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Reflection on Thy Kingdom Come


Baptist minister Michael Shaw is fully behind Thy Kingdom Come - and wonders what would happen if we really started to see a new move of the Spirit? 


Thy Kingdom Come


As a church we are fully getting behind this year’s Thy Kingdom Come, and I am currently wearing a leather strap on my wrist with five knots for friends I am actively praying for. But what would happen if we really started to see a new move of the Spirit? What would it mean?
 
In John 6:38 we are told that Jesus left his place in heaven to come to live on Earth. He embodied what it means to bring the Kingdom of God to earth, on earth as it is in heaven. We are told by Paul that Jesus empties himself and becomes man (Philippians 2:7). He moves from a place of comfort, of worship and of glory, to a place that is uncomfortable, where anything and everything is worshipped and where he would be ignored, abused and killed.

He does this so we can know God.

He is the image of what God is like (Colossians 1:15); so that he can get rid of not just sin but the powers of this world through his life, death and resurrection. He does this so that we can bring heaven to earth, (not so we can go to heaven when we die), and so one day he will return bringing the city of heaven with him (Revelation 21).

 
So what does this all mean for us?
 
Well, it means that we have got so much about our church culture the wrong way around! I believe we are created to worship God, but we have got fixated with a limited version of worship that involves as large a group of people gathering together to sing soft-rock music while waving the arms in the air. That is not what worship is.

Paul calls us to worship with our whole selves (Romans 12), sacrificing our comforts and needs for God, changing everything, including our minds. This may mean sacrificing our hopes dreams and ambitions. It will mean living counter-culturally, not just in our morals and ethics but in our aspirations and plans.
 
So when I read, on Twitter, of a speaker at the recent HTB leaders conference say this “It's in proximity to those in poverty we understand things. We need to be close to those who are suffering”. (Brian Stevenson) I get both excited and despondent; excited because so many church folk need to hear this, and need to learn to live out faith not at arm’s length to the poor, but in and among the poor (as Jesus did). 
 
But I am despondent, because I wonder what difference it will actually make? Will people take up this challenge, or once the conference is over and the seats are cleared away, and the delegates are all at home, will anyone be thinking God was speaking to me then!

Or will they be thinking: Great talk but I am sure God was speaking to X or Y. In fact, anyone but me!
 
And here is the problem: while people want God to move, want God’s Kingdom to Come and are happy to pray for it and support what God is doing; not many are prepared to leave their comfort zones and live that life, to follow Jesus from his home in Heaven to the foreign world of earth. To be God to people who had a misplaced understanding of who God was, and to allow the barriers between them and God to be broken down.
 
I have spent the last 12 years or so on the margins, all in small urban inner city churches. When I finished college six years ago, the only criteria my wife had was that we should go to a church with no money. So we have ended up in a small inner city church in one of the most deprived wards in the south-west of England, in the city of Plymouth.

Plymouth is odd: while it sits in leafy Devon, surrounded by the sea and the moors, it is more like a northern industrial city than its setting dictates. Devonport, where I live, is the old dockyard area, an area of high unemployment, early mortality and low ambition. Children head to primary school on average 18-24 months below national developmental levels. Both primary schools are rated Good, but struggle each Oftsed to keep that rating.
 
The churches have left, many driven out after the war when Devonport was left a bombed-out pile of bricks. Others could not survive as the area had its soul removed, firstly by the Navy and then by the running down of the dockyard. The local Anglican church has a good service if the number hits double figures. The only evangelical church is our little Home Mission-supported Baptist church. Christians do live in the area, but the city centre churches with their professional worship and children’s work mean that churches like ours don’t get a look in. (People can get in their car and drive to the city centre in five minutes.)

So I am left optimistic and despondent. Will the church hear the call of Thy Kingdom Come? Or will it just be another activity of the church, until the summer festivals come around where people can get drunk on big worship events, lose their kids to the well-organised kids activities, and hear messages that keep them happy and challenged, but not challenged enough?
 
There are many Christians who have heard the call, who live out their lives on the margins, with the poorest. You won't see these people on the big stage at conferences, these heroes who work day in day out to be Good News to the poor, by living, worshipping and working with them.

The challenge as you read this is: are you going to say that this is great, but God can't mean me!

Or are you going to move out of your comfort zone and become one of those heroes?



Image | Thy Kingdom Come (Flickr)


 
If you want to know more about life in Devonport please signup to our prayer email via our website.

Michael Shaw is minister of Devonport Baptist Church in Plymouth 

 

Baptist Times, 09/05/2018
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