Class, culture and barriers to belonging in the Church
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Paperback / softback
Publisher: SPCK Publishing
Number of Pages: 192
Width: 12.9 cm
Height: 19.8 cm
We’re called to be like Jesus, not like each other – so why are most Western churches predominantly middle class? Could it be that we’re reaching out to people in poverty, but struggling to connect them into church life? Natalie Williams and Paul Brown know all too well that those saved from working-class backgrounds often find themselves discipled effectively – but into middle classism rather than authentic Christianity. Drawing on their own experiences, and mixing theory with practical application, they explore the invisible divides that prevent churches from becoming places of true inclusion and keep poor and working-class people on the edges of faith. Packed full of surprising insights and helpful advice, Invisible Divides will change the way you see church life. Essential reading for anyone concerned with the class divide within the church, it will challenge you to look at the ways in which we inadvertently exclude, alienate and offend people who aren’t like us, and equip you to start working towards making church a more open, inclusive space for everyone. Jesus calls for us all to follow him, no matter our background; together, we can break down the invisible divides between us so that people from all walks of life can come to know Christ and find family in our churches.
I'm a Black woman familiar with navigating difficult conversations about inclusivity, so I wasn't expecting to learn anything new about the great cultural divide in UK churches. But here enters humility as I found myself frantically highlighting pages of this book which digs into deep seated issues with the UK Church. Many church majorities may say "Why should I?" when it comes to broadening our way of doing things but we cannot refuse to change because it doesn't suit us. This book perhaps speaks more to white middle-classes than other middle-class or upper-class ethnic group, simply because there is a prevailing tendency in Britain to generally treat ethnic minority groups as "other", regardless of economic status. But this is a really helpful handbook for every church, and one which will help ensure that I personally am aligning my ministry - whatever that looks like - to that of Christ and no other. -- Tola Doll Fisher * editor at WomanAlive * "Invisible Divides is a much needed read for all of us, whatever our experiences of the class system. In this accessible and engaging book, Natalie Williams and Paul Brown shine a light on the unspoken assumptions that shape so much of the culture of church life in Britain. Their winsome blend of humour, theological reflection, anecdote and practical wisdom make this prophetic book a 'must buy' for anyone who cares about the church and its mission today." -- Dr. Amy Orr-Ewing Author * Speaker, Theologian * This is an urgent, essential read. I found myself by turns exposed and affirmed in its authentic and deeply personal pages. Articulate, practical and inspirational, Natalie and Paul have hit a bulls-eye in bringing these invisible divides into view, but they've also served up a magnificent vision of the dream of God's heart: a kingdom and family on earth unlike any other. -- Akhtar Shah * Director of The Foundry & Dreams Lab * Invisible Divides is a book for this time. I found myself nodding in agreement at so many points, shocked at some observations and recognising echoes of how the church can 'other' working class people, often unwittingly. Natalie and Paul speak powerfully and honestly about the challenges in the church, and what we can do to correct some of our mistakes. -- Rosie Hopley * Founder and former CEO of Beloved * In Invisible Divides, Natalie Williams & Paul Brown have written a powerful book that can transform church life across the UK and beyond. Their writing comes from a place of deep conviction & personal experience and sheds much light on a crucial area of weakness...our inability to reach & serve many neglected communities across the UK. But this book isn't just a practical manual of "do's and don'ts"...rather it's a prophetic cry from the heart of the Father that as the church, we'd be a place of welcome, a place of meeting, a place of community, a place of hope FOR EVERYONE. Perhaps only then, will we have the courage to call on the Lord with ONE HEART, and ONE VOICE: "Come, Lord Jesus!" Please take the time to let the Lord minister to you through this book. -- Fergus Scarfe * UK Regional Director, GOD TV * "I have worked with Natalie and Paul for twenty years, witnessing first-hand all the ways in which they have learned to cross divides that other people don't even see. I encourage you to read this book and to learn from their enormous store of wisdom. You will be inspired by their infectious passion and equipped by their practical know-how to cross those invisible divides too." -- Phil Moore * author of the Straight to the Heart series of Bible commentaries * "I'm honoured to call Natalie and Paul good friends of mine and therefore know they live and experience everything they've written in this book. I found reading it very helpful as I'm from another nation and find the whole class system way of life quite a challenge at times. I don't always know what to do or what's expected of me. Reading this has given me a number of 'aha' moments which will help me as I work among different cultures in this nation. I highly recommend it to you." -- Angela Kemm * Senior Leader, City Church Cambridge & Relational Mission * Here we have two courageous and compelling authors, Natalie and Paul, who have started a really important conversation about a notable divide we find in the UK church. The class divide. I believe this is prophetically timely as so many strata's of engrained injustice are rightly being societally challenged at present, something Jesus the radical revolutionary epitomised. This excellent book allows us to enter into this acknowledgment. This is a gift to the church at large. -- Tarn Bright * CEO HomeforGood, Author, Speaker, Advocate * If I were to cut myself in half, like a stick of rock, to reveal my greatest passions, you'd see the words; discipleship and prayer. Having read Invisible Divides, I was reminded again of the prophetic challenge of the church to recognise the many ways we need to develop community. As we emerge from our current challenges, there is a need for the church to have a honest conversation in these areas. This book is a must read especially for leaders looking to be stirred to the many challenges of how we serve, prophetically in community. New ways need to be found. The words contained in this book prompted me to pray and ask questions for my own area of ministry and I would invite readers to do the same. This book spoke powerful and simply to many areas and I'll be coming back to this text again and again. This is needed for such a time as this. -- Adam May * UK Director, Neighbourhood Prayer Network * This book is a wonderful gift to the UK church. Invisible Divides helpfully articulates the experiences of the working class whilst humbly challenging the prevailing middle class culture to which the church default. Natalie and Paul are a megaphone to the voices of those often overlooked and misunderstood. I truly believe that if we listen and apply what is written here our churches will more beautifully reflect the church Jesus longs to return for. This book is Proverbs 31:8 in action! -- Sam Ward * Director of Ministry, The Message Trust * The gap between the rich and the poor and the middle and working classes has been growing for years and, make no mistake, Covid has only served to speed this up. This book is perfectly timed to speak into the very real issues the church faces today in serving, supporting and attracting people across all walks of life and empowering them to live out their faith in the setting they are placed. Not only are the real life stories extremely relatable, they also paint the picture of what life and church feels like to so many people in the UK who don't fit in with our more middle class representation of church and it offers extremely thoughtful and insightful commentary and advice on what we can do about it. This book provokes thought and action and needs to be read at every church wanting to transform communities and the lives of people around them. -- Paula Stringer * UK CEO, Christians Against Poverty * The marginalising and 'othering' of people who are different is now often seen in relation to issues of race, gender and sexuality. The intense focus on these issues has obscured the issue of how class continues to separate and alienate people from each other. Invisible Divides shines a light into the culture gap that alienates many working class people from their local church. Using personal experiences, Paul Brown and Natalie Williams show how they negotiated these issues in their journeys to Christian leadership. They remind us that the radical gospel of Jesus is not some spiritualised version of middle-class values. They challenge Christians to be more self-aware of their assumptions, deepen their understanding and create a church which authentically reaches and inspires people from working class backgrounds." -- Jon Kuhrt * gracetruth.blog, Government Rough Sleeping Advisor * Inspiringly honest, challengingly thought provoking and at times painfully relatable. Invisible Divides is a refreshing reminder for all who read it that equality is a conscious decision we must choose to make on a daily basis if we hope to eradicate the social divides of classicism. -- Claud Jackson * author and trainee-vicar *