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26 June 2015

The Church, outreach, wealth and class

The Church, outreach, wealth and class

Dai Hankey is a church-planting pastor in the Welsh Valleys, where he leads City Hill Church and lives with his wife Michelle and four young children. Dai, a former skate-boarder, loves to DJ and has had a desire to preach the gospel where Christ isn't known since he became a Christian at 15 years old in Pontypool. He calls it his missional mandate to live and create community on a council estate.

We caught up with Dai and asked him to share a bit about what he is learning on his journey, talking about church, evangelism and outreach, wealth and class.

"When looking at church strategy, it's dangerous to categorise who to reach out to in terms of rich and poor, wealthy and impoverished, middle class or working class. It is important that the only categories we focus on is lost and found, or saved and unsaved," began Dai.

"If we are serious about reaching the lost wherever they are, then we should be asking questions about our expressions of worship and where we are based in those communities. If a church has its centre out of a wealthy middle class plush suburb, it might suggest that it's perhaps those kind of people they have the greater hearts for.

"Less affluent people don't want to feel like a project for middle class people with a guilt trip. The attitude should not just be 'what can we do for the poor, but also 'what the poor can do for us.'

"Rather than hit and run evangelism, or going in with a token gesture ministry and then disappearing, we must ask how we can fully engage in incarnational, long-term holistic mission. We need to be missionally appropriate and ensure against a 'them' and 'us' mentality."

Yet at the same time Dai maintains that we have to beware of a prideful pendulum and careful not to write off the middle class or the wealthy either.

"I am not aiming to point the finger at the Church. In many ways God has been humbling me.

"I've been in danger at times of believing the lie that because I'm roughing it on an estate I'm a more noble Christian. Spiritual needs matter as much, regardless of location or affluence. We need to ensure that we don't cast distain on churches not reaching out to poor areas. I couldn't do what I do if it wasn't for generous Christians who support us.

"Everyone has their part to play. Not everyone is called to or could do a move to a council estate. In the same way I am not called to lead Holy Trinity Brompton."

Dai believes that generally speaking most of the places that are deprived of really good gospel preaching or Bible-believing churches are council estates. Quoting an old Matt Redman song: 'As we follow your heart, we are led to the lost', he maintains that if we are walking with Jesus we will naturally encounter the lost.

"Sometimes that is the poor and sometimes that is not going to be the poor," added Dai. "If there is a wealthy church with a needy estate nearby, but there is already a church working there, that is fine. However, if there is an estate with no gospel presence on it then the church needs to respond. Let's walk the streets with our eyes open."

Dai speaks about a change in his heart and attitude that has led him to believe that Church is best when it is a mix of people from all backgrounds, classes and incomes. "I used to think that we needed different expressions of Church because wealthy academic churches can't attract families from the estate for example. But then I looked at scripture and the make-up of Jesus' disciples and the church in Phillippi.

"What brings the most glory to God is when you have men, women, young, old, every ethnicity you can imagine and every social background you can imagine. It's far more glorious to have Lydia dressed in purple sat next to the demon possessed lady and the Phillippian jailor and his family. That is what Church should look like."

Finally Dai urged leaders to model reaching out to the poor and marginalised, not just demand it. "It should be the church leaders who are setting an example, maybe by buying a house of less worth for the sake of the gospel. It is inspiring when leaders step out of the boat and really lead."

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