As a P.S. to the last blog, the above is the title of an article in the EA’s Idea magazine about their survey on poverty (more here). Interesting stuff and stats with encouraging percentages of evangelicals and their churches active with poverty-related projects. However, near the end is this telling quote from one of the survey’s respondents: “Most Christians seem to move into the nicest area they can afford to get away from anti-social behaviour and working class people. Then they come to church and talk about wanting to reach everyone.” What about our urban presence? How much of our ministry is “doing for” (episodic, from a distance, reaching down), and how much is “being with” (incarnational, from beside, reaching across)?
A recent survey by Greg Smith (an old friend of Urban Presence) for the Evangelical Alliance on evangelical views on poverty makes interesting reading. In this blog Greg reflects on the findings. There is much to be encouraged about in terms of how much more holistic most evangelicals now are in how they see the Mission of God and the numbers involved in practical ways in social action. Stats include 87% believing God is on the side of the poor and only 11% believing faith in God = financial prosperity. However, the vast majority (and I include myself) are not poor themselves and only one in ten are “intentionally living in a poorer area in response to God’s call”. Not a lot of urban presence then, though 10% isn’t actually that bad a number. I would be interested in a breakdown of how many years, as I think a long-term commitment can be important (but then I would think that!)
Perhaps something to work on is shown by evidence that evangelicals have bought into media narratives on domestic poverty which tend to soft-pedal structural and societal causes and focus on individual failure. Hence there is a lot of Good Samaritan tending for the casualties, but a need for more action on fixing the lighting on the Jericho Road. Nothing wrong with the former of course but as Jim Wallis said: “You can’t keep pulling bodies out of the river and not send somebody upstream to see what or who is throwing them in.”