On Wednesday evening Christians in Parliament along with Christians in Politics and Christians in Government held their annual service of prayer and worship at the the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster. It’s always good to be invited to meet in fellowship with other Christians away from my own Church and this was no exception. Seeing the auditorium filled with hundreds of people involved in government at various levels was genuinely both heartening and encouraging. Gary Streeter MP was pleased to announce that many new MPs have joined Christians in Parliament (mostly Conservatives, I discovered). Christians in Politics are excited about the increasing interest in political involvement in our churches that they are witnessing. And Christians in Government which is made up mostly of civil servants reported that God is doing some wonderful things through their members within their departments.
This was a celebration of God’s direct involvement in the political realm. It was not a stuffy, dry, get-together for a bunch of people who are desperately trying to preserve a common interest. Instead, there was a sense that these were people confident that God could use them as missionaries and witnesses to bring light into their workplaces and beyond, sharing in the work of God who has a big plan for this world.
The main talk was from Kris Vallotton, Senior Associate Pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, California. He talked about children when they play wanting to be superheroes or great sports people, or kings and princesses. They see themselves as capable of greatness; of doing amazing things. But as we grow up we lose that ability to see ourselves as being special and significant. The burdens of life cause most of us to settle for a mundane existence. Even for Christians who believe they are God’s children, it is too easy to carry on as if it makes little difference, failing to acknowledge the nature of that inheritance. In the book of Galatians, St Paul says this:
God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (Gal 4:4-9)
Paul calls Christians ‘sons’ not to dismiss women, but because the son as heir would receive everything in inheritance from his father. In this case it is from our loving Abba Father/Daddy. Through Jesus, God gives us all that is in Him through the Holy Spirit. We become imitators of Christ not through striving and hard work, but because God has chosen us by means of adoption. Through sanctification he makes us Christlike and Christ is fully God.
The Bible does not describe Christians simply as priests, commanded to act as servants, but royal priests; that is kings who have received God’s power and authority. God calls us to share the ministry of Jesus and gives us all that we need to do just that.
I saw more hope and expectation during that service in Westminster than I do in many churches. God gives each one of us a calling and offers us a vision, but instead of responding with a big Yes, too often we come back with a whole set of noes. Instead of seeing Jesus as he is and us as God intends us to be, we settle for an inferior version. When this happens the natural tendency is to stop looking out, seeing ourselves as lights shining into the darkness, and instead shining that light at each other, finding faults and obsessing over differences and secondary issues. We get caught up in fretting over problems rather than fixing our eyes on God’s bigger picture.
All is not lost for the Church though. Even the Church of England for all of its failings is getting some things right. Yesterday two new Bishops were announced. What is of interest this time is not that we have another woman being appointed to the role, but rather the backgrounds of Graham Tomlin who will become Bishop of Kensington and Anne Hollinghurst, the next Bishop of Aston.
Tomlin is currently Principal of St Mellitus College, one of the largest theological colleges in the Anglican Church worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by the Bishops of London and Chelmsford with a focus on raising ordinands and leaders to serve the church in mission in those regions and beyond. Now as Bishop of Kensington, Tomlin will have Holy Trinity Brompton in his patch, which as the home of the Alpha course is one of the most successful and missionally focused churches in this country. The Diocese of London clearly has its sights set on further growth and Bishop Graham will have a key role in further facilitating this.
Anne Hollinghurst is a former inner-city youth worker describes her current role as a vicar in St Albans as ‘growing a vision for an outward-focused mission and ministry’. Her husband, Steve is currently a part-time tutor with the Church Army and a consultant, trainer and researcher in mission and contemporary culture. She too has been chosen because of her credentials in taking the Good News of Jesus out into the World.
If the Church is to have a bright future then it will need more Christians like Graham, Anne and many who were there on Wednesday. In their respective places they are seeing the world through God’s eyes and responding accordingly. They have not been afraid to step out in faith because they are holding on to God’s promises. When we see Jesus fully in us then we need not have any fear of what he asks – God can do great things through each one of us. When Jesus said, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God,’ he absolutely meant it.