A new hymn has been released this week called "We seek your kingdom". 'Another new song?' you may be thinking.
Historians and sociologists tell us that it is difficult to change a culture without first changing its vocabulary and language. The words we use create the boundaries of what we believe is possible, what we believe is right, and what we believe is wrong. In my world of politics there is acute awareness of this. New words or phrases make new things possible and shift public perception – like Brexit, 'climate emergency', or 'free' markets.
In fact as I sit typing these words, the spectacle of Prime Minister's Questions is talking place and the words from the hymn "Fill all who lead with your integrity" feel very necessary.
Over the past few years I've been working with the wonderful Mark Greene from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) on a project called "Changing the soundtrack". We've been exploring how new words in our liturgical lives might lead to new horizons in our living.
For the last 15 years or so, pretty much all LICC's work to liberate all God's people for whole-life discipleship and whole-life mission has been rooted in a big view of God: the God who is the God of all time and eternity, the God who created all things, and through his son reconciles all things to himself. The God who cares about every second of our lives, every task we do, every encounter we have, every aspect of our being ... the God of every day, not just Sunday and an evening or two a week.
And because of that big view, LICC has long been concerned about the content of the songs that shape the worship we offer God, the life we think we are meant to live under him, and the content of the Gospel we hope will be shared. Indeed, one of the reasons why so many in this generation may be rejecting the 'Gospel' is that the Gospel that is being shared is more often the plan of salvation, not that richer, full-orbed invitation to an adventure with Christ in all of life now.
The sacred-secular divide debate has been won in every decade by key theologians, but the painful truth is that this victory has never led to a functional change in the church, and it's led to only very little change in the doctrinal content of the songs we sing or the missional posture they assume.
Mark and I have a shared conviction that the increasing wealth of good theology and praxis in our time (around kingdom, whole-life discipleship and the transformation of all things) leaves us with little excuse that this circumstance should continue. In fact, we long to see this fleshed out in the financial, staffing, teaching, and organisational priorities of the church.
With some notable exceptions, for the most part the church is still singing songs and praying prayers that look through a fairly narrow lens on salvation and transformation. In short, can our gathered liturgy and associated ecclesiology catch up with our missiology?
It's that concern that led us to become more proactive in trying to provide worship leaders and teams in local churches with the resources and perspectives they need to integrate whole-life worship perspectives into their Sunday worship and beyond.
"We seek your kingdom" is an attempt to give people some challenging words to sing but with the comforting balm of a well-known tune. Noel Robinson and I were orginally commissioned to write something for civic prayer breakfasts by Matt Bird, and we really wanted it to be 'sing-able' by those who frequented church buildings and those who didn't, so I scoured many tunes and landed on Eventide (made famous by the hymn "Abide with me").
We are very thankful that the folks at Thy Kingdom Come got wind of the hymn and have made it their theme song for 2021, helping to get this video made to be a resource for the wider church.
It's a song/hymn about leadership in the public square. It's a cry for the perfection of heaven to infuse leadership in every sphere, by clearly acknowledging where the authority for human leadership comes from. As we emerge from Covid, it's a prayer for all of society to be healed and transformed - from mental health to righteous legislation.
We hope you enjoy it. But more than that: may the soundtrack change and inspire us to a cinematically bigger view of the kingdom and our part in it.
Click here for church resources including a downloadable video with lyrics, chord charts and study guide.