Christian worship – reasons and rewards

Why God has better stats than Thierry Henry

I believe that we all have idols which we worship - knowledge, success, wealth, power, fame, relationships, alcohol, drugs, food, technology, cars, shoes, sports teams, art or artists, television, tradition. The list goes on of things we devote countless hours towards worshipping and pursuing with an insatiable appetite.

Knowing this, Jesus said the first and greatest of the Ten Commandments is: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind”. At first glance this could seem like quite an onerous task but the reality is that most of us find worship lovely and very easy.

Thierry Henry is worshipped in the neighbourhood where I live. He was something special at Arsenal Football Club and thousands of kids and their parents walk around with his name on the back of their replica shirts. Some will claim he is the greatest footballer in the world. No doubt he has superb dribbling skills, speed, balance and he scores goals for fun. On top of this, he has style, good looks, humour and is an inspirational leader who had an immense heart for his team.

He knew Arsenal fans loved him. After scoring an exquisite goal, he would run to the corner flag with his hand cupped over his ear to encourage and amplify the cheers of the fans. And they would cheer all the louder. Adoration was gladly given. Would a crowd have taken so readily to a man who instead humbly returned to his own half to await the restart?

Thierry Henry is a footballer. And now he has left for Spain. God is, well, God and isn’t going anywhere. Putting Henry’s statistics beside God’s would only serve to reinforce why God, of the two, is the more worthy of our praise.

As a Christian, I believe He created and sustains the universe. I believe He defined the laws of physics governing how a football can travel from a Frenchman’s foot into the back of the net in such a compelling fashion. I believe Jesus, fully man and fully God, chose not to lord it on earth but to die a criminal’s death on the cross so that we did not have to bear the punishment our sins deserved. I believe the Devil’s main concern is to steal and destroy, and Jesus won a great victory over him, for our gain, by his death and resurrection.

And so I worship him in many ways. A major way is trying to act justly and mercifully in my everyday life, by obeying the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. However, I also lead the congregation of New River Church in hymns and songs most Sunday mornings. This part of the meeting we call “worship”.

There, we come together to meet with God, give Him our burdens and lift our hands in songs of thanks and praise. We attempt to put Him first, no matter how desperate our other concerns. We come with a hope and an expectation that the Spirit of God will meet us there. That God will cup his ear as we cheer. That He will welcome our adoration and we will adore him. He goes further. It says in the Bible that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Time and time again we have experienced this to be true.

As we worship Him, he counsels us, refreshes us, and often changes us as a church and as individuals. I can testify that it is a joy and a privilege to worship Christ in this way. He loves it and we love it.

Adam is a worship leader at New River Church, Islington, a non-denominational, charismatic Christian church of about 40 people. He has a degree in physics, a PhD in neuroimaging and is a member of the electro-indie rock band Personal Space Invaders.
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Brexit is teaching the UK that it needs immigrants

Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past.

Why did the UK vote to leave the EU? For conservatives, Brexit was about regaining parliamentary sovereignty. For socialists it was about escaping the single market. For still more it was a chance to punish David Cameron and George Osborne. But supreme among the causes was the desire to reduce immigration.

For years, as the government repeatedly missed its target to limit net migration to "tens of thousands", the EU provided a convenient scapegoat. The free movement of people allegedly made this ambition unachievable (even as non-European migration oustripped that from the continent). When Cameron, the author of the target, was later forced to argue that the price of leaving the EU was nevertheless too great, voters were unsurprisingly unconvinced.

But though the Leave campaign vowed to gain "control" of immigration, it was careful never to set a formal target. As many of its senior figures knew, reducing net migration to "tens of thousands" a year would come at an economic price (immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of £7bn a year). An OBR study found that with zero net migration, public sector debt would rise to 145 per cent of GDP by 2062-63, while with high net migration it would fall to 73 per cent. For the UK, with its poor productivity and sub-par infrastructure, immigration has long been an economic boon. 

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, some cabinet members hoped that she would abolish the net migration target in a "Nixon goes to China" moment. But rather than retreating, the former Home Secretary doubled down. She regards the target as essential on both political and policy grounds (and has rejected pleas to exempt foreign students). But though the same goal endures, Brexit is forcing ministers to reveal a rarely spoken truth: Britain needs immigrants.

Those who boasted during the referendum of their desire to reduce the number of newcomers have been forced to qualify their remarks. On last night's Question Time, Brexit secretary David Davis conceded that immigration woud not invariably fall following Brexit. "I cannot imagine that the policy will be anything other than that which is in the national interest, which means that from time to time we’ll need more, from time to time we’ll need less migrants."

Though Davis insisted that the government would eventually meet its "tens of thousands" target (while sounding rather unconvinced), he added: "The simple truth is that we have to manage this problem. You’ve got industry dependent on migrants. You’ve got social welfare, the national health service. You have to make sure they continue to work."

As my colleague Julia Rampen has charted, Davis's colleagues have inserted similar caveats. Andrea Leadsom, the Environment Secretary, who warned during the referendum that EU immigration could “overwhelm” Britain, has told farmers that she recognises “how important seasonal labour from the EU is to the everyday running of your businesses”. Others, such as the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, and the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, have issued similar guarantees to employers. Brexit is fuelling immigration nimbyism: “Fewer migrants, please, but not in my sector.”

The UK’s vote to leave the EU – and May’s decision to pursue a "hard Brexit" – has deprived the government of a convenient alibi for high immigration. Finally forced to confront the economic consequences of low migration, ministers are abandoning the easy rhetoric of the past. Brexit may have been caused by the supposed costs of immigration but it is becoming an education in its benefits.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.