Recently, I moved to Blackpool with a view to get involved with a church plant in its early stages. The responses I’ve had, from those that I’ve had the privilege to live amongst in Lancaster, have been great sources of encouragement. I’ve loved living in Lancaster, it’s such a beautiful city and the coffee is amazing!
I’ve been reflecting on some of the comments I’ve received and that has led me to write this. I don’t have a platform, nor do I have any real authority. However, I do have a heart for people and a passion to see church be all it can be.
When I explain that I’m part of a church plant in Blackpool there are some similar responses that go along the lines of “Great! Blackpool clearly needs a church!” or “Good luck! You’ve got your work cut out there!”. I’ve also heard people suggest that Lancaster is much more desirable as a place to live as there are less social issues.
For me, these comments are double edged swords. Whilst I smile with anticipation of what’s ahead in Blackpool, I also lament for the potential damage that attitude has for Lancaster.
Walking through Blackpool town centre for longer than five minutes and it is clear, like any town, there are some social issues that require urgent attention: Alcoholism; homelessness; poverty and racism – to name a few. I love the honesty of Blackpool, these issues slap you in the face quickly; it’s a town that doesn’t dress itself up as something it’s not.
Unfortunately, Lancaster is a city that does well at hiding its issues: poverty; drug abuse; childhood deprivation; and homelessness being most prevalent. There will be others that you have identified. Tourists will rarely see these issues, or at least not as much, at the same time as the city centre remaining fresh thanks to the volume of students that bring extra revenue to the place.
My fear, and the reason for pre-emptively writing this, is that churches are at risk of being sucked into the same mentality as the rest of Lancaster. A sense of complacency that seeks to avoid the issues rather than challenge them head on. I urge you to fight against that attitude daily, it’s of the enemy.
I come from a town much like Lancaster, I’m blessed to also come from a town that has a church which is not alien to the not so apparent issues. I was found and brought into that community, it is where I first met God.
I beg you to continue the good work that you are doing but I pray that they are mere foundations for the work that is to come. Please fight hard against complacency and continue to review, reflect, and push yourselves further; all things are possible with God.
Seek out the down trodden, poor of spirit, the lost and lonely people more vehemently than you have done before. Where Lancaster has buried these issues, dig deeper to reveal them and, with God, provide the solution. Authentic community with Christ at its centre will never fail to breathe life and hope into those that have none. You already have the victory, through Christ and I implore you to live like you believe that; more so than I have already witnessed you doing.
Train your people up in evangelism; encourage them to get professional training in counselling, youth work and community leadership; challenge people to move into the most notorious estates and constantly demonstrate biblical hospitality throughout the week.
I believe that revival is coming, I have faith that God will show up where church communities invite Him to do something with the right heart.
Enjoy the fight, maintain hope and God bless.