On the edge: No King but God
Voices and lessons from the margins need to be heard by all of us, for they shape our mission and discipleship, and are actually at the heart of faith. By Michael Manning
No King but God is a new book exploring faith and life from the context of the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man is a strange place in which to seek the kingdom (indeed, which places are not strange?). Its reputation as an offshore financial centre belies the fact that it suffers many of the same inequalities and social problems as much of the UK. Its very size and the fact that it has its own government, different in scope from the UK, makes it a place of challenge and possibility.
I have spent the past decade building relationships with those on the margins of Manx society through my involvement with a local charity, Graih. Graih serves those who are homeless and as such touches the lives of those on the edge. The work grew out of Broadway Baptist Church, a congregation in Douglas that continues to support the work of Graih.
Those on the margins change us and challenge us. The relationships I enjoy with people who are homeless, who suffer from mental ill health, who are excluded and whose voices are often unheard, have radically shaped my life and faith. It was from these reflections that the inspiration for the book grew, along with the growing realisation that lessons from the margins need to be heard by all of us. Each chapter begins and closes with stories from Graih, windows that we can use to look at mission and discipleship. These stories then interact with scripture and I hope offer an encouragement to the lives of our churches.
No King but God uses that first-century cry, the desire to see God as King in all areas of life, to examine five contemporary idols: faith, freedom, the state, wealth, and the individual. The church is often seen as dealing with 'spiritual' matters unrelated to behaviour, to jobs, to homes, to levels of wealth and rhythms of life, to politics or economics or the common good. The fact that Christianity brings good news on all of these levels and more is rarely grasped and even more rarely glimpsed.
It has been this challenge to my faith, the inadequacy of the 'answers' that I grew up with to meet the growing demands of broken people and a broken world, that has been one of the greatest blessings of being in relationship with those on the margins.
The poor provide with us with a theological crucible that tests the comfy assumptions we too easily fall into when we gather to worship with people who look and think like us. Throughout scripture we see the importance of the poor to every facet of faith, and how close the plight of the poor is to God's heart and God's kingdom. To follow Jesus entails following him to where he spent his time: on the liminal edges of society, with those forgotten and despised by others, with those who were close to the kingdom of God. The poor, and the justice that should be theirs in a creation of abundance warped by individual and structural greed, are at the heart of our faith.
Poverty and need often seem overwhelming. Yet there is hope, and I have tried to infuse the hope of the kingdom throughout the book. Jesus is the King who brings both justice and hope, allowing us to rebuild our lives in the midst of the brokenness, offering peace and healing and liberation to all who are bowed down.
No King but God is an offering to the church from a marginal place, formed through relationships with marginal people. My hope is that it encourages us to see ever more clearly how Jesus is and can be our King.
“Beautifully written, potently challenging, full of passion, unrelentingly practical, No King But God is a timely call to God’s people to live a truly distinctive life.
The integrity of Michael’s life matches the prophetic challenge of his words. If ten people live out the challenge of this book, the world will be a better place. If ten thousand are shaped by its message, we will have a revolution of love on our hands.”
—Bill Leishman, Minister, Broadway Baptist Church, Isle of Man
“Michael Manning’s book issues a clarion call to repentance and renewal to Christians who are so embedded within Western materialist culture they fail to recognize their distance from the way of Jesus Christ.
Clearly written, passionately argued, and powerfully illustrated, this tract for the times is a sign of a growing movement within the margins of a globalized world which offers hope for the healing of the nations and renewal of the earth.”
—David Smith, Honorary Lecturer, University of Aberdeen
'No King but God' is available to order from local bookshops and from online retailers such as www.hive.co.uk.
Michael Manning is a co-ordinator of Graih (www.graih.org.im), a charity serving those who are homeless and in insecure accommodation on the Isle of Man. He lives with his family in a shared household and belongs to Broadway Baptist Church in Douglas