Yesterday morning when I walked into the office I was greeted with cheers and raucous applause. I accepted it with grace and dignity, as one does, although I had no idea why I was receiving such a rapturous welcome.

Then, as a colleague followed me into the room and was treated to the same greeting, I realised that there was nothing special about me on this particular Wednesday morning, just that the Evangelical Alliance team was feeling full of life, warmth and enthusiasm, and wanted to share the love with newly arriving colleagues.

Let me be clear: we like each other here at the Evangelical Alliance, but this isn’t normal behaviour. Mostly, first thing in the morning, we just greet each other with tired nods of the head as we stop off in the kitchen for the essential caffeine hit to kick off the day.

At 9:30am we gathered for our daily staff prayers and Ayoola, a member of the staff team, led us in a time of reflecting on God’s love for His people and His desire to encourage us and surprise us with His good gifts. We then spent an unusually intensive time of appreciating one another, celebrating one another, and encouraging one another (which Ayoola termed ACE). This involved excessive hugging, patting one another on the back and saying nice things to one another. 


As we then moved into a time of prayer for the UK, our members, our work, and our friends and family, I reflected on how utterly weird what we had just done was. How many of you have (mostly) willingly spent time collectively hugging your colleagues on a Wednesday morning? It’s not generally normal behaviour for the factory floor, the classroom, the doctor’s surgery, the sports field or the office.

It struck me once again just how counter-cultural the church is called to be, and how powerful one word of grace or encouragement can be in our society. It won’t have passed you by that our government, our leaders and our elected representatives are struggling to be kind to one other, treat each other with integrity and truth, or offer a truly positive and united vision of where the UK is headed. This has been another brutal week in parliament, twisting and turning hour by hour. A society which used to be divided by left or right, north or south, rich or poor, by creed, race and religion, is now also divided by leave or remain. We seem to be in a mess.

And yet, God offers our society His people. Every single day, His people get up out of bed, head out the door to the workplace or as a volunteer or to the shops or the golf course, and get opportunity after opportunity to be genuinely counter-cultural. We get to be the people who are not afraid in this season of fear. We get to be the people who offer hope of a better future. We get to be the people who, saved by grace and born into new life with the King of kings, are full of joy in a society that is overwhelmed by misery, distrust, fear and hopelessness.

It’s in seasons like this that we do well to cling to Romans 12:1 – 2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — His good, pleasing and perfect will.” This is the time to make sure that we’re not conforming to fear, to hopelessness, that we are not lacking in grace, mercy or compassion for others, but, because we know of God’s mercy, to renew how we think and be transformed – and then offer that transformation to those around us.

My experience at work this week was not usual – we are just a bunch of human beings doing our best to serve God in the place that He has called us. But it was a reminder that God’s people are called to fix our eyes on Him and then look at the world through His grace, His love, His mercy. 

So, who you can offer something counter-cultural to this week? Who gets your word of grace instead of your anger? Who gets your word of encouragement instead of silence? Who gets your vision of hope instead of despair? It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it could begin to change the world.

The Evangelical Alliance’s What kind of society? begins to paint a picture of how the church can shape society on love, freedom, justice and truth. Download your copy.