Reaching the Unreached – Going Viral. How the gospel goes viral. Lessons on ministry in tough places
Christian mission and ministry in the UK today is tough. The prevailing secular culture ensures that it is so. The spirit of the age is fairly fiercely opposed to Christ. Reaching the Unreached is a conference which focuses on one type of hard to reach place: urban deprived communities. The conference seeks to share best practice by those doing mission in these places as “cultural outsiders, cultural insiders and indigenous pastors.” The aim of the conference is to encourage a culture of developing indigenous pastors from the estates of the UK so that estates will be reached more effectively as the gospel goes viral.
The conference began with Andy Mason, a church planter on The World’s End estate in London speaking on Psalm 97. Three words stick in my mind from Andy’s talk; “The Lord Reigns”. That’s the gospel, God rules over everything, and therefore, we are not to let anyone take our joy in God away.
The first evening ended with a series of encouraging testimonies, as person after person stood up to testify to the goodness of God in salvation. One church planter in Middlesbourgh, whose name I forget, told us of how the lady he used to buy drugs off is now a trustee on his Christian charity.
Duncan Forbes opened Saturday showing us how the gospel goes viral through cross cultural communities. He looked at various examples in the book of Acts where the gospel made jumps across cultural barriers. These cultural jumps are each small, but as the gospel is passed along from Jew to Hellenistic Jew to Greeks, so it spreads through the world and will do in our estates.
Efrem Buckle taught us to be rooted and established in Christ so that we are united as people from different cultures without losing our cultural identity and therefore our gospel potency in those cultures. Churches focused on Christ become places where working and middle class meet, as well as those from sub cultures who come to love Christ such as Rastafarian and Goth, and who should be encourage to keep their cultural identity whilst following Christ.
Mez McConnell made about 15 points, I can remember two, so need to watch it again on Youtube. The points which stick in my mind are: First, we can encourage a culture of failure. That doesn’t mean wanting to fail but living with failure. 50% of his ministry leaders fail. And that’s okay. Second, he encouraged church planters to create momentum in gospel outreach and increasing numbers before trying to order and organise the ensuing chaos.
After a questions and answers session, I ended the conference with a gospel charge from Isaiah 25 to keep doing gospel work in ruthless cities. God has promised to welcome weary soldiers from the battlefield to his victory feast, wipe every tear from our eyes and destroy death forever whilst ruthless nations will be trampled under foot.
Here’s what the other lads from Holy Trinity said about the conference:
The RTU conference was such an eye opener for me, the speakers were in the same situation as us in West Bromwich, falling church goers in deprived areas. The main point i took away with me was that 1, we are not alone and 2, how to go about changing our approach to this problem and see positive results, i was really impressed and encouraged that i personally as a cultural insider of West Bromwich with help and guidence can reach and spread the good news of our Christ to people from my town and through my experience and contacts pass on the gospel so that one day our church is once again full of the diverse people of this town.
The conference “Reaching the Unreached” was a truly inspiring event. It was amazing to see and hear about God’s awesome power at work, changing peoples’ lives through the power of the Gospel. We learnt that culture is everywhere and integral to who we are and how we see ourselves. With God’s power we can gently show people the worthless nature of their idols and help them come to worship the Lord through knowledge of the Gospel. Culture can then be used to help send the Gospel viral through all communities however deprived.
The main lesson I learnt was “The Lord Reigns – so rejoice”. However hard or bad your day has been we should have joy that we have been saved by Jesus. The Gospel is bigger than any worldly worry. We must hold onto that joy, cultivate it through spending time with God, and not let anyone or anything take it away from us.
For me, the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ conference was a fascinating experience where I saw first-hand how the Good News of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit grows faith community. What amazed me was how such a small starting point with limited resources can grow and grow into what has now become a national movement of churches – over the weekend I truly saw how it is God’s grace and power, and not our human strength alone, which brings people to faith in Christ and equips them in turn for mission and discipleship.
There were some great teachings from Reaching the Unreached which highlighted a variety of aspects to mission within estates. I think what was really enlightening for me was the focus on the Gospel and making it clear that the Lord reigns. A couple notable things for me were that you need people who are cultural insiders or from the estates to reach out to more people within the community as they can relate to the people more so than someone from another background. As well as this, the idea of creating a ‘culture of failure’ was good to learn about. This culture is of one to promote a bit of risk taking in leadership. Let people have a go and if it goes wrong then it doesn’t matter; try again.
Next year’s conference will be held about the same time in May. Please be thinking now about coming along.