Yesterday I asked whether church planting in the middle of cities made any sense. Today I want to reflect on where in the UK should you plant a church if you want to influence the cultural, intellectual, political life of the nation.
Now I’m not entirely sure that the project of the church should be seek out to influence these areas, I think it is a by-product of well discipled disciples but that’s another post. So let’s assume that you did want to influence in all the above areas, where should you plant a church?
On my list, London comes third and a distant third at that. If you want to shape the influencers then really you need to be in Oxford and Cambridge and heavily investing in student ministry. For the record I didn’t get anywhere close to being able to go to Oxbridge, I mostly blame this on not being clever.
The facts seem to be inescapable, despite only having 1.5% of the British student population this 1.5% has a disproportionate effect on British national life.
Since 1945 86% of British Prime Ministers were educated at Oxbridge. In 2012 65% of the Cabinet were educated at Oxbridge. In 2004 81% of High Court Judges and Law Lords were educated at Oxbridge (plus 80% of leading barristers and 50% of solicitors at our biggest law firms).
What about the media and business? 56% of journalists went to Oxbridge and even in business 39% of FTSE 100 CEOs went to Oxbridge.
We might want to change that, but this is the current reality. So just being in Oxford or Cambridge isn’t enough but instead strategically investing in reaching students.
Of course you could go further back and see where the majority of Oxbridge students come from and focus on Eton or Harrow or some other fee paying public school, only to discover as a result that we’re not exactly going into the highways and byways. So Oxbridge looks to be a safe bet for some time to come and of course there are lots of excellent churches in both those cities.
It’s here, though, at the formation of strategy that the goal of cultural influence looks slightly suspect. Even if Paul did target cities and even if some early converts came from the elite the church was much more diverse than that. Paul put as much effort into converting slaves as slave owners, servants as much as masters. Seeking top down influence has never been the best of strategies historically for Christianity. Ground up on the other hand, well that’s a different story.