A very strong value among working-class men is self-sufficiency, the ability to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make something of your life against odds, says Steve Dunn.
We love a self-made man story. Especially among working class men, there’s a glorification of self- sufficiency and success through hard work and effort, summed up in the phrase ‘The boy done good’.
That can be a problem if you've not done well in life, says missionary Steve Dunn, who works from St Paul’s Harold Hill reaching out to white working class men.
At the weekly coffee mornings there’s one man has suffered anxiety all his adult life. He had a junior job in Fleet Street working on photography and he got overwhelmed. The pressure of the deadlines got to him at age 18 in a way that he's never been able to work since.
Steve gave him a Bible and he really appreciated the Daily Bread Bible study notes.
For quite a while this man had bronchial problems which meant that he was not able to come in the mornings, so Steve visited him in his home. He was really eager to get his own Bible, to open it and to read it together.
Together they looked at Genesis 6, the story of God’s rescue of Noah. It covers quite a few foundational issues – a first salvation story and how those who believe in the power of God are saved, and the means of salvation in the Ark. He absorbs all the references and was sure to look into them later.
Because of his anxiety, there’s a big pull for him to put pressure on himself and focus on what he “should” do, says Steve. So feeling compelled to come to church, for example brings out negative reactions.
‘My task is to bring him to a point where he understands the grace of the gospel. My message to him is: “you are anxious, Come to the God of peace and freedom. Experience the care of fatherhood.”
It’s emphasising not his lack, but instead God’s sufficiency.’
‘I don’t have a secret formula. The work is hard and slow and we don’t see many quick results.
‘I want to go wherever I am received. I am really looking for those serious seekers, while being loving towards all the people I encounter.
‘God has kept me. I’ve met with him and somehow he drives me on irrespective of results, however fast or slow progress appears to be. At the end of the day, I need to be on fire in a way that the response does not put it out.
‘If that sounds too good to be true, it’s not me, it’s entirely the work of God.’