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For the last year or so I have been the oldest member of a group in Plymouth that works across churches to inspire people to get involved in Social Justice. Most of the group are millennials who are passionate about God and Social Justice – but that does not surprise me (https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/459983/Barbie_and_reaching.aspx). We are committed to three things to communicate, connect and commit (you can find our more on our Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/ACTSplymouth/).

This weekend we held a walk through the Margins event, the idea was that we would walk through Plymouth engaging with different aspects of poverty and homelessness. We started at a Salvation Army Homeless Hostel, walked to the Food Bank, via a Soup Run spot, then finally finished at a community house working with recovery addicts. Each location we had someone give us a tour and a an opportunity to ask questions. It was widely shared on social media, was publicised heavily in churches and via the churches together network. All those that came along were inspired by it (they told me).

But, and you knew it was coming, over the course of the walk we had 15 people, from 4 churches including 3 non-Christians, which was great. But it left me wondering, in a city of over 100+ churches with possibly more than a thousand Christians, how come only 12 turned up, and most of them were from our core team?

When Jesus came, he could not be found among the rich and powerful in Jerusalem but in a back water stable in Bethlehem, born not to a Princess but a pauper. He grew up in Galilee where nothing good came from. His disciples were mostly poor uneducated fishermen, his ministry was paid for by women. He healed the least and the ignored and dies the death of a thief is buried in a borrowed tomb!

In his teaching he said blessed are the poor, he told his disciples to be among the poor and said we would be judged by how we treated the least of these. He told parables that when the offer of a party was rejected by the well-to-do then we should go out into the highways and the byways and invite everyone else in, or a beggar that ends up with God, while a rich man ends up in “Hades”.

Why is the church dying in areas of deprivation? Yes, there are some great parachurch activities like CAP and Foodbanks (but even these are done to people rather than with people), but the reality is we have forgotten the poor.

The city churches are currently planning a massive worship and teaching event next year. No doubt it will be full to the rafters, but we only have to read the Old Testament prophets to realise that if we remove the need for justice from worship, then we have missed the heart of worship.

I do believe that this nation needs a fresh move of the Spirit, but I think that when the Spirit does move it will not come from the places we expect, but from the margins, where nothing good come from. The sad fact is that the Spirt will go to the places that most Christians are too fearful of going themselves.

Michael Shaw

Michael Shaw is the pastor of Devonport Community Baptist Church in Plymouth.