Think of the thriving evangelical churches in your area, and the chances are they will be in the "nice" areas of town and their leaders will be middle class. I once attended a lecture at which the speaker showed a map of my city, Sheffield. The council wards were colored different shades, according to a series of social indicators: educational achievement, household income, benefit recipients, social housing, criminal activity, and so on. Slide after slide showed that the east side of the city was the needy, socially deprived half, compared to the more prosperous west. Where are the churches? Counting all the various tribes of evangelicalism, the large churches are on the west side. The working-class and deprived areas of our cities are not being reached with the gospel. There are many exciting exceptions, but the pattern is clear. According to Mez McConnell from Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, of the fifty worst housing schemes in Scotland, half have no church, and most of the others only have a dying church. Very few have an evangelical witness. This book is about reaching those unreached areas.
The Industrial Revolution saw increased social stratification. It was during this time that middle-class and working-class identities began to emerge. And in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, evangelicalism appealed disproportionately to skilled artisans, according to historian David Bebbington. So why have we evangelicals been so ineffectual at reaching the urban poor, despite our origins?