Here are my notes from a recent seminar at City Church on the upcoming election
1. We must be committed to the welfare of our nation
a) We are ‘resident aliens’ in the world. The Christian recognises that this world is not our home but we are not to despise it either. Jeremiah 29:7 ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’ (NIV).
b) Government is God’s idea. To punish wrong and commend good
1 Peter 2:13-14 – Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men. Submission to authority is part of our witness to the world. It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the talk of foolish men.
Romans 13:1-7 – v.1-2 The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.
We should be better citizens than unbelievers because we have a higher motive than they. They submit to authorities because they fear punishment if they do not. We submit because we want to honour God – recognising that they are his means of common grace to restrain evil.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 ‘I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour.’
When Paul urges us to pray for Kings and all in authority. John Stott comments ‘this was a remarkable instruction, since at that time no Christian ruler existed anywhere in the world.’
What to pray for? That we may live peaceful and quiet lives. Stott: ‘only in a well-ordered society is the church free to fulfil its God-given responsibilities without hindrance.’
What are these responsibilities government are to uphold?
• Freedom of religion – that enables me to grow in godliness and holiness
• Freedom of speech – that allows me to proclaim Christ through evangelism
Wisdom on government from Proverbs:
When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; When the wicked rule, the people groan – Proverbs 29:2
By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down – Proverbs 29:4
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, For the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; Defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9
Conclusion We cannot expect, so we must not ask, a secular government to govern according to Christian principles. But we should pray that government will protect the vulnerable, reward good and punish evil and allow Christians to get on with being Christians without interference from the state.
2. The privilege of democracy
Many Christians in other parts of the world can only pray for a change of government. We have an opportunity to shape government!
3. Should Christians vote?
Yes. By voting:
a) we can demonstrate that Christians make the best of citizens because we recognise that government is a gift of God
b) we can give thanks to God for the good government that we enjoy. Under any of the main parties we will enjoy fundamental freedoms and privileges that many Christians are denied elsewhere.
c) we should take the God-given opportunity to elect a government that it will govern according to God’s purposes for it.
B. How do we decide who to vote for?
1. Look to elect government that will function according to God’s standards: Here are just SOME of the questions you could consider.
a) Protection of the vulnerable
• Do you believe that marriage provides the most secure and loving environment in which to raise children? Should that be reflected in the tax system?
• Should euthanasia be legalised? What care should be provided for the elderly?
• Do you believe that the law on abortion is too lax, too restrictive or about right?
• What legislation do you propose to limit the damage caused by harmful greenhouse gases and other causes of environmental damage?
• What is your policy on Asylum seekers and on migration?
• Do you agree in principle to the idea of shared days off for families? Should there be legislation to enable this?
• How do you define an ethical foreign policy and do you think that the UK should pursue one? What commitment can you make that further progress will be made to ensure that developing countries can be genuinely set free of the burden of debt?
b) Protect religious liberty
• Do you believe churches should be free to employ only Christians?
• Should there be a law against incitement to religious hatred?
• Should the right of Christians to freedom of speech be protected?
c) punish wrongdoers
• What solutions do you propose to violent crime in our society?
• What steps should be taken to rehabilitate young offenders?
• Do you support the reintroduction of the death penalty for murder?
d) prevent the spread of sin
• Do you think the law on cannabis should be liberalised?
• Are you in favour of compulsory sex education for primary school children?
• Do you support tougher controls against the broadcasting of pornography?
2. Try one of the websites designed to help you see which party manifesto is most aliened with your own convictions.
3. Consider the character of the candidates
a) For a list of your candidates visit https://yournextmp.com/
b) To discover if there are any hustings you can attend visit http://meetyournextmp.com/
c) Personal beliefs and practices cannot be separated from public life. Do they have a record of lying, adultery, misleading parliament, etc… If you want to know how your last MP voted on a range of ethical and moral issues then visit www.christian.org.uk/election and follow the links.
Here Ed Welch speaks about the book and his own experiences of helping those with depression.
(HT: Andy Cheung)
This super series of short, accessible, Christ-centred commentaries are available on Kindle for £2 each. If you’re building a library as a preacher or just looking for something to help you in small groups or personal bible reading get them while you can!
Each one of these 24 e-books from Desiring God are free for you to read!
What contribution do gospel movements bring to our cities? Here’s a new video from 2020birmingham explaining how the gospel flourishes through collaboration in church-planting.
‘Contextualization is not – as is often argued – ‘giving people what they want to hear.’ Rather, it is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.’
Tim Keller, Center Church, chapter 7 Intentional Contextualization
What do we need to grasp to be effective ministers of the gospel in a city?
1. Cities are the future
Today for the first time in human history over half of the world’s population live in cities. The UN estimate in World Population Prospects that by 2050 the world will be 68.7 percent urban.
Stephen Um & Justin Buzzard in their book Why Cities Matter write ‘never before have cities been as populated, powerful, and important as they are today. . .cities shape the world because what happens in the cities spreads.’
2. Cities never stay the same
Um & Buzzard point out a second feature of cities – the pace of change. ‘Nothing ever stays the same in cities. There is constant movement.’ A city like Birmingham has changed beyond recognition in the 40 years I have lived here. It looks different, feels different and thinks differently. It takes time, insight and skill to answer the question ‘what do I need to know to most effectively love and communicate Christ to my city both now and for the next 20 years?’
3. Ministry in cities is complex
One final observation worth highlighting from Um & Buzzard, ‘cities are populated with people of various cultures, different worldviews, and different vocations. Cities force individuals to refine their cultural assumptions, religious beliefs, and sense of calling.’
That raises important questions: what is the future of my particular city? What kinds of opportunities does urbanisation present for the gospel? What does it mean for our church to be a church for the city?
Meeting the challenge
If cities are growing in size, power and influence and if cities are always in a flux of change and if cities are ever-more diverse in assumptions and beliefs then the church must come together to face the challenge and to find answers to the issues we face.
2020birmingham will be holding its 2015 annual conference entitled City of the Future on the 10th March here in Birmingham. And the issues in this post form the heart of our conference agenda. Which ever city you represent why not come along and learn together how better to reach and serve our city now and into the future.
Which means that if we are to reach our city with the gospel of Christ we will need to establish churches and ministries that are committed to the city and that can also effectively engage the people of the city. The future of the city is therefore our theme because it has never been more important to discern all that is required to contextualise the never-changing gospel in an ever-changing city.
At this year’s 2020birmingham conference we will ask:
- What are the challenges and opportunities?
- What does the church need to do and be?
- What does it mean to serve the good of the city?
- What might it look like to not just live in the city but to love it now and in the future?
This year’s 2020 conference will equip you and your church to better understand what lies ahead so that, with humble confidence, we can do effective ministry now and in the coming years. We want to cultivate ministries that both honour God and bless the lives of those who live in our great city.
We are delighted that the Rt. Revd. David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham will be one of our speakers.
‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.’ Acts 17:26-27
2020birmingham is a catalyst for church-planting in our city seeking to assist in the planting of 20 new churches in our city between 2010 and 2020. For a brief introduction to the story so far visit Momentum. We are also part of City to City Europe.
In an earlier post we reflected on the fact that the virtue of compassion belongs, properly and uniquely, to a Christian worldview. In this second and concluding post we consider our response to the call of the gospel to live out lives of compassion.
Compassion: Our virtue
No wonder Brian Borgman in his book Feelings and Faith insists the Lord Jesus is our pattern for compassion. We need not only to see people as he saw them but feel for them as he felt for them.
How is compassion something that we can cultivate? Without doubt it is a deep reflection on the gospel of Christ that produces and promotes compassion within us. Tim Keller argues ‘to the degree that the gospel shapes your self-image, you will identify with those in need.’ Once I consider that Jesus was moved to meet my need I begin to see that others share my neediness and I can choose to cultivate compassion wherever I see need.
A Christianity without compassion is a Christianity unmoved by the gospel and where there is little or no concern for a world in need there can be little of Christ in our hearts. It’s quite possible for even a prophet of God to fail in this regard. Human nature, unmoved by the gospel will, like the prophet Jonah, place limits on those for whom we ought to be concerned. Jonah was indifferent to the fate that awaited the people of Nineveh when sent by God to warn of impending judgement. That God was a God of compassion was a cause of complaint because the heart of Jonah was not shaped by the heart of God. So much so that when the Ninevites repented and God’s anger was assuaged Jonah’s anger only grew! As far as Jonah was concerned God’s compassion ‘ seemed very wrong, and he became angry. 2 He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.’ (Jonah 4:1-2, NIV). My problem, Jonah concedes, is that you are a God of all compassion.
Compassion: A unique opportunity
Bruce Sheiman isn’t the first to see something unique in the kind of love shown by Jesus and his followers. Emperor Julian (332-363 AD) was the last Roman Ruler to persecute Christians yet even he could not fail to recognise that a love shaped by the cross of Christ is radical. He wrote of how the cause of Christianity ‘has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.’
Brian Borgman invites us to join him in praying; ‘May God the Father, who is full of compassion, and the Lord Jesus who is our model of compassion, fill us through the Holy Spirit with the holy emotion of compassion that compels us to relieve suffering, misery, loneliness, and lostness wherever we can. When we do that, people will see Jesus.’
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