No-one seems to be certain who first coined the famous phrase, “Decisions are made by those who show up”. Its potential authors include a range of people from former US Presidents to movie-maker Woody Allen, and it was popularised by its use in the American TV show “The West Wing”.
But whoever first uttered the phrase, it is hard to argue with. Throughout time, history has been made by those who show up. Decisions ARE made by those who show up. Not necessarily by the smartest, not necessarily by the most qualified, not necessarily by those of the best character, not necessarily by those who may have gleaned some divine wisdom, but by those who like Wendell Borton simply show up. It is sobering, but perhaps also empowering. You don’t need outrageous gifting to show up. You just need a body.
The same is true throughout the stories of scripture. Yes, at times God moves in miraculous invisible ways, but much more frequently he moves through one or more of his unremarkable people who seem to be in the right ordinary place at the right time. The CVs of Gideon, Moses, or Rahab were not exactly screaming out for their respective jobs. They just showed up in obedience.
Where do people ‘show up’? I hear you cry. They show up in a variety of places which may not always be obvious. They show up at local residents’ meetings. They show up at parents’ associations. They show up at safer neighbourhood groups. They show up at town council meetings. They show up at political party branch meetings. You may well be one of them.
You see the places that these people show up are not the fun places. These places generally involve chairpersons, secretaries, treasurers and minutes. These places are generally dusty old halls. These places don’t have Welcome teams with Fairtrade coffee, doughnuts and biscuits, and even if they manage a biccie, it’ll probably just be a Rich Tea.
But these people run the world (in the macro and the micro). There are some seriously hard yards to do. There is a lot of tiresome, repetitive work that is non-negotiable. And to get to elevated positions these people have been often been showing up at some pretty dull meetings for a long time. But we rarely think about that because we usually only know about them once they’ve got to ‘the top’.
When we reflect on history we do remember those who showed up, but our focus tends to be on the endpoints rather than the starting points. We forget that in between forming an opinion and transformation occurring a lot of hard work happened. The civil rights movement didn’t just believe racism was wrong; They showed up. The Suffragettes didn’t just believe women should have the right to vote; They showed up. But it cost them. We don’t often read about all the meetings that paved the way for those mass movements, and there were many of them (but they don’t make great movies.)
For example here is a summary of the minutes of the very first meeting of a campaign group (even the word ‘minutes’ has you dropping off doesn’t it?)
- They decided that the current law was bad and that the committee’s main aim was to persuade other people of that fact, mostly by producing publications
- They decided who could be on the committee and that the Quorum would be 3 members i.e. the minimum number who had to be present for a meeting to count.
- They chose one of the group to be Treasurer but then said he couldn’t spend any money unless the whole committee said he could
- They agreed to announce what they had decided, then ask other people to join and send money.
Then they adjourned and went for a drink. In fact I could still take you to that very pub. It didn’t exactly feel like a dramatic start. But these were the minutes of the first meeting on 22nd May 1787 of what would become the London Abolition Committee whose aim was to make the slave trade illegal. You can sit in the British Library holding those minutes, reading the original record book. There is no getting away from the fact that the meetings sounded quite dull, but year by year, through the leadership of folks like William Wilberforce, Olaudah Equiano and Thomas Clarkson, the campaign gathered steam, until eventually on 1st May 1807 the law outlawing the slave trade took effect. I think we can agree that even though it took twenty years, it was worth showing up at that first meeting.
My hope and prayer is that this campaign will encourage you to ‘SHOW UP’ as they did. Please show the video in your church gatherings, and discover the resources on the website.
The SHOW UP campaign is calling Christians to be positively politically engaged in the run-up to the 2015 General Election and beyond. We believe that politics is for life, not just for elections! Rather than relaxing in our usual atmosphere of critique and commentary, we are suggesting that Christians could be participants in the political process. In the next five years, instead of just sending emails and postcards, you could become the people receiving them. Instead of just asking questions at hustings, you could be answering them. In 2015, your vote could just be the start of you making important decisions rather than the climax. The campaign has managed something remarkable in our day and age. Over 40 different church networks and agencies from across the theological and political spectrum have come together with a shared narrative to call Christians to “SHOW UP”.
The SHOW UP campaign arose from a conversation between Christians in Politics and the Evangelical Alliance. It is now a growing coalition including the following organizations; the Church of England, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, National Day of Prayer, Catholic Social Action Network, Christian Aid, TearFund, Spring Harvest, CARE, The Cinnamon Network, Premier Radio, Catholic Education Service, United Christian Broadcasters, Christian Aid, Bible Society, Conservative Christian Fellowship, Christians on the Left, Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, Christians in Parliament, Fusion, FaithAction, The Salvation Army, Centre for Theology and Community, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, Release International, Kirby Laing Institute For Christian Ethics, JustLove, Jubilee Centre, Jubilee+, and the Joint Public Issues Team.