I've been in the north of England for nearly five years now. It certainly wasn't my plan to move this way, nor did I envisage my move northwards being any more than a brief foray. But the Lord has other plans, and now it seems that we're set to be in the north of England for the forseeable future.
One of the things that has struck me in the north of England is the comparitive need of the Church here compared to the south of England. I guess I'd always assumed that the needs of the gospel were fairly similar across the UK. But this isn't the case.
Most recently, I came across this article from Tearfund. The statistics aren't full and there's a lot more going on, but I was impacted by the paragraph showing the groups of people that are consistently under represented in UK church attendance (the figures are the percentage of people that attend church at least once a year - the UK figure for adults was 26%):
- Men (21%)
- 16-24s (16%)
- 25-34s (22%)
- C2 social class i.e. skilled manual (21%)
- DE social class i.e. unskilled labour and unemployed (22%)
- single people (19%)
- council tenants (19%)
- NE region (18%)
- Yorkshire & Humberside (17%)
- Wales (24%).
I think this fact has been brought home to me personally over recent years. In my region of the north west, the churches are generally reaching middle class people (certainly evangelicals seem to be making barely any impression on the working classes). There have been a number of occasions when northern students have become Christians through CUs and we've wanted to recommend an evangelical church in their home town, only to realise their isn't one.
What is to be done? I'm pleased to see that Tim Chester and co. and others are seeking to buck the trend. I'm seeking to do my bit too (and getting a reputation for it!) - through encouraging fairly footloose Christian graduates to stay in the north (whether in full time paid Christian ministry or not). Often more attractive jobs are in the south of England (both in secular work and Christian ministry). But we need to ask - if we are not to reach the poorer northern towns with the gospel, who will?