Last month, Pauline and I attended the Southern Counties Baptist Association Ministers’ and Leaders’ annual conference in Cheltenham, where the keynote speaker was Glen Marshall, Principal of the Northern Baptist College in Manchester.
Often, when God wants to confirm something that is settled in his mind, he will speak to us two or three times on the same subject. So my ears pricked up when, in his final session, Glen Marshall said that when we commit ourselves to God’s mission in the world, the ‘great priority’ is to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:33). After all, it was Jesus’ priority during three years of ministry and during 40 days of preparation after his resurrection.
As we are exploring what it means to seek God’s kingdom first in our current sermon series, it seemed a timely confirmation that this is what God wants us to be looking at right now. Not only that, but several colleagues attending the conference said that their churches are also currently studying this subject.
So, let’s be encouraged that we are not alone in being prompted to focus on kingdom-seeking at the moment! A few of Glen Marshall’s observations are therefore worth repeating here, as we continue our reflections.
Firstly, he pointed out that in Matthew’s gospel we’re called to seek and pray for the kingdom, but never to deliver it. Our commitment is to faithfulness. Success or failure is in God’s hands. That confirms something that we realised as we discussed our church values last year. Glen argued that this liberates us for Christian service by liberating us from ultimate responsibility.
He went on to point out that God can use whoever he wants to pursue the kingdom – the Church is not the only agent of the kingdom. So we need to discern which individuals and agencies God is calling us to work alongside in our local community for the sake of his kingdom. For example, we are able to show God’s love through the Carers’ group and through Windsor Foodshare, partly because local authority agencies refer those in need to us.
And finally, the real challenge! People should be able to get a taste of the kingdom from our church. We’re not perfect, so they’ll probably get a few unhelpful additives as well… but overall, does our presence in Dedworth give Dedworth a taste of God’s kingdom? Because that should be our priority.
With my love and prayers