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Seeking the welfare of the city

Read time: 7 minutes.
People in city


That we live in a post-Christian culture is often expressed but how did we ever get to be a 'Christian' culture? How does God's blessing seem more evident in some nations than others? How is it that a relatively small island group off the coast of Europe has had such a huge direct and indirect influence on the rest of the world? English is accepted as the global language and ideas and principles originating in Britain have been the best mark of human flourishing.

It's not because we're good people or somehow better than the rest! It's fundamentally because we've somehow, by God's grace, been able to get closer to his kingdom principles than others. This has not been easy – it's happened through weakness, suffering and sometimes the shedding of blood – Alfred, Wycliffe, Lollards, Bunyan, Tyndale, Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Whitfield, Wesley, Shaftesbury, Wilberforce, Spurgeon...William Carey, Livingstone, Hudson Taylor.

Other nations could have done all this, France-Switzerland/Calvin, German states/Luther, Bohemia/Moravians – but other men chose not to. There are the helpful factors of resources, raw materials, geography, but it still takes a heart-for-God to determine what will happen.

God has a profound love for the British nation and for every nation. He wants us to prosper, to provide good laws, good economic structures, community and family well-being, churches worshipping and teaching … and the degree that we follow his ways is the degree that any nation flourishes or diminishes.

This has certainly been true of our history, which has been one of great blessing, and through him being a blessing to others. Christians are spiritual descendants of Abraham & Jacob to whom God said: All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring Gen 22:18, Gen 28:14

God wants to be at the centre of everything in his joy and love. It's amazing that the Orb & Sceptre are seen as the most definitive symbols of Monarchy (the last to be taken from the Queen at her burial). In the past leaders recognised, however imperfectly, that the Cross was over the world, and that they held civil power only as delegated from Him and so put themselves under Him.

This created the civil conditions where democracy could grow, so merit and ability were rewarded not feared or suppressed. Science flourished as the Creator was understood to be ordered, rational and benevolent not capricious and vindictive. The economy grew as the trustworthiness of finance houses was established allowing abundant investment in infrastructure and trade, at home and abroad. Education of all was the best in the world. Social ills were addressed by many from a Christian view of all bearing His image. Wilberforce pushed through the most history-shattering project - to end slavery around the world! Marx was spreading revolution in London at the same time that Spurgeon was preaching grace – there was no revolution.

Not all was good, or all motives good, but an overwhelming amount was, because most adopted a Christian worldview, even if not born-again themselves. That helpful Christian worldview came from somewhere.

In God's economy we all share the same mission and need a growing sense of what God wants to do in our nation and to be prepared to give ourselves for it. It's a fact that we are literally the only hope for our nation which is manifestly failing on all the measures mentioned above: financial trust, education, economy/productivity, genuine equality, respect for life, science (Covid/Climate), even crumbling political/democratic institutions including law & police.

Obviously there is a huge amount that can be said about that but it will involve challenging ungodly laws and practices and Christians are often at the forefront of that today and paying a price, as related on, eg,

None of this takes away from the primacy of people being born again, as Spurgeon says: To attempt national regeneration without personal regeneration is to dream of erecting a house without separate bricks.

That is always our mission and focal point, but being true to him and challenging evil means we bring, sometimes unintended-by-us, blessing to those around. This is notable in William Carey and David Livingstone's work.

Equipping the saints

All of us are being discipled...either by God's Word or the culture around us. Tom Ascol

If the church only proclaims an anthropocentric "individual gospel," those brought into the fold will readily lose their way in God's creation, where their lives of necessity are being lived. They will again be enslaved by foreign lords  Bernard Zylstra

All the foundational people mentioned above had a love for God at the heart of their motivation and the preaching of Grace is paramount. The fruit of that grace in ordinary Christians was the transformation of British society. The close relationship between following God and community flourishing does not surprise us, it's following the maker's instructions and I guess is a key motivation of the mosaic law.

"Honour your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise - “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Ep 6:2-3, Deut 5:16

So following God's ways is not just a personal, private approach for us. If we really want to help others we have to encourage them to follow his ways too, first, if needed, in self-interest, second in conviction. This kind of ethic is shown by Thomas Sydenham, 'the Father of English medicine' to his students in 1668, the start of the real growth period for Britain.

Whoever applies himself to medicine should seriously weigh the following considerations:

* First that he will one day have to render an account to the Supreme Judge of the lives of sick people entrusted to his care.

* Next, by whatever skill or knowledge he may, by the divine favour become possessed of, should be devoted above all things to the glory of God and the welfare of the human race.

* Thirdly he must remember that it is no mean or ignoble creature that he deals with. We may ascertain the worth of the human race since for its sake God's only begotten Son became man and thereby ennobled the nature that he took upon him.

* Finally, the physician should bear in mind that he himself is not exempt from the common lot but is subject to the same laws of mortality and disease as his fellows and he will care for the sick with more diligence and tenderness if he remembers that he himself is their fellow sufferer.

So we need to be as confident of these points as applied to each area of work besides medicine and by whatever skill or knowledge he may, by the divine favour become possessed of, should be devoted above all things to the glory of God and the welfare of the human race.

This means grappling with all the many things going on around us that are not for the glory of God because these will, by definition, not be for the welfare of the human race.

These things are what we try to cover on, from evolution to the afterlife, and are the things that our friends, colleagues or social-media followers need to get to hear about, as they will help the human condition. Surely this is part of  Gossiping the good news.

This won't be without the possible cost of ridicule or cancelling or even arrest! But they do need to be said. Some will recognise that these Christians are actually speaking helpful truth, have the courage to do so, and start to believe that there might well be a God of strong love.

With a wider scope: The church is the conscience of the state - Bonhoeffer. Livingstone saw this massively in Africa, highlighting the deprecations of slave trading by Portuguese and Arabs. At his death the Government enforced its banning.

A study has been made of the flourishing of nations touched by missionary activity, and it shows a strong positive correlation compared to those that have not: christianitytoday world-missionaries-made.html .

An opposite example is when East & West Germany unified: 45 years of communist rule had not only left the East in shambles, it had fundamentally changed them as a people. Socialism had killed the work ethic and efficiency so often assumed to be innate to Germans. Worse, they were like children who had been raised in a household where authority was exercised randomly, irrationally, and brutally. Communist rule had assassinated them spiritually. Larry Taunton

Interestingly, at the moment, it seems it's some outside the church that are discovering, through God's providence, creation-truths that some Christians have given up affirming: my whole point has been that we're morally worse off and if you're morally worse off actually, in the end, you will be materially worse off as well, as we are discovering Peter Hitchins New Culture Forum interview.

Times columnist Matthew Parris said: As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God. Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa's biggest problem - the crushing passivity of the people's mindset.

I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

In a sense, there is a Prosperity Gospel but it's for others, not first for us. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jer 29:7 RSV

So we all need to question our culture in every area – which by default is going to be marked by the fall - though providential goodness is present and seek to affirm God's way as it will be good for all.

There is a strong sense of us all serving God, which is always a good place to be!


One of the things that was a strong motivation to great Christian leaders and is present in all revivals (and the Holy Spirit graciously makes clear to us at our conversion) is that we will have to give an account of ourselves before God, but we have the hope of one who takes away the due effect of our pride & sin.

Thomas Sydenham starts with that. Randy Newman mentions joy-based apologetics as well as misery-based - but we are terrified of misery-based apologetics. We need to recover the words of Jesus on that.  And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.. Jn 16:8

RC Sproul is good on this: excerpt - full - overcoming-the-world-2014-west-coast-conference/post-christian-christianity


It's sobering to think that our nation has no natural right to flourish, to be in the G20, have a liberal democracy or whatever.

The lost churches of Revelation were a shock to me. Will we much longer last? Do we not need God's good justice to correct us? This relates to our churches but where they go so our communities go, as we see in the Bible.

However God brings joy after judgement. When the Israelites returned from Babylon and rediscovered the law and it was read to them and they understood, they wept. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Neh 8:10


So I think we need to:

  • encourage Christians to see that God has all the cultural answers his world needs
    • be amazed and encouraged
    • pass them on in conversations
  • this can be done as part of normal Church teaching where there is a change of emphasis to do Application in a more tactile way
    • arrange sermon series where a range of these topics are organically covered
    • emphasise that God is way ahead of us in all areas of life, there is no true sociology, gender studies, biology etc outside the realm of the creator
    • note that we're all in this together: what's good/bad for Christians is good/bad for all persons – no 'because I'm a Christian I don't do ...'
  • invite a speaker from Christian Concern, Christian Institute etc to talk about how they are motivated by the Gospel to confront cultural & personal evil.