’15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.’
– Ephesians 1:15-23
This is the third in a series of posts on summarised Lessons from New Wine – United 2014. @stevemclifford, Director General of the Evangelical Alliance UK spoke on this topic in Week 1 of the conference.
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The Prime Minister used this year’s Downing St Easter event to describe the UK as ‘a Christian country’. Question: is it? Is it an important question? The UK is a nation where it’s okay to disagree; where we defend people’s freedom to choose any faith or no faith. So how does the excerpt from Ephesians 1 make us feel about that?
Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin was a British theologian, missionary and author who said, ‘The way we understand human life depends on what concept we have of the human story.’ Bishop N. T. Wright has said, ‘The whole point of Christianity is that it offers a story which is the story of the whole world – it is public truth.’
How does the Christian world narrative impact issues such as human trafficking, and debt. Trafficking offends Western secular morality, and is abhorrent to the average person, but what about society’s attitude to the root causes such as the sex trade, or sweatshops creating cheap goods in the developing world? Managed debt feeds the western economies, and we seem to have blame culture for those people in debt rather than blaming our own society for the greed which crashed the world economy to begin years of austerity which hurts the lowest incomes the most, or for societal priorities which can feed debt – our obsession with consumerism, with image, and celebrity.
We, the church, are called to be a hope-filled people, and that should be our vision for Britain [and beyond! – FaithUnlocked].
Desmond Tutu said, ‘Hope should not be confused with optimism. Hope is a choice. Hope believes despite the evidence and then works to see the evidence change.’
To paraphrase Ephesians 3:10, “It’s about the church, stupid!” We must not cave in to the media stereotype that the church is irrelevant, homophobic etc; God is to fazed by the rise of secularism, or other faiths: His will, will be done. Wec may be living in the ‘good’ of the prayers of the 80s and 90s – the church has got out of its buildings and is doing some amazing stuff – street pastors, foodbanks, marriage guidance, debt counselling, and more . . . ecumenical unity movements are seeing different denominations working together as the church of Christ. The church may be smaller, but stronger – more passionate, more involved; challenging the prevailing secular narrative, praying for revival, taking responsibility, being salt and light.
We have a hope for the future of our nation [and the world] which is not based on political, economic, or human factors, but on God’s plan and care for His people. “God wants to change stuff, and he tends to do it through people.”
We are called to leadership of, and ministry to our neighbourhoods, our workplaces, our world. Leadership requires discipline, commitment, and training: turn up, be courageous, do what we say, get to know people, ask ourselves, “How can I lead change today?” The Holy Spirit will power, equip and guide us to make every day an act of worship.
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‘Spiritual renewal will only happen when local congregations renounce an introverted concern for their own life, and recognize that they exist for the sake of those who are not members, as sign, instrument and foretaste of God’s redeeming grace for the whole life of society.’
– Lesslie Newbigin