A Wholistic Approach to Christian Discipleship
We would be foolish to think that the many problems of housing schemes could be solved by any one approach, or if we just managed to solve one particular problem. We see the foolishness of this thinking in Niddrie as we observe the many tens of millions spent on building new homes and schools etc and yet many of the deep, underlying spiritual and physical issues remain. It is naive in the extreme, for example, to think that many of our problems here can be solved through education alone. Can it help? Of course it can. But not as a stand alone solution. It is laughable to suggest that what our schools need a better teachers as if somehow that is the magic wand that will make everything better. It doesn’t matter how good a teacher is if a child will not obey (and many of the teachers here are excellent anyway!). It doesn’t matter how clever they are if the homes many of their students come from are dysfunctional, violent and lack any moral boundaries whatsoever.
At the core, the issue is spiritual(from the Christian worldview at least), but even that on its own is often not enough. “Proclaim the gospel, is the battle cry of many a church, and let the government take care of the rest.” Yet, in Niddrie, when a person makes a profession of faith that doesn’t stop their drug dealer (apart from a lack of income) or their slum landlord from abusing them. They couldn’t care less and will, often very purposely, seek to take advantage of them, Christian or no. Coming to faith doesn’t immediately resolve debt issues, or solve their addictions and/or mental health issues. It doesn’t stop their partner from beating them or sexually abusing them. It doesn’t get their children back from the social services.
Churches need to develop a wholistic and comprehensive approach to discipleship in housing schemes. Yes, our concern is for their spiritual development primarily, but we cannot just leave them in the wind with the other stuff. This is why having and/or planting local community churches is essential to the big picture in housing scheme ministry. People need to get connected to community very quickly so that the workload can be spread and Christian people can use their differing skill sets in order to deal with the whole person. This is a relationship that can be beneficial to both parties. On the one hand, the person being helped can see that we care about them and not just about the committment they have made. On the other, the person who is discipling can be challenged by the freshness of a new believer alongside the complexities of teaching the Bible within such a difficult set of scenarios. Spiritual growth for both parties can be little short of astounding. I have seen huge spiritual transformation in many believer in Niddrie as they have had to interact first hand with many of our new believers.
We must see our churches as networks of skilled people: doctors, social workers, driving instructors, council workers, accountants, and lawyers. Of course, these skilled people are not readily found in scheme communities, they left town long ago. But we can (1) encourage them to return for the gospel’s sake and (2) seek the help of other communities in the city who have this skill set. All of these individuals can be used by the wider church to bring their expertise to bear as we seek to rebuild lives in a gospel centred, wholistic fashion and deal, together, with the multitude of discipleship issues we face on schemes. We shouldn’t feel we have to do it all on our own. In fact, we shouldn’t do it all on our own. We need to be seeking to develop mutually beneficial and strengthening relationships with all those in our care. It can bring great blessing to a community when a church comes together in this way to love one another.