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Public Leader: England - Seeking the welfare of the city

Matt Adcock reviews the first weekend of the Public Leader: England training course

What aspects of our individual and collective character, competency, calling and culture as Christians could lead to the ‘flourishing of the city’? This was the question posed to the assembled group at the first Public Leader: England 2019-2020 retreat. The question, grounded in Jeremiah chapter 29, provides a backdrop to the year-long course.

In terms of initial learning, discovering there is more to Jeremiah 29 than the eleventh chapter’s much used, and misused, For I know the plans I have for you”, was as refreshing as much as it was challenging, as it encouraged me to consider how we might play a part in achieving the city’s’ peace and prosperity (verse 7). This new perspective set the tone for the entire weekend.

Having spent time considering what we thought to be our cities’, we learnt about the wider cultural landscape from Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, who took us on a whistle-stop tour of how we have reached the current state, of what he described as, chaos in our society. 

Dave guided us from the Clapham Sect to the Bloomsbury Group, before looking at the paradoxes of secularism, the myths of value-neutrality, cultural Marxism, post-modernism, liberal fascism, and a post-truth’ world. Despite jokingly (I think) assuring us things would get worse before they got better, he grounded his talk in the strength of God’s word. We learnt where theologians N.T. Wright and Lesslie Newbigin believe we sit in the timing of God’s narrative. 

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We were reminded that we are part of an unshakeable kingdom (Hebrews 12) and that Romans 13 provides us with a model for engagement with the world we inhabit. We were also reassured by statistics from the Cinnamon Network about Christians standing in the gap’ contributing an unseen £3bn a year to social action projects and £315m in time given.

This talk from Dave provided the landscape that was to be the backdrop to our prayers and discussions. It was supported by a talk from the Evangelical Alliance’s advocacy and media manager, Danny Webster, who explored a biblical framework for engaging in politics. This provided the inspiring reminder from Isaiah that Jesus is the one who rises to rule over the nations and in Him the nations hope.” Danny also provided an eloquent summary of the main themes of author Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making, which is required reading to the course, and the title provides the challenge for us as Christian leaders. 

We were then inspired by a wide range of speakers, who challenged us on everything from our own callings to how we can share the power that we have. Emma Sykes, Leadership Specialist at CPAS, challenged us to escape what we might be constrained to be’, and instead seek what we are called to be’, through becoming more intimate with our relational Father. In a video from the SENT course, Ian Marchant, former CEO of SSE plc, reminded us how the Bible almost provides a template for our attempts to examine the roles of Christian leaders in today’s workplaces. Matthew 28, as our great commission; Matthew 5, the importance of being salt and light; and Galatians 5, where the fruits of the Spirit tell us how our behaviour as Christians should be starkly different in challenging times. 

In a talk recorded on last year’s Public Leader: Scotland course, Dave Richards, rector at Ps & Gs church in Edinburgh, focused on the leadership of Daniel, who satisfied both the world, in the form of King Nebuchadnezzar, and God, by remaining faithful. He talked particularly of Daniel’s distinctiveness and his commitment to a personal line in the sand’. We also had a challenging talk from former lawyer and now author, church leader and lecturer at the London School of Theology, Dr Chloe Lynch. She talked about different types of power, how we should seek to identify where our power is rooted, and our Christian responsibilities to share that power. 

Every speaker challenged and inspired us both individual and collectively; however, from a personal perspective, it was businessman Ram Gidoomal who has given me the most to pray about in coming months. Twice displaced as a refugee in childhood, Ram, grew a multi-million pound business before being inspired by God to change direction to share the influence God had given him in both the political and charitable sectors. 

My prayer is that during this year I will develop strong relationships with my fellow Christian leaders on the course. 

I also pray that I will discern from God where I can have influence and share power in ‘the cities’ I inhabit and, that like the biblical and real-life leaders we heard about, I can engage with the culture to produce good fruit for the kingdom.

Matt Adcock is a teacher and head of year at a High School as well as involved in leading young people at Hinckley Baptist Church.

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