I’ve been reminded again of the desperate need in this area. Too many churches have closed. Too many churches are small and struggling. Too many have become muddled about the truth of the gospel. Too many others are so beleaguered that they have had their vision dulled and are now intent on just keeping the church open rather than on reaching the lost. Prepared to diminish over time as God calls them home whilst ignoring the plight of the thousands around them facing a lost eternity. But are the rest of us watching on any less culpable?
Yorkshire is a County in desperate need. I’ve been reminded of this again and again recently. A place populated with ordinary people in ordinary towns but in desperate need of the spectacular gospel. But increasingly these ordinary towns are seeing gospel witnesses close. Increasingly no-one is prepared to go and do long term ordinary gospel labour in ordinary places with ordinary results. When that is the case there is something wrong with the shape of our gospel.
I am so aware of so many places in desperate gospel need. Goole, Selby, Woodlands, Skellow, Thorne, Harworth, I could go on and on and on. All places within 30 minutes of us but all distinct communities in need of the gospel. But who will go? And who will train them to go? And who will provide a network to support those who go and who will have to labour long and hard in ordinary places with an extraordinary gospel to see fruit that will be hard won?
These aren’t the sort of places you get invited to speak at church planting conferences off the back of planting in. Or get asked to write church planting how to books as a result of planting there. Because these are places where the gospel will be slow to take root because their are so many barriers to overcome. Opposition that will only be won over as we consistently in the face of rejection and opposition do good again and again and again. Live consistent lives fighting sin, doing good, calling them to know God again and again and again. And show grace when maligned again and again and again. Showing people that we love them and love the gospel so much we will endure anything to bring the two together. These are places where plants may start and fail, start and fail, start and fail before taking root.
I’ve found myself imagining yesterday and today what it would be like to plant into those areas. What do we need to do now to enable us to train up pastors to plant, God willing, in years to come? To inculcate in people gospel DNA that risks, and even fails, and counts it all joy for the sake of Christ?