Last week I went to two very different events.
On Wednesday I hosted the Cinnamon Network CEO gathering. This drew together around 200 leaders of Christian NGO’s, church and business leaders. We heard from senior civil servants, police leaders and each other. We prayed, we celebrated what God was doing and we supported each other. The context was the ‘jaws of doom’- the frightening reality that the poorest in the UK will be caught between the jaws of ever decreasing government grants to local authorities and the ever increasing costs of social provision. This funding gap is expected to be £600m for Birmingham Council and will be true in varying degreed for every council. Against this background we were praying and planning and supporting the church stepping up to serve. We began to hear the call to re-imagine the welfare state for the 21st Century. We connected with innovative projects and sacrificial people. I left determined that we needed a new christian revolution in the public square similar the quaker business revolution of the Rowntree’s and Cadbury’s. Our faith was personal but not private. We were believing and working for transformation.
The second event was very different. We went with friends to a worship celebration. The band were good and the songs were a great selection of older and newer ones. The commitment of the worship leader to help us engage with God was authentic and skilful. And yet I found myself more and more uncomfortable. The entire event was framed in private terms. It was all about Jesus and me. That he was my Lord my healer my friend and my saviour. That my hurts could be healed and my dreams nourished. That I could have an intimacy with him. Now I believe 100% in all the statements I have just made. The amazing grace of the Lord Almighty is that He does care about me, redeem me, have a relationship with me. All of that is staggeringly, amazingly, wonderfully true. It is just not the whole truth.
The whole truth is not that we are held safe in God’s hands and then evacuated to glory but that we take God’s hand as he leads us into His work of transformation.
And that means transformation of us as individuals- certainly- but also the transformation of our society. Sometimes our worship so concentrates on the intimacy with Christ that it forgets intimacy with Christ’s work. It’s as unbalanced as a marriage that tries to live on the emotional high of date nights but never faces up to the washing up, cleaning and realities of daily living together. I wanted to sing songs that celebrated that rich vision of intimacy with Christ and intimacy with His work. Songs that had space for those caught in the jaws of doom and those working so hard to bring Christ’s light and love to them. I was not looking for a lifeboat to escape on but a power cruiser to take me into the stormy waters so that I could lend a hand. I wanted a gospel of transformation not evacuation.
This video tells a little bit of how some friends of mine have begun to work this out in Africa. May many more of us find Christ in the needs of the world and not just the in the excitement of the worship meeting