“Jesus Christ calls every person to follow him. As Christians it’s our duty and joy to share that invitation. That’s why the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are inviting every church in England to join a week of prayer this Pentecost, from 8-15th May — let’s pray for every Christian to receive new confidence and joy in sharing this life-transforming faith.”
So reads the introduction to Thy Kingdom Come: a national prayer initiative inaugurated by the archbishops of Canterbury and York “for our nation to know Jesus“. There are helpful resources; encouragement to pray for friends; Beacon events of worship and intercession, and a Blog: “There’s such power in praying for our friends who don’t yet know Jesus. Not just doing it once in a while, or when we feel like it, but doing it regularly – persevering with discipline, and with joy.”
The mission objective is “to gather, to ignite and inspire worship and intercession for a generation to rise up with a fresh passion and confidence for the proclamation of the gospel.” You can just imagine the jaundiced comment thread which will develop beneath this post. Some will quibble over whether the kingdom is here or yet to come. Others will argue about the meaning of “follow” in the context of Christian discipleship. Still others will insist that the Church of England — if it is a church at all — is preaching another Jesus from the one they know; a false Jesus of perpetual compromise and erastian evil. And then will surely follow the personal attacks upon the Archbishop of Canterbury himself: that wishy-washy, wet and wobbly Welby — he’s not exactly a John Wesley or a George Whitefield, is he?
And through all the effort expended on cynicism, negativity and bile couched beneath the pious cloak of holiness and spiritual discernment, prayer will be dodged, evangelism avoided, and the proclamation of Jesus deflected by critiques of hermeneutics and contradictory perspectives of salvation. You don’t obey Jesus by antagonising sick children or expelling the devils of frail humanity. We are a new creation of liberation and reconciliation; not a moralising, spiritualising, judging and condemning community of superior authority.
Thy Kingdom Come does not mean that the kingdom is not present: it is simply that it is not yet visible to every eye. Our task is to make it so — not by bringing it to our friends and colleagues, but by discovering it with them, becoming like them, in community with them. If they see that we love them, our hope in Christ is shared and our faith spreads. Their conversion begins with our prayers, but our prayers should be concerned with anticipation and possibility, not with judgment and demands for conviction and repentance. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts; it is God who determines everything; it is Jesus who calls.
To make the Messiah known demands more than a week of prayer leading up to Pentecost: it demands that we become a ‘people of the beatitudes’, hungry for justice and righteousness, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, healing the sick, clothing the naked and visiting people in prison.
Far easier, of course, to tweet about eschatology and expel demons in a blog thread.