) and it is a big ask not to identify and contextualise the good news unless we are prepared for ‘full immersion’ (in the non baptismal sense). In Acts 20 when Paul was bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders he did so by reminding them in v18 of how he not only proclaimed the word to them but reminded them of the ‘manner in which I lived among you’ (v18). Granted, there are no direct imperatives here to ‘live on housing schemes’ but even form this superficial, cursory glance at some texts, points me toward my position. I could go on but, unfortunately, time does not permit me to go into this in depth. if you want to , you could email me at mez@niddrie.org and we could continue the discussion in private and maintain anonymity.

      2. I suppose many of my reasons are pragmatic ones (which doesn’t help I know). It comes from painful experience built over a decade both in the UK and in Brasil. This is why I am hesitant to be more forceful. Notice my title was about ‘schemes’ in the UK. If I was writing for brasil then it would have a different flavour. I didn’t live in the favela I was seeking to plant into. But we very quickly built an indigenous team that did. It was one of the keys to our success. I couldn’t have lived in with my family for some of the very reasons you state (all of which have happened to me sadly). It is a complex, transcultural debate. It requires more deeper analysis than a quick blog posting. I wouldn’t want you to think I am unaware of nuance. But, it is incontrovertible that working and living in an are you are trying to reach is far more effective than a commute in the context I am now talking about. we have proved that in Niddrie over the last 4 years. I know that is not biblical evidence but it is still legitimate at another level. Read any book concerning the life of any effective cross cultural missionary and that principle will be seen in full flow.

      3. As for moving into a dangerous area being equated with ‘being an infidel’…mmmm…I am not sure the history of the church stands up too well to that one. Men and women have stood and died for the faith throughout history. I don’t think they were being foolish (although certainly some must have been by the law of averages!) Hebrews 12 tells us that. we must be careful we are not hiding fear behind a veneer of ‘being wise’. I am in no way suggesting that applies to you (again – context) but it certainly applies to many Christians today.

      Thanks for the post. Sorry for the short, basic nature of the response but I am sure you appreciate that time is a factor. I do have access to articles on this if you email me I would be happy to try and dig them out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s