I’ve been involved with leading churches for more than thirty-five years, but it’s never been easier to talk with people about death and the issues it raises for them, since the dawn of the pandemic. Now the death of our Queen Elizabeth II has raised the awareness of our own mortality, along with questions around meaning, purpose and hope even higher in the consciousness of many people. It’s not death I particularly want to write about, but our Christian hope.
Are we, the individual members of the church of Jesus Christ, able to rise to the challenge and grasp the opportunities this presents for missional evangelism? When I talk about ‘missional evangelism’ I’m referring to that act of ‘going’ (for example in response to Jesus sending us to ‘go’ in Luke 10, our favourite Seventy-two passage) empowered by the Holy Spirit in both proclaiming and embodying God’s reconciling work in Jesus Christ for the salvation of a broken and alienated world.
Can I firstly encourage you to believe many, many people are seeking for the meaning, purpose and hope only the Christian gospel can provide. I always hoped the ones and twos, such as Rob who encountered God in his kitchen one morning and Sally who turned up asking to be baptised because she’d ‘met Jesus’, represented a much greater number we weren’t yet aware of. I’m picking up story after story and even amongst the small number of people I meet (the problem of working with Christian leaders) have noticed an increased frequency of deep spiritual conversations. In the case of both my wife Maggie and I this has been particularly with people we’ve not previously met, who as soon as they hear what I do are asking big questions. This year’s Talking Jesus Report 2022 points to a significant level of what I’d describe as spiritual seeking among people, but only 15% would think about talking to a friend or family member they know is a Christian to find out more.
If there’s a secret to creating the opportunities for more spiritual conversations with people who are not yet followers of Jesus, it’s simply creating space to be with people long enough for a reasonable conversation and the questions will arise. Especially, in this present cultural moment in the wake of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Queen Elizabeth II was by any measure a remarkable woman.
She’s been the longest reigning monarch in British history.
She never went to university, but she has been the advisor and confidante to fourteen (Liz Truss was number 15) Prime Ministers.
Whilst into her 90s she was still working over 40 hours a week.
She employed 1200 people, but still fed her own dogs.
She could rebuild the 6-cylinder, 3462cc engine of an Austin K2 Ambulance, trek for hours on her Fell pony across the windswept Highland moors, but she still looked entirely comfortable and elegant in the 488 diamond Kokoshnik tiara.
She was the most famous woman in the world, but seemed as relaxed in a school, a residential care home or a technology company as in the company of celebrities or other Heads of State.
She was the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, attended church weekly, even on holiday, prayed daily, but never told anyone else they must go.
She had no political power to make decisions, but her personal authority has brought nations together.
She had a gruelling travel and work schedule for over 60 years but as Andrew Marr pointed out: There are no reliable recorded incidents of the Queen losing her temper, using bad language, or refusing to carry out a duty expected of her.
What was the secret of the Queen’s remarkable consistency of character and extraordinary contribution to nation, Commonwealth and the global community?
She herself answered this question in 2002:
‘I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to life my life is to try and do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that day brings, and to put my trust in God … I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel’.
If you’re not so sure about your knowledge of Queen Elizabeth you could do a lot worse than reading the short book The Servant Queen and the King she serves. It’s only 60 pages long in large print and plenty of photos! You still find some copies from Hope Together. The content of this one has been reshaped and two further books, Our Faithful Queen and A Life of Grace: A tribute to Queen Elizabeth II are now available. If you order bulk copies, they’re very cheap indeed.
So think and pray: Who do you know who might like to know more about the Queen and her faith? Right now, and for the next season, the answer for all of us all will be loads!
Give them a copy.
Check out the Hope Together resources: