How Kingdom-Driven Life and Mission is Expressed in the Church
Matthew 11:12 mentions the intentional parameters of gospel ministry in a kingdom context: “the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing.” The progressive movement of the sovereign, spiritual lordship of Christ should be the passionate concern and motivation of any obedient Christian and kingdom-minded church; however, careful discernment is needed to see where God’s kingdom activity is advancing.
Jesus defined kingdom-movement as the activity of his heavenly Father: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working…I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does” (John 5:17, 19). A kingdom-minded Christian and the Kingdom-Driven Church is occupied continuously with addressing the central question: “Where is God working today?” Discerning the kingdom-movement of God requires prayerful insight, spiritual attunement, eternal perspective and a grounded biblical perception. That is why congregational ministries of worship, biblical preaching, instruction and exposition, prayer, support, care, nurture and leadership development provide necessary and essential foundations that can equip believers and their leaders in the church to discern spiritually and intuitively the movement of God in the advancement of his kingdom and cause.
Addressing and answering this question concerning God’s movement and activity not only requires spiritual discernment and biblical grounding, but also it requires strategic positioning to see tangibly and spiritually where God’s Spirit is moving. Obviously one strategic place to view divine activity is where you spend the vast amount of time—your own profession and neighborhood.
Perhaps as much as 90% of a person’s waking hours are spent either in the world of one’s own work/volunteer activity in one’s own home and neighborhood. Kingdom-driven churches possess kingdom-minded Christians who watch for God’s activity in their own chosen professions and neighborhoods. And when they see evidences of God’s activity, they attempt to get on board with it as the Spirit of God leads them.
For instance, kingdom-driven Christians who serve in the public or private sphere of education should look for ways weekly that they see God working in their realm. Those who work daily in medicine, science or medical technology should always watch with a discerning eye to see where God the Father is working to advance awareness of his name.
Believers who live and work in the world of the media, government, business, economics, arts, sports and leisure should also watch with a discerning spiritual eye to see where God’s activity is noticeably present. And when believers in these and other affinities see the kingdom movement of God the Father present, they align their movement and the resources of the church to cooperate with God’s leadership in each respective sphere and affinity.
Is God the Father working in the medical technology sector of your town? Most likely he is; the challenge (opportunity!) is to see spiritually where he is working. Is God at work in education? Without question, he is! From this realization, the question then becomes: “where is he working and do I see it?” Is he active in your local business community, arts council and community sports programs (baseball, basketball, etc.)? In many communities, God is moving. With this in mind, the question then becomes: “do I and other believers spiritually recognize that movement?”
And if divine activity is seen, a second question naturally follows: “how can I, my church and others in the Body of Christ get on board with God’s movement?” Seeing God’s activity first allows believers and churches the inside-track in carrying the sovereign spiritual banner of Christ’s lordship and his gospel to places where there may be little penetration in previous times.
With this kind of kingdom-driven mindset in sight, the church’s role becomes clear in a society that is becoming increasingly more hostile to the gospel. The church must equip and invest in her people who work and live on the front lines of their profession and family life to see where God is working, then move in that direction of divine activity.
Congregational movement toward kingdom activity means responding to the reports of members on the “front lines” by providing whatever resources (human, prayer, financial, etc.) church leadership deems necessary to cooperate with God’s activity. Thus, in kingdom-driven operations, the church must invest heavily in her people in all the different public spheres and professions that they occupy. How many public spheres are represented in your church? More than you probably realize!
Investment in believers on the front lines of God’s activity also means discovering ways to draw and to invite those who are influenced by God’s activity to come into the church for worship, instruction, discipleship and nurture. It stands to reason that those touched by believers on the front lines of kingdom activity can be relationally brought back to the church for worshipful celebration and spiritual growth. Thus, the church’s role in kingdom activity necessitates investment in kingdom-minded believers who watch and align themselves with God’s activity so that those reached by the Body of Christ’s involvement with divine activity are invited back into the church. This is the “Jerusalem” quadrant—ground zero—of the kingdom-driven church’s call to take the message of the gospel in the Great Commission and the call to redeem society as salt and light in the Cultural Mandate.
Obviously ground zero should be the Kingdom-Driven Church’s most vibrant quadrant of activity, as it should involve the greatest number of people working and watching God’s activity in their own community. Yet it must not stop there.
In order to advance the Kingdom of God in any community, churches with likeminded passion and interest must work together in every way possible to see the sovereign spiritual lordship of Christ exalted. This can happen in any number of ways with creative thought, perceptive insight and little, if any, loss in doctrinal distinctiveness. This joining together of local churches to advance the Kingdom of God in tangible ways (Great Commission, Cultural Mandate) not only showcases unity to the watching world, but also it represents quadrant I on the Evangelism Contextual Scale (see chart).
Sometimes in certain sectors of any community, there is little known gospel light, church presence or visible sign that God is actively working; however, God may be at work in ways not clearly seen or in a manner that cannot be clearly ascertained. Sometimes all it takes is for one or two kingdom-minded believers to walk into that sector (quadrant II) to see and to discern if God the Father is working there. If they discern divine activity in tangible ways, they can alert their church of God’s movement and strategize with church leaders how to cooperate with God’s noticeable movements by marshalling resources to further God’s name and cause in that sector.
Quadrants 0-II represent the Kingdom-Driven Church’s call to obey the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate in the “Jerusalem” sector of their respective community. The same process is repeated in the “Judea and Samaria” sectors (regional) in quadrants III-V. The “uttermost parts of the earth” sectors in quadrants VI-VIII complete the Kingdom-Driven Church’s call to cooperate with God’s sovereign spiritual advancement in the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate to the world.
Seeing your community, region and world from a kingdom of God-advancing viewpoint can empower Christians and churches to strategize and to organize their evangelism and salt-and-light presence ministries to cooperate with the movement of God’s activity in clearly defined ways. It can also enable a kingdom-empowered church to evaluate the coverage of their Great Commission and Cultural Mandate ministries to see if there is balance and/or noticeable movement by God in one or more quadrants. It can serve as a helpful tool for discerning and implementing kingdom-advancing strategies, provided that there is noticeable and ascertainable movement by God first in a respective quadrant.
The time has come to adopt this new paradigm and to flesh out a new praxis operative pattern based on the scriptural principles of the Kingdom of God:
What an amazing picture of the church is presented to us through this apostolic symbol of the people of God: the recreation of human community around Christ into a community of love! In Adam all men had died; in our sinful history, in other words, the created differences between men, differences of sex, race, culture, and nationality have become, not a source of richness within a common human community, but the source of mistrust, exploitation, conflict, hatred, and tragedy…But now in Christ a new age has arrived. The old humanity of sin is to be cast off, and men have in Christ become new creatures who are to serve rather than to oppress one another, and love rather than hate. In the church these amazing powers of the Kingdom are, moreover, manifested.
The reason why the North American church is in influential decline to its culture is because of her internal differences and disagreements over the way she should interface and engage with society instead of reexamining the Scripture’s presentation of the Kingdom of God and seeing this as a working, flexible, adaptable and applicable praxis model for life and mission. This study presents one way that the theme of the Kingdom of God can serve as a driving, flexible and discernible paradigm to see the advancement of the cause of God’s sovereign spiritual reign both at home and abroad.