I am occasionally asked (very occasionally, I should add) how people can support the work of churches in deprived communities. There are lots of ways but let me land on just five.
The simplest and easiest way to support work in deprived communities is to pray for churches about that business. This is a way that you can be involved in the work among deprived communities without it costing you a penny. You could encourage a church in a hard area by emailing the pastor, or giving him a call, and asking to be included on their prayer letter distribution list. And when you get the letter, pray for them. It will take 5-minutes to read and maybe a few minutes more than that to pray. Be assured, we don’t despise your prayers – we desperately want them! You can be involved in ministry in deprived communities by meaningfully praying for the people and churches who are there.
This one does cost you a few pennies, but it doesn’t cost you anything else. If you know of a church in a deprived town, chances are it struggles on financially and isn’t self-sustaining. One way you can support ministry in hard places is to give to the work. When you are reaching asylum seekers and people on benefits, becoming self-sustaining as a church is not necessarily a realistic goal. Thankfully, the church of Christ isn’t called to become self-sustaining, it is called to make disciples. But in order to make disciples, we need the resources to keep ourselves going in the ministry of making them. And there aren’t going to many disciples made in deprived communities who will be financially propping up the local church with their gift-aided tithe.
In deprived communities, we have the least ability to receive giving from our members and the greatest needs in terms of support among our members. So we need outside help in order to keep going in the ministry of seeing disciples made for Christ. You could support ministry in deprived places by giving regularly to a church so that they might continue in the work of disciple-making.
We want to see disciples made from our local communities. We want those disciples to grow to maturity so that they might become leaders in the church and plant other churches to reach other deprived places. Whilst that is the long-term goal to which we are working, we need others from outside to come into our towns and help with that business of making disciples. We can’t expect people from Oldham to be raised up to leadership roles in the church if nobody first comes to Oldham to tell people about Jesus. It requires some of us to go cross-culturally so that those who are reached might be raised up.
If you want to see deprived communities reached for Jesus, we are going to have to take seriously Jesus’ call to go into all the world and preach the gospel. If we only ever consider the call to go and call to continue where we are, and if none of your people are ever called to go, we cannot be surprised when – many years from now – we continue having this same conversation about the lack of gospel preaching churches in deprived communities. If you really want to see the lost turning in repentance and faith to Jesus, you are going to have to go there and tell them. If you take seriously the need to reach deprived communities, take seriously Jesus’ call to go and ask yourself whether you might come and support the work.
The call to go is one thing, but if those discussions are not already a part of the DNA of our churches, few people will ever see the need. A stranger calling somebody to go somewhere they’ve never been, thought about or understand is unlikely to convince anyone to listen. But churches who are frequently talking about the need to send people to where there are no churches, and who pointedly talk about the barren areas of our country, are far more likely to encourage their people to go where there is greatest need. Unless there is a genuine missionary mindset in our churches – one that sees hard parts of the UK as vital for gospel work too – we are unlikely to see people going to hard areas. If you want to see all of our nation won for Christ, we are going to have to put the effort in to making these needs known in our churches and actively encouraging our members – good members who we recognise we might lose one day for the sake of the gospel – to seriously consider going.
One way of involving your church in ministry to deprived communities is to partner with churches who are there. Partnership is more than just getting a prayer letter and talking about it at a monthly prayer meeting (though it’s certainly not less than that!) Partnership involves the sharing of resources. It will involve praying, giving, sending, training and doing it mutually with another church.
Perhaps as you pray through the prayer letter of a church in a deprived community you might think about sending one or more of your people to train there for ministry. The receiving church would gain another much needed worker for a short time and would be able to train that person for ministry in another deprived area. Maybe you could ask the partner church to come and deliver some training at your own church so that you could think about reaching deprived areas nearer to you. Perhaps you might send financial gifts to your partner church and they might send some of their people to you for training in a different context. There are lots of ways that partnerships can encourage churches in deprived communities and can be mutually beneficial to churches in better heeled areas too.
So, there are five ways you can get involved with ministry in deprived communities. Some of them are super easy, some of them involve a bit more planning, but all of them would encourage a church in a hard place and would serve the work of reaching our whole nation for Christ. Please ask yourself seriously, which of these might you do?