Why God Won’t Build His Kingdom Here

If you’re a Christian between the ages of 18 and 35 who lives in the UK, you might well have heard Rend Collective’s “Build Your Kingdom Here”. On first inspection, this song is everything today’s Church could do with more of. It’s upbeat, catchy and full of banjos and acoustic guitars – a sure-fire way to grab the people’s attention (just ask Mumford and Sons). The guys behind the song might have the ‘beards and lumberjack shirts’ thing down pat, but more importantly, they clearly thirst after the Lord like a deer thirsts after water. There’s just one problem – the song’s chorus.

“Build Your Kingdom here! Let the darkness fear!
Show Your mighty hand! Heal our streets and land!
Set Your Church on fire! Win this nation back!
Change the atmosphere! Build Your Kingdom here, we pray!”

“What’s wrong with that, Nat?” I hear you ask. “Don’t you want to see the captive hearts released, the hurt, the sick, the poor at peace?” Well yes, I certainly do. And contrary to semi-popular belief, I do have it in me to feel positive sometimes. That rain cloud you see hovering above my head isn’t there all the time, you know…

To be serious, though, the issue I have with this song is that it seems to suggest that this is all God’s work to be done, that we’re wasting our time if we try to do God’s will because it’s not for us to do in the first place. This just isn’t true though, at least not if the book of Acts is anything to go by. The early apostles would cure the lame, feed the hungry, travel to foreign lands and endure terrible hardship and even violent death – all in the name of Christ. What do you think James was getting at when he declared that “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26)?

It’s apparent to me that our job as Christians isn’t to simply wait around for God to do His work, but rather to start that work here and now by making sure everyone knows they are loved.

What’s more frustrating to me about all this is that Rend Collective themselves seem to share my thoughts. At other points in the song, they give us such statements as “We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause” and “We are your Church, we are the hope on earth”. In an interview with Share Jesus International’s /thoughts magazine, former RC band member Liz Trumper said this:

“…we write, create and dream with the members of the larger collective, learning together new ways of building God’s kingdom through music and community… We invite you to come and join the family, a movement of hungry hearts collected together in unity to build God’s Kingdom here.”

So if that’s the case, then why does any of this bother me? Because I don’t feel that the song itself makes this clear enough. Not everyone who knows “Build Your Kingdom Here” will have read that interview. And we all know that once a service or conference has ended, the songs are the main things sticking in people’s heads – particularly their choruses. If so many Christians are getting their theology primarily from worship songs, then we need to make sure that our worship songs are as theologically accurate as can be – which is why I’m concerned that songs like this might lead to an increasingly passive, hands-off “Not my duty, Lord” type of attitude among the Church.

It almost feels awkward to be dissecting a worship song so soon after I made this post, but in truth my aim here isn’t so much to rip “Build Your Kingdom Here” apart as to try to shed some light on what it says. I just hope I’ve done that sufficiently here. I don’t doubt that RC’s intentions were (and are) as pure as can be, and I’m not trying to slam them or their ministry, because I’m sure their songs have helped encourage many people in their faith. It’s just that this song got me thinking – and you know what I’m prone to doing whenever that happens…

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