03 Aug, 2020 Kingdom minded – more radical than many think
Kingdom minded – more radical than many think
While many people and churches talk about being ‘Kingdom minded’, I’ve been wondering if we might have had this one back-to-front. Often when people say ‘Kingdom’ they mean ‘doing things that benefit people beyond their own congregation or organisation’. It’s a way of saying ‘we are thinking beyond ourselves’. This is good – but I wonder if Kingdom thinking is about more.
I suggest, in contrast, that Kingdom thinking is about a commitment to the bigger picture that is such that we’d sacrifice even our own things for it! So it’s not just about generosity. It’s about self-sacrifice – and this is hugely significant in its implications!
A statement to consider
“Self-protectionism and ambition in a congregation, movement or ministry are the antithesis of being Kingdom minded.”
If this statement is true, what might a move away from ‘self-protectionism’ look like and mean for our churches and organisations? Also, why might being Kingdom minded in this way be important?
Here are three ways in which Kingdom thinking is different to our more-basic generosity.
- An error in our teaching: ‘church vs Church’
In our Bible Colleges we’ve talked about church leadership for many years with little more than local congregations in view. In contrast I suggest various Scriptures were actually on the topic of Church leadership – with a capitol ‘C’, referring to the Church as a whole within a city). The contrast here ‘church’ with a small ‘c’, which is a reference to a single local congregation within a place.
The result of our training is that we’re thinking and giving allegiance to the visions of various individual congregation – rather than honing our thinking about what it might look like were our vision to grow the Church as whole. It’s the differences in thinking and action that are the point.
- An error in our vision: Independent vs united
As a result of the way we’ve trained ourselves to think, few have energy, time or thought for the wider work of the Church as a whole within our cities or nation. We are more focused on our individual function than our accountability to the bigger picture, of which we are all a necessary subset. This is a real problem. There is a resulting lack of vision, innovation and resourcing for the work of the wide Church. Key opportunities that exist with Government, councils, Iwi, schools, community needs and more to unattended. Our presence and voice within society at large is scarily quiet – while we ironically still have many healthy individual congregations.
God’s people in our nation seem united in a recognition that we need to engage more clearly in the public square. Where this thought might lead is highly relevant.
- An resulting error in what we are committed to serve and protect: Mine vs ours
There is a saying, ‘The local church is the hope of the world’. To make the point, what I’m saying is that this isn’t strictly true. The Church (with a capitol ‘C’) is the hope of the world – and there is a big difference between these two!
If we do not see the health and work of the Church in the city (or nation) as our responsibility, we won’t take responsibility to ensure that this work gets done!
Consider: If we combine our values as Christians related to being ‘servant hearted’, ‘unity oriented’ and ‘mission focused’, we have ‘Kingdom minded’! We’re suffering the ‘hangover’ of the Protestant reformation – and with the cultural changes of the past few decades in view, it is costing us. We are no longer in the majority. We need to become an effectively activated minority! (This is the subtitle of my book, In One Spirit, which is about Church unity in NZ. Find out more here)
KEY POINT >>> The principle of ‘net gain’
Imagine if a group of Christian believers were to close the doors of their local church and to all join another local church. There would no net gain or loss in the Church, correct? This raises the question, What vision do we serve?
However, for a contrast – imagine those members then gave their time to initiate new outreach ministries in their new church. Previously their time was given to the work of maintaining the smaller congregation’s independent identity including weekly sermons, worship leading, cups of tea, accounts, buildings, lawn mowing and more. We would have net gain – and this is the point!
Kingdom thinking is about our willingness to sacrifice the things that are ‘ours’ for the greater good of the Church and it’s work.
Kingdom thinking can generate a scale of results and efficiencies well beyond independent thinking alone – and with declining church attendance and staffing also in view – there need be no doubt from a strategic point of view that these efficiencies amongst us are now needed!
What’s the cost?
The cost is to the emotional attachment we have to the HERITAGE of our individual congregations and movements. I would simply encourage that, from God’s perspective, while the past work of a group may have been significant, the question today is how we best serve God today. We never sacrifice people – but there is nothing wrong with sacrificing an organisation (be that a local congregational identity, a denominational identity, or that of another Christian organisation).
To put it differently – the cost of our ‘independent’ thinking is incalculable! We spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually as the Church in Aotearoa, and give countless hours to service – and yet the public have a significantly negative view of us. We have a big PR problem, and limited ability to engage with the issues of our society. This is due to a lack of resourcing, vision and synergy – not because we couldn’t be doing better!
Two challenging illustrations
A friend of mine wrote this. “What do you call a single cell in the human body when it decides to take on a life of its own and to grow, rather than to fulfil its purpose in the wider body? It’s called a cancer! If unchecked, it ultimately causes the death of the body it inhabits, leading to its own death as well.” Might the extent of our independence and esteeming of our various ‘brands’ be a bit like this?
Or consider this question: What do you call something a Christian has an allegiance to that in some way supersedes their commitment to God, and willing service to him? Might that be idolatry?
Only a functionally united Church can engage with the challenges of our times
The Church in our nation is facing unprecedented challenges.
- 1970 to 2000: Decades of criticism of the Church through public media have ended.
- 2000 to the present: The new strategy is silence – because ‘out of sight means out of mind’.
Only a united Church can enable the kinds of efforts needed to face these kinds of challenges!
Two key questions
- What could churches to do together in their communities that they could not do apart?
This is a vital question, and in need of some sensible answers. But there is a second question.
- What could local churches to better together?
This is the most costly question. With the decreases in church attendance and staffing we’ve seen nationally, maintaining the levels of engagement we had 20 years ago isn’t possible. We need to synergise!
When we stand before our God one day, he won’t be asking how large we managed to grow our own congregation, movement or organisation. His interest will be in how we served his Church, and the mission he gave it. While these are similar and connected things – they are also different things! One is potentially self-serving, while the other is the calling of our Lord!
What vision do you serve?
What would happen if we began to look more often over the ‘carefully guarded walls’ of our local churches, denominations and ministries, to consider what actions might best serve the Kingdom of God as a whole?
It’s a challenge – and it’s one we need to embrace!
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12.