YOUNG Christians in the UK have in recent decades been rediscovering the urban poor. Outreach groups such as Manchester’s Eden and festivals such as Soul Survivor have been highlighting the biblical theme of God’s bias to the dispossessed. One practical outworking of this has been a challenge to young adults to move into shared houses in deprived urban areas.
The vision for these small communities is to be catalysts for mission and neighbourhood transformation. But what does this look like in practice? Do teams of eager young Christians moving to the inner city really make a difference? And what effect does it have on those who have been transplanted?
This book offers a candid account from an insider. Chris Lane writes of his call to mission in the Langworthy area of Salford, just minutes away from the plazas and executive apartments of the BBC’s northern base, MediaCityUK. He recalls the Bible verses, prophetic “words”, and hopes for revival which fired his own sense of calling.
The book interweaves autobiography and theological reflection, with separate chapters on each of the main insights that Lane has gained during his years in Salford. These are that God is already at work in a community and our job is to find out where (the Missio Dei principle); that God meets us in the mess and craziness of life rather than when we try to rise above it all; that food and hospitality are key; and that urban mission is about staying put and building trust over time.
The author is clear-sighted about the risks of exhaustion and burnout, and the likelihood that the longed-for transformation will be slower and smaller than imagined. But he also paints an inspiring picture of the value of relationships, both within the mission team and as part of the wider community. And, most importantly, he introduces us to some of the local people whose lives have been changed, in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
This is ultimately a story of hope, all the better for being told with raw honesty and self-deprecating humour.
The Revd Mike Starkey is a tutor for Church Army and author of the Faith Pictures course.
Ordinary Miracles: Mess, meals and meeting Jesus in unexpected places
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