In 1904, a Methodist minister from Wales called Seth Joshua made a bold statement. He claimed that the Church was too middle-class, and then he proceeded to find a working-class preacher who could reach out to his own.
Seth Joshua entered the mines of Wales to look for this young man and found Evan Roberts. Soon, pubs would be emptied and the great Welsh Revival of 1904 would make way for other great evangelistic movements across the globe.
Out of the Welsh Revival, the Jeffreys brothers would find a sense of purpose and passion to see revival across the UK, born out of a mission to the working-class in Britain.
All of this came to mind when one day, reading a book called Sects and Society, I came across a startling paragraph outlining the notion that, at this time in history, a middle-class person: “Would not be seen dead in an Elim Church.”
The class war has been around for centuries, and while studying for my degree in theology, I realised that the majority of revivals, or reformations as they’re also known, are focused on taking the good news to the common people.
Take for example Josiah in the Old Testament who brought the law back to Israel so that it could be read to the common people (2 Kings 22). Through this movement, all of Israel came back to the Lord.
Then we look to Martin Luther who wanted every farmhand to be able to read scripture for themselves. The result was the reformation that split the Catholic Church from the Reformed Church, which has affected us all.
Wesley preached to the commoners. So did Evan Roberts, then George Jeffreys, and Smith Wigglesworth – a plumber from Yorkshire. It was reading about these men that helped me come to the conclusion, in 2010, that the key to a revival of faith in our nation was to reach out to the working-class.
Many people told me that churches were already doing so, but as a working-class lad myself, I kept thinking about the class war; at the time there were massive riots going on in the UK, which to me looked like a spilling over of the class war into the limelight.
It was decided. I would start a working-class church. When I voiced this, however, I found that middle-class Christians would tell me they were working-class, so to make a real distinction, I nicknamed it ‘chav church’.
To this day I have had hundreds of well-meaning middle-class Christians criticize chav church because they see the term as derogatory, not realising that it’s derogatory because they make it derogatory. Us chavvy types love it!
Over the past three years, chav church has seen hundreds of people come to faith and loads baptised. We’ve changed the culture and the atmosphere on our local estate, and we want to do it on every other estate in the nation, too.
People with addictions have been set free, and those on the edge of Church looking in have found a place to belong and an opportunity to minister on behalf of God.
So maybe all of this has piqued your curiosity. Maybe you too are interested in seeing a revival in our land, and intrigued by this movement of the people. So what does chav church look like?
One of the things that I read about Wigglesworth was that he used to play “jaunty tunes”, by which the writer meant that he and others such as William Booth would use the popular music of the time to aid in the spread of the gospel.
So we sing Emeli Sande and Ellie Goulding. Secular songs in church help the unchurched to feel comfortable.
I use colloquial language, instead of using florid Christianese. Basically, I speak the same English you’d hear on the street, but in church.
Also, storytelling is a huge part of our culture. Contrary to popular opinion perhaps, we in the working-class don’t usually watch the evening news or read the Daily Mail. Instead, we tell stories about what’s happening in our local world.
With this in mind, I tell stories from the pulpit. I don’t use abstract stories that I’ve found in books or on the internet, instead I use my own personal testimonies. After all, it’d be wrong of me to try to teach something that I haven’t lived already.
The truth is that God wants to see our nation of individuals reached more than we do. What’s more, He’s even more radical than us. Chav church is merely a bunch of people – the ordinary folk, the common people – trying to follow Jesus the best they can in their context.
This is an extract from Darren’s book, Chav Church. If you’d like read more, you can get your own copy here.