This is the last in a series on strategy for Wales. See the others from 17th January onwards starting with this.
A strategic approach to the re-evangelisation of Wales must be an exercise in ministry triage: just as paramedics arriving on the scene of a critical incident need to quickly assess their priorities, who it is that needs immediate treatment, so we need to think critically about our programmes and approaches. I think two groups, in particular, could do with more focus:
It seems to me that the evangelical church has for too long spent too much energy prioritising the wrong people. It has often been observed that an approach that focusses on children and women often ends there too. If men are led to Christ, however, women and children often follow. We need to be looking to reach whole families. And in order to do that we may need to cast a critical eye over our programmes with a view to asking how men are going to be reached. Furthermore, when, in God’s mercy, he draws women and children to himself what plan do we have in place to bridge over to the family leaders? If this is not happening, perhaps we need to scrap some activities and replace them with others that are more focussed on the men.
b) Ethnic minorities
A rather different matter is that of how we approach the evangelization of ethnic minority groups, whether they be Iranians in Swansea, Somalis in Cardiff, or Nepalis in Cwmbran. It is true that the great emphasis of the New Testament is that, in Christ, previously antagonistic groups have become one (John 17:20-23; Eph 2:11-22). And the church must work hard to reflect that reality. But the Lord Jesus also made it clear that the church must make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19). We do not have to define that in any kind of anachronistic overly sociological manner for that to lose its significance. The fact is, we have not been very good at reaching out to minority communities in the UK. This is especially so, I believe, for those groups that are traditionally Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist.
I suggest that for some communities a focussed outreach is the only way we can overcome the social and cultural stigma that is attached to the prospect of becoming a follower of Christ. That is not to say that a church plant among, say, South Asian British Muslims needs to remain isolated from other churches. But it is an acknowledgement that we do not expect that such people are required to become like us when they turn to Christ. There is more than one way to express unity in the body of Christ.