Creating a Culture of Desperation

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

There are times in life when most, if not all, of us experience a deep craving for something that we just cannot shake until it has been satisfied. Usually, this kind of language is associated with food. Maybe it is a craving for a particular flavour of ice-cream. Maybe it is a craving for a slice of your favourite pizza. Maybe it is a craving for an ice-cold drink on a really hot day. Maybe it is just a craving for food, full stop. For some, these cravings can be held in check until they go away or are otherwise satisfied, but for others, there is this deep desperation that nearly drives them insane until they get exactly what they are craving!

Often our deep desperation is for something other than to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt 5:6). However, what would it look like if we were to create a culture of spiritual desperation firstly within ourselves and then as a church?

This phrase – “culture of desperation” – was used by Pastor Pete Hughes (from KXC Church in London) during an interview that was recorded at Holy Trinity Brompton and then released as part of the This Cultural Moment podcast in October, 2019 (if you would like to listen to the whole podcast, then you can do so by clicking here). I have been catching up on this podcast while driving to church each morning, and this particular phrase (and episode) grabbed my attention!

What Pete means by using this phrase is that he wants to create a “culture of desperation where people are really thirsty to meet with God.”

In defining this culture of desperation further he goes on to outline that there are two parts to it, saying:

“One, you want a big theology of the goodness of God to create a culture of dependence on him, but also a culture where you can recognise brokenness and fragility and vulnerability…if you have got both in place, like, a recognition and a freedom to be messed up, to be hurt, and to be having a really bad day, and a big theology of the goodness and the faithfulness of God, then, actually, people hunger after what God might bring to any given moment. I think some churches have a lot of this, but we do not really like talking about our brokenness…we need to get a good balance, and when you get that balance there is just a deep hunger in the room of ‘God is worth encountering’ and ‘I am going to bring all of my mess, all of that, into the presence of God because he is the God who transforms.’”

Pete’s thoughts on creating a culture of desperation have resonated deeply with me. This is what I hope to see within my own life and ministry – a desperate craving for more of God…a desperate craving to see God engage in every moment of my life (good AND bad). And yet, as much as I believe I need this, it is also a scary thought. To desire such a desperation for God means that I need to be vulnerable in acknowledging my need for him. I need to acknowledge my rebellion against him and my need for a Saviour. I need to acknowledge that I am helpless in this world apart from him. I need to become fully dependent on him. While I know that that is what is best, it is another thing to truly WANT it. And, yet want it I must, lest I become complacent in my relationship with Jesus and consumed by what this world has to offer.

So, then, what does it look like for me (and those around me) to model a culture of desperation? According to Pete Hughes and the two other interviewees in this episode (Mark Sayers from Red Church in Melbourne and Jon Tyson from Church of the City New York), a life lived in desperation for more of God is a life that is committed to prayer. Prayer needs to be the bedrock, the foundation, of such a culture. Through prayer, we can come to God amid our messiness, knowing that he is good and faithful and that he is the only one who can help us to persevere in the face of the challenges before us. When we trust in Jesus, God takes our brokenness and makes us new again. Why would we not be desperate to draw closer to such a God?

I will be the first to acknowledge, though, that my prayer life could certainly improve on where it is at currently. I need to be more disciplined in praying more and in simply praying for God to move in my life and in the lives of those around me. I want to grow a hunger to see God draw people to himself. I want to grow a hunger to see God transform the next generation into one that loves and knows him deeply. This ought to be a daily priority and not a mere formality. And so, I invite you to help keep me accountable – help me to grow in my desperation for more of God. But more than just an invitation to keep me accountable, will you join me in creating a culture where we all grow in our desperation for more of God?

Mark Sayers rounds out the episode with the summary statement “personal renewal leads to corporate renewal.” If we want to create a culture of desperation for God, then it must first start with us as individuals. May we be desperate to see God work through the Holy Spirit to bring about renewal, firstly, in our own lives and then, secondly, in the lives of those around us as we daily seek to be transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ.

Keep trusting Jesus,