Wednesday, July 10, 2013

ADVANCING GOD'S KINGDOM, OR BUILDING MY CHURCH?


....and you can't do both! 


“Our goal is to build a great church!” This is a common statement from church leaders. But should it be our No 1 priority? Bessie Pereira, Founder and former Director of OIKOS Australia says, “Jesus said he would build his church as we advance his kingdom.” Then, Bessie goes on to highlight...
“One of the amazing (tragedies)...that has characterised the modern church is that we have adopted God’s role and expected him to do ours. We have attempted to build his church, hoping that he would advance his kingdom. The result: we build our own little empires and take our eyes off the kingdom mandate.” (Bessie was critiquing Craig Kirkby’s book, “Living at the Edge of Time.” see, www.yourkingdomcomeyes.com Craig also lists in his life-values. (It’s) "the Gospel of the Kingdom ... not the gospel of the church.”

If the above is true, how could we have  got it so wrong? And what can we do about it? Well let’s let the Bible be our guide. We know that Jesus is the One who declares that he will build his church. Also, and in almost the same breath he tells us that he gives his church “the keys of the kingdom” Matt. 16:18, 19. So, how did the early church interpret these promises and principles?
 
In Acts 2 we have an example of the outworking of these important principles. Here Peter is advancing the kingdom with the ‘keys of the kingdom’ thereby opening the kingdom door for "both Jews and converts to Judaism." v.10. Then in the same chapter, we see Jesus building his church. “Those who believed what Peter said were added to the church...each day the Lord added to the church those who were being saved.” v. 41, 47. In Acts 8 Philip uses the ‘keys of the kingdom’ to open the door to the Samaritans and in Acts 10 Peter does the same for the Gentiles. Later Paul, on his missionary journeys opens the door to the wider Gentile nations.
 
But what sort of church is Jesus building? Again quoting Craig Kirkby, my friend, colleague and someone who says he is ‘neck deep’ in this important conversation writes...
 
“Here are a list of values we're wrestling through. By no means a complete list and I trust that my brief statements followed by a contrast are self-explanatory.

  • The Gospel of the Kingdom ... not the gospel of the church.
  • Hebrew thinking ... not Greek mentality.
  • Missional, releasing perspective ... not pastoral, attractional vision.
  • The power of small (and being willing to die) ... not big is better.
  • Reasoning from the whole to the part ... not individualism and sectarianism.
  • Brotherhood of all believers and parental leadership ... not hierarchical structures or autocratic leadership.
  • Team-with-a-leader ... not Leader-with-a-team.
  • Relationship to structure ... not structure to relationship.
  • Developing a long-term passing-the-baton mentality (fruit) ... not a short-term, quick-fix approach (results).
  • Valuing faith, hope and love ... not A,B,C's (Attendance, Buildings, Cash Flow).
I've used the following definition for 'simple church' for a decade now, and find it still useful:

By ‘simple or organic church’ we’re referring to a values-based perspective, where we view the ecclesia as relational, organic, missional and fluid rather than hierarchical, institutional, attractional and rigid; a Kingdom family, not a religious organisation or business enterprise.”
 
The final word from our Lord Jesus. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come...” Matt. 24:14.
And, “...live for Him and make the kingdom of God your first priority.” Matt. 6:33.
 
Yours for the King and his kingdom 
Jack


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