I want to tell you a story about a politician. Don’t roll your eyes, it’s a good story!
This politician grew up in the church but when he was in his 20s he had a spiritual awakening. It was at this time that he first understood the gospel. Transformed from within, he began wrestling with God’s call on his life. He wanted to make a difference for God and he thought perhaps the best way to do this was to go into vocational ministry. He setup a meeting with a pastor and explained all that was happening and asked the pastor whether he should pursue the pastorate. The pastor advised him not to. The pastor explained that he was uniquely positioned in politics to bring about great change and exert a tremendous amount of influence. The politician agreed. So, with this renewed mind set to bloom where he was planted, the politician began wrestling with how he could make a difference. Along the way, he found like-minded Christians who were seeking the same thing. They formed a community of sorts to encourage one another and the different kingdom work they were doing around the city and the country.
The politician was William Wilberforce and he’s primarily known for leading the charge to abolish slave trade in the British empire. Additionally, the community he connected with was known as the Clapham sect. Between 1780 and 1844 Christian activists like the Clapham sect founded at least 223 national religious, moral, educational, and philanthropic institutions and societies to alleviate child abuse, poverty, illiteracy, and other social ills.
I couldn’t help but think of this story when recently reflecting upon Jeremiah 29:7: “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.” Wilberforce embraced where God had placed him and wrestled with how he could seek the welfare of his place and bring about “gospel hope and renewal.”
God is calling all of us to do the same. Our spheres of influence might not be as wide and powerful as Wilberforce’s, yet God is calling us to engage. Wilberforce not only believed in the gospel but he obeyed its call on his life. I don’t know what this stirs in you but it stirs the following questions for me: What sort of things is God whispering to me as I reflect upon on where I live, work, and play and how I might be used to bring about gospel hope and renewal? What is one small step of faith that I could take to love my neighbor as myself? And who are some people that could join me on the journey?