Jonathan Fletcher on inner city ministry

Jonathan Fletcher is quoted in this month’s copy of The Briefing:

There is a craze at the moment for church planting at the risk of neglecting inner-city areas, urban priority areas (UPAs), country parishes, and so on.
…I think the answer is the preaching of the word – and I want to encourage our younger brethren to be prepared to go to villages and the UPAs

It is encouraging that Jonathan has said this as it adds weight to what Mike Ovey recently wrote to Oak Hill graduates. I wonder if there really is a desire amongst younger ministers to move into the inner city? It would be great of more young men made long term aims to minister in such parishes. I’ve a few observations of inner city ministry which I hope will help people decide on this:

  1. We need to deeply love Christ so that when we minister the Word of God people see Christ crucified for sin and not a middle class lifestyle.
  2. We need to preach the Word to people who don’t speak English as a first language and/or people who don’t make a habit of reading, blogging or listening to Radio 4.
  3. As we minister to people with really messed up lives we must love them and work hard not to be seen as a social worker or teacher might be seen because we’re doing our job.
  4. We need to be prepared to wait much longer than in middle class parishes for people in the community outside the church to begin to trust us as “their” minister.
  5. We need a greater capacity for disappointment as new Christians are generally less able to manage life and more readily let you down.
  6. We need to be willing to sacrifice walks in the countryside and to put up with concrete.
  7. We need to get used to feeling slightly different world when mixing again with middle class friends as they talk quite naturally about foreign holidays, private schools and nice restaurants.
  8. We must accept that our kids might not get a great school education (our kids do, as we have a great church school) but that they will learn lots of valuable lessons about what sin does to people and why the gospel matters.
  9. We must love people in the inner city because we love and obey Christ. If we go to the inner city as a strategy, under compulsion, duty, because there is no other parish available or out of respect for Jonathan Fletcher, Mike Ovey or any other respected leader we will most likely fail.

Each of these points probably deserves a blog…

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4 Responses to Jonathan Fletcher on inner city ministry

  1. Richard says:

    your point 9 above

    what is the difference between ‘loving people in the inner city’ and ‘going to the inner city because I know that Christ has saved me for heaven and therefore I ought to go to the inner city to show gratitude to Him’?


    • Richard 2 says:

      1. The first engages the affections (cf Jonathan Edwards) and is more winsome. It is also more enduring since the head gives the direction, and the heart/affections give the motive power. The second (your use of ‘ought’) is, pace John Stott and probably Calvin too, a reversion to the Law (pronomianism or neonomianism) and as counter-productive someone (eg a spouse) saying ‘you ought to show your love for me by x,y,z’,
      2. Modern Lutherans rightly make the point that we preach the Law to Christians not so much because they are Christians (other than to educate), but because they need to go back to the cross for their remaining sins. To suppose that Christians can hear Paul’s commands (and the Sermon on the Mount) and actually go out and do it as a captain can obey a general’s orders is, frankly, absurd, arrogant not to say arminian (and it is not made in some way holy by adding the mantra ‘I can only do it in His strength’)
      3. Yes there is a Fight, but it is not primarily to fight our sins (who can do that out of the emptiness of his own self?). Fixation with sins can actually take our eyes off the Saviour who not only has saved (justification) but does save (sanctification). The Fight is, in the face of every single worldly blandishment (even rightful concern over a leaky tap), to keep our eyes on Him who gives, if nothing else, a Perspective to everything. That is what ‘dying to self’ is – both easier and harder than repressing one’s sins with cold showers and a ‘Muscular Christianity’ (who do we think we are kidding?)
      4. This will of course sound antinomian to some and fatalist to others, but the greater danger is that we do not trust the Holy Spirit to write God’s on hearts of flesh, so we jump the gun in our own strength. Of course we call it ‘response’ or ‘cooperation’ and interpret Philippians 2.12 synergistically just as the Roman Catholic church would do (but without even the same solidity of logic they would have)
      5. If we cannot do what God wants us to do, let us go back to Him to ask Him to give us the expulsive power of the new affection – let us not ‘do’ but with a counterfeit motive in its place
      Strong stuff – I’m sorry!

  2. conand17 says:

    I really liked this post. I work with Mez at Niddrie and totally agree that ppl from outside estate culture must carefully consider yr 9 points b4 going to work in these areas!

  3. neilrobbie says:

    Hi conand, good to hear from you. Is there anything you’d add? Neil

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