What a Kingdom-Minded Church Looks Like
Any significant reflection on the “Kingdom of God/Heaven” will reveal that there is an internal/external dynamic repeatedly showcased in the Scriptures. First and foremost, Jesus said to the Pharisees and to the disciples that God’s kingdom was a sovereign, spiritual dominion that lived within his people. Jesus said in Luke 17:21: “The Kingdom of God is within you.” Therefore, the only way a person could enter into this realm of the Spirit was through supernatural birth or conversion (John 3:3, 5) by the call of God (1 Thessalonians 2:12, Matthew 22:14). This entire internal process was marked by power (1 Corinthians 4:20)—the kind of inner transforming work that would produce fruit and noticeable spiritual qualities in the lives of everyone who truly received it (Matthew 21:43).
If a church was faithful and strategic in attempting to impact a community for Christ with these kingdom values, what kind of inward transforming qualities would people see? The list is impressive and thought-provoking. You can tell if God is advancing his spiritual kingdom in people’s lives when you see, hear and feel noticeable evidences of the following in growing measures. In fact, these measures will be seen in the people who are advancing the gospel:
- Repentance (Matthew 3:2, 4:17). There is no substitute for godly sorrow over sin, brokenness and human frailty.
- Spiritual poverty (Matthew 5:3). Jesus said you’re “blessed” if you were poor in spirit.
- Righteousness (Matthew 5:10). Notice in this text that the inward dynamic is accompanied from an outward result—persecution.
- Spiritual understanding—a growing awareness of the values and laws of God’s Word and the movements of God’s Spirit (Matthew 13:11). As this awareness grows within you, it becomes more valuable than the greatest treasure or jewels (Matthew 13:44-45).
- Childlike humility (Matthew 18:3, 19:14)—seen in servant attitudes such as obedience of God’s will (Matthew 7:21), preparedness and prayerful watching (Matthew 25:1, 13), love for God with emotions, mind and will (Mark 12:29-34) and the willingness to forgive others who have wronged you so that your account with them before God can be settled (Matthew 18:23-35).
- Attitudes of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
Each of these qualities and others are like fruit that forms and grows on a healthy tree (Matthew 21:43). They will be seen, heard and felt by others much like leaven that penetrates a whole lump of dough (Matthew 13:3). This type of infectious takeover reveals to us that the power and missional intent of the Kingdom of God was not meant solely as a personal experience or a private “trip on religion.” God’s truths, values and laws were designed to be carried by his transformed people to the whole world under the leadership and power of his Holy Spirit. In other words, kingdom power takes kingdom values and transforms everyday people into kingdom citizens who take the message of this kingdom to the rest of the world. And as this gospel is proclaimed, God’s power goes with it (Matthew 4:23). To say it another way, personal transformation will produce corporate transfiguration. There will be noticeable changes in culture when God’s people take his transforming message and accompanying power to a broken and helpless society in love.
What type of external evidences and spiritual qualities will be seen when the power of the kingdom invade a culture? What noticeable results will accompany those who obey God’s will and advance his cause? What will kingdom power look like when God’s people take the gospel to the culture?
- Spiritual dominion and authority will be established, heard and felt in greater order, righteousness, peace, love and joy to all the institutions designed by God to govern and direct the affairs of humanity. Institutions such as marriage, the family, the church, government, the Lord’s Day and labor were originally crafted by God to bring peace, order and meaningful structure to culture; however, sin and the effects of the Fall brought disruption, brokenness and decay to each institution. The life-transforming message of the Kingdom of God brings powerful reformation, new birth and valuable restructuring to each of these establishments and fills them with the essence of God’s character—his righteousness, peace, love, joy, justice, wisdom, goodness, grace and truth (Romans 14:17, Psalm 45:6, Matthew 20:1-16, Mark 12:29-34).
How do you change a culture? One person at a time, one married couple at a time, one family at a time, one church at a time, one neighborhood at a time, one city at a time and beyond with the gospel!
- All kinds of spiritual battles and evil strongholds will be confronted and attacked on the front lines of operation. In Jesus’ day, spiritual power was released to battle the forces of physical sickness and demon-possession (Matthew 9:35, 12:28, Luke 9:2, 10:9, 11:8). As humanity draws closer to the end, Christ taught his followers that spiritual battles in the political, geological, atmospheric and astronomic dimensions of time and space would signify the nearness of God’s kingdom (Luke 21:10-31). In these spiritual confrontations, power will be unleashed in both directions—from God’s army moving the lines and reclaiming the devil’s territory and from the forces of darkness that are bent on retaliation and disarmament.
Oftentimes the forces of evil choose to attack believers with persecution, hardships and suffering (Acts 14:22, 2 Thessalonians 1:5); however children of God need to see this as a sign of God’s favor and worthiness in his kingdom (Acts 5:41, Philippians 1:27-30, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7). By putting on the full armor of the Lord and resting in the strength and power of the Lord, believers will win the battle (Ephesians 6:10-18). And for standing with and for Christ in the conflict, our great king will confer on them a kingdom where they will reign (Luke 22:28-30, 2 Timothy 2:11-12).
- Progress, growth and development of the Kingdom of God will be unnatural, unexpected and out-of-the-ordinary. The parable of the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) backs this claim. Too often the interpretation of this parable has been misapplied and misrepresented. Ask any botanist about the mustard plant and s/he will tell you that it’s an herb, not a tree. If it grows to become a giant tree as Jesus presented it, it becomes greater than its true species and abnormal. Most likely it developed in different ways and some of those ways were not classic “textbook” ways.
To some degree, Jesus told this parable to remind his disciples that the development of his kingdom cannot be explained by natural laws and means. You can’t predict how and where the Spirit of God will work, where you’ll see activity in the kingdom, nor can you manipulate the Lord into making it grow the way you want it to grow. God has his own agenda for his kingdom. Our responsibility is to watch him work and then join him in the process. And his leadership and power will produce results that are abnormal, extraordinary and at times unexplainable by human logic. This is in keeping with his sovereign operations. The famous hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way” reminds us that he is building and shaping his kingdom the way he wants it.
Now that we see the internal/external dynamic of the kingdom of God in Scripture, it’s clear how the proclamation and teaching of the gospel becomes prominent in any kingdom-minded church. In every aspect of its life—worship, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship and shepherding, the gospel is the centerpiece of God’s kingdom, for it reveals “a righteousness from God that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written “the righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17).