I was at New Word Alive last week with a group from church, and had a really great time, learning lots and being challenged to become more Christ like and live for God more. I long to be a doer not just a hearer!
One of the seminar streams that I attended was Tim Chester's track on 'the gospel and the urban poor'. He had lots of incredibly insightful things to share.
One thing that I found very helpful came early in the week. He was talking about the fact that most conservative evangelical* churches are very middle class in culture. one of the various reasons behind this, he suggested, is that as the church is made up of more middle class than working class then in an attempt to be united we take on the dominant culture... we become more middle class.
He also talked of how we often think that to be middle class is more Christian than to be working class. Therefore, when those from a working class background become Christians, they are almost encouraged to adopt a middle class attitude to life and become part of that culture.
It is true that becoming a Christian will lead to changes in the life of someone who is working class that will make them appear more middle class. However, it is also true that a middle class person becoming a Christian should have changes to their life that make them look a bit more working class. This is because there are aspects of both cultures that are more Christian than the other, and the opposite is also true. The issue isn't what class you are, but how Christlike you are.
What we need to avoid is giving the impression that being a Christian makes you look middle class. Being a Christian should make you look like Christ. For example, middle class people are generally far more assets centred than people centred, and the opposite is generally true of working class people. In this regard, middle class people should become more working class. On the other hand, working class people can sometimes have a more anti-authority attitude, as opposed to middle class people who generally encourage submission to authority. So as we submit ourselves to the ultimate authority of God, we will appear more middle class. But the issue really is becoming more Christ-like where that is necessary, and where not, we should be happy to remain distinctive.
And so as churches we should enjoy and even encourage diversity in class. And, Tim Chester suggested, as middle class is the predominant culture in our churches, if anything then those who are middle class in the church should make an extra effort to welcome and be accepting of the different culture of the working classes. Taking on the dominant culture of the middle class can only further isolate those from a working class background, exacerbating the problem.
I don't think I've done what Tim Chester said justice, but it is clearer in my mind than it is in this post, and it is helpful to me!
*I'm not sure if he said conservative evangelical, rather than just evangelical, but as my experience is only within conservative evangelicalism then I'm going to stick with it and not make generalisations of other areas of evangelicalism.