Let’s start with our cover feature, Chav Christianity. A largely middle-class UK church might have all sorts of perceptions about working class people.
Lots of them inaccurate, offensive and certainly unhelpful to mission. Similarly, many working-class people have the perception that the Church is not for them. So how do we address this? A new book by Darren Edwards, the controversially titled Chav Christianity, suggests it is about enabling working-class people to build churches which reflect their culture, just as the middle class has done so successfully.
The middle class shouldn’t have the monopoly on church life. And it’s completely wrong if we (and yes, it is we, since most UK churchgoers are middle class) alienate others through our culture and practice. Whether or not you agree with Edwards’ approach and terminology, let’s consider his challenge a serious one, and use it as an opportunity to evaluate how inclusive and welcoming we are being.
Perception number two? All married people are happy, all the time (Happily Ever After?). Yes, we know when we think about it that not everyone’s marriage is a happy one. So why do we persist with the idea that they are? Perhaps it’s because we could do a better job of letting people know when things aren’t so great, as well as a better job of looking out for each other.
Rob Parsons covers similar ground. Being honest about our difficulties and being willing to be vulnerable with each other, are not just nice-to-haves, but essential in building healthy relationships which are grounded in reality, not perception.
Perception number three? All you need to do to become a church leader is to go to Bible college (Can faith survive Bible college?). Why is it that we think college will teach people all they need to know about leading a church, and people will leave as fully formed, dynamic leaders, complete with special skills in managing a crumbling building and chairing a wayward meeting?
As a personal challenge, I would encourage you to see your church leaders, and those in training, as the flawed, vulnerable, broken human beings that they are, not superhumans with special status. Is there anything you could offer to support them? If you have more experience in fixing leaks or managing accounts, could you lend your skills?
Our perception is often that our contribution isn’t needed. The reality is very different.