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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Conferences and the Big Problem of Class

An excellent Conference
I have just spent three days at an excellent evangelical ministers' conference.
Tons of useful things for ministry, but above all I heard the Lord speak to me and my situation directly in a number of ways. Held at the Barbican over three days it continues to be my annual "watering hole".

Far too Middle Class
But the biggest flaw with the conference is its failure to be inclusive. I know that there are considered to be seven classes in the UK (from the 'Elite' down to the 'Precariat' - just Google it), but let's just divide the nation into middle class and working class. Most people in the UK are working class and yet this whole swathe of the population was completely absent from this conference. Absent from the stage and worse absent from almost any of the illustrations, etc.

Speakers spoke as if every church is filled with lawyers or accountants or people who like certain sports. The postman, shop-worker, uneducated street-cleaner - all were invisible.

The Acid Test
A few years ago I took a working class pastor to the conference, and not only did he not understand much of the talks (he is not thick), he found them irrelevant to his situation.

A Deepening Crisis
This year the conference went a further step in the wrong direction by limiting the musical accompaniment to a posh pianist and posh-voice singer, rather than a good old band with today's instruments.

Unless the church can first see this - perhaps we are simply class-blind - we will never begin to change our ways. Perhaps we wonder why working class people aren't found among us. One visit could put them off and send them home with William Booth's words to his wife "there's nothing here for us" on their lips.

It's a Gospel Issue
What we need is a conference which is radically Gospel. Not merely Gospel in word but Gospel in reality, a welcoming place for people from all parts of our society today. A place where there is no preference or prejudice for Jew nor Gentile, working class or middle-class.....

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