Why We Need To Commit Long Term To Housing Schemes

Why We Need To Commit Long Term To Housing Schemes

By Andy Constable

As I have worked in some of the most deprived areas of our world I have become convinced that for any deep down spiritual change we need to commit to area’s long term. Recently my wife and I have decided to commit to Niddrie for the next 10 years unless God calls us on. This is a big choice because it means we are tied down to this area long term in a tough and grueling ministry but it is also exciting because our vision for the area is to penetrate all areas of Niddrie with the gospel. I knew we had to commit long term to Niddrie but this is still a difficult decision. We come from the generation that wants things to happen quickly but in God’s kingdom often comes slowly. This is endemic of the culture today. Our generation wants things to happen now and for everything to change miraculously at the same time. However, this is not what Jesus taught about the kingdom of God or how God changes people deep down.

Think about your own life and the sin that is so deep within. We are so often blind to it and stubborn to change. But in God’s grace he slowly uses circumstances and his word through the conviction of the Holy Spirit to point out areas of sin and transform us into Christ’s likeness. This takes time and we are very slow to learn. Every area of our heart is tainted with sin because of the fall and so there are lots of things God has to put right in us. Further, the sin of pride holds us back from wanting to change as we hate to be challenged. God is working in us, that’s a 100% fact but it takes perseverance and time. The children of Israel are a point in case. God took them through the desert for 40 years until they were ready to go into the Promised Land. He wanted to root out their pride and self-sufficiency but yet they still went astray once they got there. I know that we are this side of Jesus and that we now have the Spirit working in us but that sin of pride and self-sufficiency is the same thing that we struggle with each and everyday. That’s why Jesus had to come and why we must remind ourselves of him regularly because through his grace he points us away from ourselves and towards him.

If our spiritual sanctification is a journey what makes us think that it’s going to be any different in a scheme? We seem to have this romantic vision that God is miraculously just going to change everything at once. And sometimes he does come and bring multiple conversions. However, the weakness in scheme like areas is that we then just wheel out the converts for testimonies and don’t disciple them. The conversion is the easy decision – walking with Jesus is the hard part. I’ve likened discipling someone to completely rewiring their hard drive. Everything must change. People from schemes often need help from how to run their families to how to look after money. They come from such chaotic lives that making sense of them and reordering them to reflect and honour Jesus is a long term process. They need walking with and teaching. One of the things that we offer in Niddrie is a family home for people to live in who have made a commitment to Christ from difficult backgrounds. This is necessary so they can see Christian life and family modeled. One of our guys lived with a family for 2 years to give him the stability and discipleship he needed to reorder his life. And he is still learning but the growth in him from cocaine dealer to responsible family man is amazing to see. But it takes time. We want disciples of Jesus not simply converts.

Not only do we need to disciple men and women from schemes but we also must look and train up leaders. It’s all well and good a person from a middle class background (like myself) coming and serving in a place like Niddrie but the future of these estates lies in the hands of those who have come from these areas. Culturally they are more savvy and people relate to them quicker. They understand the culture because they are from it. This again takes time and investment. Jesus spent 3 years with 12 disciples and invested in 3 particularly. He was cultivating leaders for when he departed earth. In the same way we need to be training leaders long term for the future of these estates. Too many churches simply attract Christians from other churches because of their music and popular speakers. But not many are reaching out to their communities with the gospel and actually seeing indigenous converts from non-Christian backgrounds. This is because leaders take a short term view and decide that it’s easy to attract then to invest.

There are further complications if you are working in a scheme and you are revitalizing a work. Four years ago Niddrie Community Church had no local converts and most of the congregation drove in from outside the estate. Evangelism was done on an attractional basis and there was little to no interaction with the community. They did not know the culture and they were getting attacked by the community. Their mindset had to be changed and shaped to suit the area they were reaching. New ideas take time to penetrate but four years on and many have moved into the area, the church is no longer being bricked and people are starting to build some relationships with the community. We are by no means perfect but we are on the right track to reaching Niddrie for Christ. This has been four years of hard slog by Mez and others. Learning new ideas, concepts and culture take time to be embedded and taken on board by the Christians in the church.

Work in these areas is exciting and I am expectant of what God is going to do in me and this estate in the next 10 years. The question is: Are you committed? Are you ready to take the gospel to schemes across the UK and world? Will you slog it out and take the narrow road instead of simply attracting Christians from other churches? Will you invest and pour your lives into people like Jesus and Paul and fly in the face of culture and persevere? I pray that we do and that leaders will be raised up in schemes across Scotland and the UK changing the face of our spiritual landscape.