Take a look around your neighbourhood’s hawker centres, and you will realise something—more stalls are operating for shorter hours and for fewer days each week than compared to pre-pandemic times. At one level, this may seem unsurprising given the extent to which COVID-19 has affected businesses as a whole.
But at a deeper level, this trend—coupled with another trend of increasing resignations at the workplace—could be a manifestation of the “existential crisis” that has hit many during these times. More people are asking themselves: Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Is it just to work hard and get rich, or is there something more?
This “existential crisis” has not spared the Church. With congregants forced to adopt online church and avoid almost all manner of church-related physical gatherings since early 2020, many may be getting accustomed to living insular lives, with the “out-of-sight” Church community slowly becoming “out-of-mind”. This has caused many Christians to ask themselves: Who is the Church, and what is the Church for? What is the point of the Church, especially if I can worship God at home?
To address these questions, songs about the Church’s identity and mission need to be sung regularly. All of us need to be reminded that our calling as Christians is not merely to be individual followers of Jesus, but to collectively be the body of Christ—the Church. Furthermore, God’s plan is not just for the Church to have sweet communion with God through Christ. His plan also has a far-reaching, “horizontal” dimension, i.e. that of building His kingdom on earth, of renewing and restoring whatever is broken in this world.
The song “Build Your Kingdom Here” by the Northern Irish band Rend Collective brings across this point for us, and serves as a prayer asking God to empower His Church to fulfill its calling. In the first verse, the song starts off by asking the Holy Spirit to revive each of our hearts, so that our lives can collectively be used for heaven’s cause of reviving this earth (verse 2).
Gareth Gilkeson, the leader of the band, had this to say: “This is such an important song for us because we are asking God to build His kingdom here—which isn’t somewhere else…it’s in our hearts, but it’s also in our churches and in our community, and in our families.”
Many worship services may have gone online, and gatherings limited to small groups, but the Church’s identity and mission have not changed. Whether gathered or scattered, we are the body of Christ, tasked and empowered to be like Christ in the world.
Build Your Kingdom Here
Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we’re made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your church
We need Your pow’r in us
We seek Your kingdom first
We hunger and we thirst
Refuse to waste our lives
For You’re our joy and prize
To see the captives’ hearts released
The hurt the sick the poor at peace
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause
We are Your church
We pray revive this earth
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
Unleash Your kingdom’s pow’r
Reaching the near and far
No force of hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth
Words & Music: Chris Llewellyn, Gareth Gilkeson, William Herron (Rend Collective © 2011 Thankyou Music)
Listen at https://youtu.be/sbdJXKqVgtg or scan the QR code:
Amelia Leo is a programmes executive at the Methodist School of Music, Worship & Church Music Department.