The church, the gospel, humility and class

Think about the leaders of your church, or of the churches that you have attended.  Think of the pastors and assistant pastors you have been taught by? How many have been professionals?  How many have been middle class?  How many have been working class? And why do you think that is?

We are so blind to our assumptions and biases about class in the church in the UK that we don’t even see the problem.  The church in the UK is predominantly (overwhelmingly?) middle class.  And that is even more the case when you look at a churches leadership be it deacons, elders, pastors.  That is partly the legacy of the middle class nature of the church, and partly due to our class prejudices and partly due to the way we train, and the cost to train, people for ministry.

We need to recognise the problem.  I need to recognise the problem.  I wear class blinkers.  We all do.  We tend to think that leadership looks like the leadership we have experienced both in the church and in the world.  And that experience is not class neutral, it comes with a bucket load of bias.

How do we overcome that?  Partly we need to honestly look at the problem.  To take some time to evaluate and recognise the problem.  We also need to work to be humble about class.  To recognise that leadership is not based on class, being born into a class does not make us more fit for leadership.  Whilst it confers benefits it also comes with a whole load of unhealthy baggage that makes us prone to class specific sin.  The danger is in confusing gospel culture and class culture.  Too often we can assume that our class outlook is the biblical outlook when it is far from it.  Every class has facets of gospel culture because of God’s common grace.  And every class has been warped by sin in it’s thinking, values and assumptions.

In light of that we need to be humble about class.  Humble enough to recognise it’s influence on us.  Humble enough to honestly look at the values we assume and how gospel shaped they really are.  Humble enough to repent of where we have simply laid a think layer of gospel veneer over class values rather than deeply think through what the Bible is calling us to.

How do we approach the issue of church leadership with humility about class?  We need to read the instructions given on the character and gifting of deacons and elders and work hard to expose and root out class bias in how we read and apply it.  None of those characteristics require a university education or to be a professional.  Godliness is not the preserve of a certain segment of society or class, and so church leadership mustn’t be.

Secondly we need to remove the barriers to church leadership in terms of training, working and structures.  Too many of our training opportunities are inaccessible to those from working class backgrounds; be it bible college or ministry trainee opportunities.  We need to think of more practical apprenticeship with greater flexibility and greater funding.  How about how we work as a leadership, the times we hold meetings, the way those meetings are run, and accessibility to those things.

If as churches we want to reach everyone with the gospel.  If we want churches that are diverse in terms of class we need leaders from every class and background not as a token or a quota but because that is the nature of leadership in the church.  As churches we mustn’t be class blind because that will only lead to resentment, hurt and ultimately division.  Rather we must be humble enough to recognise our bias, our experience and the way it shapes us.  We must be humble enough to see the current blockages in our church and the wider church and humble enough to recognise the need to change.

One thought on “The church, the gospel, humility and class

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s