Tuesday, May 09, 2006

helping others experience the kingdom of god

i have had a lot of thoughts about evangelism in the light of the reality that jesus never tells people to come forward and say a prayer to be a part of his family. he usually is hanging out with people and tells them stories about what the kingdom of god is like and than challenges people to make thier life about these things.

he focuses on the people that we seem like the hardest to reach, but somehow he sees them as the most open to his message and many times he proves just how open they are to his message. these people radically change thier lives to help others experience the kingdom of god. these thoughts were really intrigued as i read the last chapter of brian mcclaren's book, the secret message of jesus. here is a great quote to continue us thinking on this...

"if you're jesus, you take whatever space you are given and let god's kingdom be made visible and real there. it might be a beach near a lake or a field near a hillside. it might be a home in a village. it might be on a boat, or along a road, or next to a well, or even in a temple or a synagogue. you do what you can to make that space inclusive for all who want to experience the kingdom. you make that space an open border crossing so to speak. and if critics see you as a transgressor and criticize you for opening the doors and expanding the boundaries, you go on your purpose, making it clear that the kingdom of god is open to all, except those who want to ruin it by dividing it against itself. but even they, if they have a change of heart, will be welcomed in."

the questions i have been asking myslef...

how am i making the kingdom real and visible in the space he has placed me?

how am i showing others that the kingdom of god desires them to enter?

what story would jesus share with someone in socal to invite them into the kingdom of god?



steve w said...

Good post. Great quote!

It is interesting all the things Jesus never did that church people do today, and all the things Jesus did that church people today never do.

Intersecting with your line of thinking (I think), Jesus was always shocking people. It seems like while he walked the earth in human flesh he was always unpredictable. Shouldn't he still be shocking ... and shouldn't we?

Did the "sinners" expect such radical acceptance and love and grace? Did the self-righteous religious people always expect to get embarrassed and blasted? Didn't the "sinners" expect the acceptance/love/grace to have a limit at some point? Didn't the self-righteous people expect to get commended at some point?

Is the answer to your questions just to follow Jesus? (I'm not answering with a question, I'm only asking a question, or thinking out loud.) That's what he called us to do ... not carry all the baggage religion has packed for us, but just follow him ... live as he lived with that radical, shocking acceptance, love, and grace.

Perhaps tell the rule keepers their rules are not God's rules. Tell everyone that all sin is destructive. And get radically serious about the logs in our own eyes instead of the specks in other people's eyes.

Somehow I think it's not about programs and "ministries." It's about living the life.

Good stuff, John.

J-Lou said...

thanks for the comments. it is ALL about living the life, but man i am confronted with so many walls because of people's bad perception of religion and ecspecially christianity. i think it is because we have spent a lot of time trying to get people to believe like us and not act like us... but maybe until we change the way we act we wouldn't want them to act us anyways.

we had a good discussion at the gathering on sunday evening in regards to the kingdom of god and what god desired for this world to look like in relation to himself and how we relate to other people.

i made a comment on sunday that i think we do not take the time to really try to understand what the kingdom of god looks like in our day and age. jesus was constantly trying to challenge the people he was around to live a lifestyle of god's kingdom. whether it was turning the other cheek, carry a soldiers jacket, giving water to a samaritan or many other illustrations. i think as we live the life, as you said steve that is "shocking" and gets people attention we need to better implement these kingdom values into our everyday lives.

instead of asking how i can stop sinning today, we need to ask how can i make god's kingdom visible and real in my life and community so that people will be intrigued to what in. my mind is going a mile a minute... but hey appreciate your comment and your life steve, as you made the kingdom of god visible and real for me in so many ways over the last 13 months.

J-Lou said...

actually over the last 9 years... but i think you know what i mean

pableezy said...

theres a difference between approaches though with the believers and non-believers i think.

for the believer, we need a kick in the butt every once in a while. jesus called people out heavy on occasion Himself. we can't just sit around and watch people drink milk when they should be eating meat (slight manipulation of the analogy acknowledged - the principle is the same). we should be heading towards the steak. and that doesn't only look like "you should love/serve your neighbor". it also looks like "quit banging your girlfriend!!". the Church is in a very relaxed state following the coffee house era of church. we've forgotten to call people to holiness (with a small h!!).

the non-believer has not submitted to the authority of the scripture, and we should not expect them to live as the scripture teaches. but they should also know that following jesus means "helping the poor" AND "not banging your girlfriend".

if we neglect one or the other, our christianity is unbalanced.

my point on sunday was that if we focus on getting right and not sinning or whatever you want to call it (i call it allowing the Spirit to change us), then reaching out and serving people, feeding the poor, etc will happen instinctively. it will happen because it is who god made us to be. otherwise, it is a choice we make (read: work).

there are lots of philanthropists in this world that live great lives of service and selflessness. what makes us different is the source of that transformation, and to whom the glory is due.

steve w said...

Do I have to make the kingdom real and visible, or does God do that?

Here are some complementary blogs that are swirling in my head as I read this discussion. They're all worth the read.

Jim Street talks about building churches using the Church In A Box method. He talks about studying "successful" churches, and using all the right human techniques -- like a business would -- to build churches. He says, "As long as you had the data and the technique you could do it...McDonaldize the church ... So I held up these images: the McDonaldized church or the Army of Israel raised up from dry bones in a desert...a church that in the final analysis is as much about our own technical capabilities or a church that can only be understood with reference to the faithfulness, power and grace of God."

We must do something. But we don't want a humanly built church. What do we do to cause the dry bones to live? (Nothing, right?) Are we guilty of practicing "McDonaldization" because of our love affair with visible results? The kingdom is bigger than the church. But the church should be an expression of the kingdom -- or an accurate representation of the kingdom.

John, I’m not saying you are suggesting "McDonaldization." I'm just struggling with the tension between what is our responsibility and what is God's responsibility?

Jim Martin says in If Jesus Had A Church #3, "The real power in today's church is in men and women who wake up each day intending to live as Christ-followers. As we follow Jesus, the Spirit of God, who lives in every Christian, pours the life of Jesus into us. That life is real and visible in the way we love God and love people."

Jim Martin also says in If Jesus Had A Church #2, "If Jesus had a church, he would want his people to stay focused on what he is doing in real, everyday people. To miss what he is doing in our lives is to become focused on something other than Jesus."

Do we make the kingdom of God real and visible primarily by becoming living billboards of the kingdom life? I don't want to minimize the power of or importance of stories. But what if Jesus had only told his awesome kingdom stories?

steve w said...

John, you say "...i am confronted with so many walls because of people's bad perception of religion and ecspecially christianity. i think it is because we have spent a lot of time trying to get people to believe like us and not act like us... but maybe until we change the way we act we wouldn't want them to act us anyways."

True that! How many Christians do we know that we would hold up as the model Christian? "Just live like him or her, and you'll be living the life Jesus wants you to live."

pableezy said...

that's one of my favorite things about Paul. check out 1 cor 11:1 and tell me he didn't have some serious guts to say something like that. we need more leaders that can.

T-Dub said...

Pablo, you mentioned that there are times we need to take a little more action when loving our neighbor. James 2 is a great chapter for this blog. Not only does he talk about loving our neighbor, but he argues for living out your faith. It seems this is exactly what everyone is saying they desire. This is just another passage telling us to make the kingdom visible.

I’m sure you know it, but I want to make sure that when “kicking them in the butt” we incorporate Ephesians 4:15 while at the same time keeping Proverbs 27:17 in mind.

In response to the question "Do I have to make the kingdom real and visible, or does God do that?"
Since there is nothing that we can do on our own accord, we must give God all the glory for anything that is accomplished, but we still have a responsibility to make His kingdom visible. Paul tells us of that responsibility in Eph 3:8-10
"To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."

How do you think Romans 2 impacts the approach one would take depending on the people around them?

It is a constant struggle to make the kingdom visible, but I think that God is constantly working in us to bring about his purpose. It is hard to know the fine line between what we are called to do and where we must let God do His thing. All I know is that I want to be obedient to His commands. God doesn't need me, but I want to make use of the opportunities that He gives me. I hate it when God provides chances to be shown through me, but I don't fulfill my end of the bargain. Once again, don't think that I'm saying God depends on my actions, but our actions do make a difference.

John, keep striving to make the kingdom visible. Maintain that servant's heart and you will see His work in your life (and so will the people around you).

T-Dub said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pableezy said...

big timmy - you are right about your sentiments regarding ephesians and proverbs. i believe that truth in love and for the expressed purpose of helping someone is the only way to go.

what does that look like though? is it always gentle?

what are your thoughts on galatians 2 where paul gives it to peter in public?

i remember a time when i was in high school where my brother stopped the car we were driving in in the middle of the street to rebuke me...harshly i might add. but at that time and place, it was the right thing to do and the only thing that would have gotten through to me.

i believe that there is a time and a place to bring the heat...but only when it is necessary. i can only say, admittedly vaguely, that instances exist where a gentle rebuke is not the way to go.

however, my words were more of a reminder that we have a responsibility to rebuke a brother or sister. biblical christianity is not standoff-ish. it is confrontational and direct. when is the last time you confronted someone on a particular sinful pattern in their life? i mean that more rhetorical by the way, it doesn't warrant a response. straight up rebuke is hard for me, yet i understand it as a necessity and a biblical mandate.

that's what i meant by christianity looking both like "love your neighbor" AND "quit banging your girlfriend". we emphasize the former and neglect the latter too often.

modern christianity does not confront enough.

pableezy said...

i forgot to add, that this idea is ONLY for the believer that has submitted themselves to god's authority. i would never rebuke a non-believer. i might give them advice that is biblical in hopes to help them in their lives, but i wouldn't see it as a rebuke as with a brother/sister.