Theology & Church

‘Faith is always personal, but never private’

I often reflect on this quote from the American social activist Jim Wallis:

‘Faith is always personal, but never private.’

Its a pithy way to describe the inward and outward nature of authentic Christianity.

Personal convictions are the engine-room of faith. Individual hearts and minds need to be committed. Each of us need to answer the question Jesus asks Peter: ‘Who do you say I am?’

But this is the start, not the end. Just as engines are just one part of a vehicle, and hearts and minds are part of a body, personal faith must lead to public action. Jesus sends out his followers to take his message to ‘the ends of the earth’.

Every follower of Jesus is a missionary. We are each called engage with the world around us and to seek an encounter between our beliefs and a world of desperate need. This is what faith is.

A privatised, individualised belief system is not authentic Christianity.

A new song

Sometimes the songs Christians sing don’t help to do this. Many popular new songs encourage a hyper-individualised ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ approach.

But this week, a new song was released We Seek Your Kingdom. It is set to the tune Abide with Me, well known to many because it is always sung at the FA Cup Final. The words of the new song set out a vision for faith in Jesus ‘to transform, revive and heal’ our society.

Engagement and justice

I know two of the people who have helped write the song. Graham Hunter, the vicar of St John’s Hoxton and Andy Flannagan, Executive Director of Christians in Politics.

These are people whose personal convictions have led them into deep engagement in their local communities and in national endeavours for justice. This is a song rooted in authenticity.

For individuals and community

I think this is a fantastic song which should be sung in every church in the country. Just consider the 3 words: Transform. Revive. Heal.

What could be more needed at this time: for individuals, communities and the whole country?

And these words that can convict all of us who have neglected or lost vision for our own missionary calling:

Forgive us Lord when we have not engaged

Failing to scribe your heart on history’s page

Make us again what we were made to be

Transform, revive and heal society

Please take time to listen and reflect on its words and share with your friends and your church:

Graham Hunter, has written a discussion guide for churches to accompany the song and you can find a host of helpful resources at LICC’s website.

7 thoughts on “‘Faith is always personal, but never private’”

  1. Thank you for introducing us to this beautiful new hymn. So often I have sat in church with song after song on the theme of “I love you Lord” “You are so wonderful Lord” and I have wondered what on earth someone new to church would make of the lyrics. Fully agree with your comment that “a privatised, individualised belief system is not authentic Christianity “

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    1. Great prayerful lyrics. And so needed.

      I know though, I still need the first-order of the Father’s empowering presence in order to be His hands and feet to my family, friends, work colleagues and community. As I get older, I increasingly find myself desperately needing His presence every passing hour…and from that place can He lead me to be the effective change.

      To Roger I would say Paul’s NT view of sung worship is to each other (maybe more hymns and theology) and to God. The gathered people are expected to express their joy only found in the story of our redemption and the incarnate presence with His people today by His Spirit. And this is our (perhaps awkward) witness to those who haven’t yet tasted this amazing heavenly gift.

      But I too long for more focus on Jesus (constant) love for us and less on my (fickle) feelings for Him in contemporary worship songs. One worship leader friend of mine says he wants to write a song that says “Lord I love you…too little”

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      1. thanks for reading and commenting Doug. Hope you and family are well. I hope your friend does write that song – I think too many of our songs are radically aspirational rather than bracingly honest. I worry that we don’t have enough down to earth honesty and lament for our weaknesses and brokenness, We tend to smother everything in superlatives and ‘total’ language that betrays the poverty of our real lives.

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