Conflict continues in the new democracy of Iraq. The hype and weary cynicism of a British election subsides. France gears up for a referendum on the European constitution.
Politics, politics, politics, it seems to surround us on every side.
Over the past month, life in Britain has been overshadowed by media coverage of a general election.
Actually, ‘saturation bombing’ might be a better phrase to describe the level of hype surrounding this poll. You couldn’t turn on a news broadcast or current affairs discussion without being confronted with the often tawdry world of British politics.
Of course, the European political scene is never quiet. There is always some battle or other going on. If it’s not elections we’re hearing about, it’s in-party fighting, or the launch of new manifestos.
Whichever way you turn, you can’t escape the long arm of politics.
H. G. Wells observed that, ‘In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues.’
Aristotle saw politics not just within society, but within human nature. He declared that, ‘Man is by nature a political animal.’
We might certainly debate the ‘animal’ part of his description, but there may be some truth in the idea that we’re inherently political. After all, politics does seem to find its way into all kinds of human group behaviour.
This may dismay some of us, who can only take so much talk about politics and politicians. Yet politics does touch on so many of the day-to-day realities of our lives and political decisions shape the destinies of generations to come.
In the past few days, a unique gathering of European church leaders, mainly from the charismatic wing of the church, considered the interface between resourceful churches and government.
Leaders representing church networks and ministries from ten European nations met in London, to investigate how local churches might increase their engagement with the processes of government.
How can the church be involved in the political process without becoming party political? How can the voice of Christian faith be heard on the social and political issues which shape people’s lives?
These were two of the major questions under discussion during the two-day Strategic Leadership Consultation, hosted by Next Wave International.
The forum published a Statement of Intent. It carried a list of affirmations, or statements of principle which those present agreed to apply in their work within local communities.
The list emphasises the need to help political and civic leaders to find long-term solutions to community problems. Governments are elected to do a job; they are pragmatic in their approach. Yet, in the church’s interface with politicians, we’ve often been more concerned with ‘faith and values’ issues than immediate problems on the ground.
One of the guest presenters at the forum, Rev. Steve Chalke (MBE) summed this up well: ‘Access and influence are based on whether we can help community leaders to get results. Real trust begins in small places and is built on trustworthiness.’
The Statement of Intent also includes a number of references to building churches which serve all of the community in an inclusive way.
Churches, it says, need to try serving all of the people in a community, rather than just a few whose agenda or background happens to suit Christian people. Community needs must be treated in a holistic way.
Church leaders should build on the core competencies of their churches, but at the same time seek alliances with other community groups to achieve bigger benefits for the community.
The affirmations also reflect a desire to become more positive and proactive in the church’s interface with society.
Pastor Ray McCauley leads a 32,000-strong church in Johannesburg. He and his congregation have played a leading role in helping to shape change during the transition from the apartheid to post-apartheid eras.
During an interview, Pastor McCauley said: ‘As church leaders, we must ask one question. If my church wasn’t there, would the community miss it?’
More than once during the consultation, the remark was made that the church is often known more for what is stands against, than for what it supports. Yet the church was instituted by Christ to be a positive voice, bringing ‘salt and light’ into every corner of life.
It’s time for European churches to become proactive in their communities. This means that church leaders make a commitment to serve a city rather than just a church.
It also means equipping and releasing people to work in government. We’ve been good at producing worship leaders, preachers and church planters. Now, we need to work at producing social reformers and community activists with a positive voice.
John F Kennedy once remarked that, ‘Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president but they don't want them to become politicians in the process.’
In the church, we need to change the way we talk and act toward those in government and become actively engaged in shaping the future of cities today.
(The Future is X, the new book by Mal Fletcher, is now available in e-Book form.)
Keywords: Social comment | proactive | political process | politics | politicians | big issues | government | referendum | election | local churches | pragmatic | community needs | alliances | charismatic | strategic leadership consultation | statement of intent | Next Wave International | John F Kennedy | Aristotle | H. G. Wells
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As a pastor, I’m borrowing a lot in my preaching from Masterclass 2005 and from the book 'The Future Is X'.
Mal, we are inspired by your passion, and desire to see Christians rise up within their worldview and make a difference for the generations. God bless you!
For Mal Fletcher: thank you kindly for the nice words about my book, "No Time To Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle". Glad you enjoyed it and felt a need to comment on it.
Charles, United States
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