by Mike Stark
OK, so this isn’t exactly new news, but it is very funny none the less and well worth a read – click on the photo to see an enlarged copy.
This is from Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper on 3rd September 2007, describing a memorable incident that happened shortly after Mez took up his new post as pastor of Niddrie Community Church.
He was pulled over by the police because he looked a bit dodgy (still does by the way)! Things didn’t get any better for Mez when the police national computer search revealed the rightful owner of the car to be the Reverend Mez McConnell. It took Mez 10 minutes to prove his identity and convince the police that he was the Rev. Mez McConnel!
In a culture where people are suspicious and disrespectful in general when it comes to any authority figure, especially the police, they certainly did Mez a bit of a favour here. They inadvertantly:
- Gave him and the church a bit of free publicity
- Bolstered his ‘street cred’ in the community
- Gave him a platform to share a little about his background, and his heart for the community of Niddrie.
Unfortunately much of the ‘gospel content’ of Mez’s interview didn’t make the editorial cut of this national newspaper, but it still served a meaningful purpose.
People relate to Mez in the community: he breaks the stereotype of the typical church minister; he understands their mind-set; and in a culture that likes to hear peoples’ stories, Mez is first-hand evidence of the power of Gospel, through faith in Jesus Christ, to bring salvation and transformation to even the toughest of nuts.
What about those of us who don’t have Mez’s testimony; those who, like me, have had a fairly normal, even sheltered upbringing: can and should we be concerned with building our own ‘street cred‘ in a community like Niddrie?
“Street Cred: Commanding a level of respect in an urban environment due to experience in or knowledge of issues affecting those environments.” (www.UrbanDictionary.com)
Well, for what it’s worth, I think we can, and should, so long as we’re not bringing the gospel into disrepute, or allowing popularity to be an idol in our hearts.
The Apostle Paul used whatever he could to his advantage to win the lost. He used his Jewish credentials (‘cred’) among the Jews to win the Jews; among the non-Jews, he became like a Gentile to win the Gentiles; he says: “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews… I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). How does a Jew (Paul) “become a Jew” when he already is a Jew? Well, Paul’s identity in Christ supersedes his old culture; the Gospel disengages him from his own culture and frees him up to engage in other cultures.
To the Niddrons, I become like a Niddron, to win the Niddrons. We can begin to build credibility in the community firstly and fundamentally by moving into the community. By moving into the community, you’re identifying with it – you’re no longer an interfering outsider, you are part of it. After moving in, the next step is to engage people in meaningful ways. You can live in Niddrie and still have no credibility in the eyes of the people. Credibility comes as you begin building relationships.
Generally, people will give you the time of day if you’re open, authentic and have a genuine concern for them. A number of school staff members have commented on the church’s youth work and involvement in the community and have been impressed at the way we try to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Living out your faith in community is a very powerful witness.
However, we need to be careful that credibility or popularity doesn’t become an idol, and something that you hunger for, over and above your relationship with Christ. Paul’s ultimate goal was not to achieve credibility or respect in the eyes of man, but to win these men by the Gospel for the glory of God!
By the way… if you want to know how you’re faring on the ‘street cred’ front, you can score yourself using this guide from Urban Dictionary. This is obviously an American scoring system. On a Scottish housing scheme it would be as follows:
5 points – Born in a single parent home
10 points – Born poor
50 points – Sold ‘Hard’ drugs (crack, cocaine, Heroin)
100 points – Been shot and survived
500 points – Been shot multiple times and survived
100 points – been stabbed and survived
250 points – been stabbed multiple times and survived
50 points – hang out with your mates on street corners or outside local shops
65 points – Been to a YOI
70 points – been to a HMP
30 points – understanding each of the above acronyms (lose the points for understanding the word ‘acronym’)
20 points- Have at least 10 tattoos
20 points – In an approved school
20 points – been expelled from at least one school (10 extra points for each one thereafter)
20 points – got a girl pregnant before your 16th birthday
30 points – been in a fight ‘down the town’ with some students
50 Points – swear every other word
75 Points – a nice meal out is a visit to the chippy on a Friday or, if its a really, really special occasion, a takeout.
50 Points – own at least two pairs of tracksuits
-75 Points – Born in a nice area
-50 Points – Speak proper English
-60 Points – Have friends around for tea
-100 Points – go to a church for something other than a wedding/baptism/christening/funeral
-100 Points – No criminal record
-50 Points – Live with both parents
-35 Points – Smile when someone takes your photo
-60 Points – Straight A student
-50 Points – never been stopped by the police for anything ever (asking for the time or directions doesn’t count!)
-50 Points – never swear
-100 Points – eat out in a restaurant
-500 Points – think trackie bottoms are ‘chavvy’
My score was about minus 500!