I think that Christians can fall into two ruts in their understanding of the kingdom of God. First, it can become easy to take God’s kingdom goodness for granted and forget the integral part we play in it. Second, I think we only understand bits and pieces of what it means to be part of God’s kingdom plan. In both situations we will find ourselves less intentional or even aware of kingdom work. It seems that in many Christian circles our part in the kingdom of God boils down to “saving souls” and our acts of service are only for the sake of that purpose.
But the Kingdom of God is more than just saving souls. It’s about being Christ’s presence to a hurting and lost world. The Spirit will draw those whom he calls to himself. It’s our responsibility to show them Jesus, his grace, forgiveness and truth through our life and practice, and of course our words. So do we serve then for the soul purpose of “saving souls” so that people become projects, or do we serve out of compassion in order to meet the needs of those God shows and brings to us? I prefer the latter, which I believe to be most biblical. It has been my experience that it is also the most effective in reaching people for Christ.
Mission is birthed out of our world view, in particular our understanding of the Kingdom of God. Our youth and young adults know this full well when they challenge the church to put legs under what they believe. David Fitch in his book, The Great Giveaway, is desperately concerned that the church has forfeited its mission by giving their responsibility away to parachurch organizations, doing mission and justice away from the church body so as not to bring them into the church family, and feeling good about themselves for being so service-minded. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to fix people’s front porches and help the widow in town find a way to the store or get her house painted. These things are part of our missional calling as a body.
But if we see God’s justice as inseparable from his kingdom, then we may be a little more inclined toward living mission instead of just doing mission. Mission is in our backyard when people in the congregation need help with medical bills, or support while they go through some difficult legal situation, or an elderly couple needs to get out once in awhile and we have a car, and the list goes on. Like Shane Claiborne challenges in his book, The Irresistible Revolution, Christians should be willing to invest in their community by being an integral part of it and not shying away from the difficulties of human suffering.
In many parts of the USA where ethnic groups began to “take over” predominantly white communities in the late 60’s and 70’s, there was a mass exodus of whites known as “white flight”. Since many of these white folks were mostly middle class and the ethnic groups coming in were much more poor, the communities changed and became much more impoverished much to the chagrin of those who left. But now the white folks are coming back to do mission work in the poor communities, but never living there. Is it any wonder then that impoverished communities expect handouts? This kind of mission enables such a response. And I dare say it is not mission born of the kingdom of God mindset. It is more of a, “I’ll help them as long as I don’t have to have them in my church” kind of mentality. It makes us feel better that we’re helping them. But what if God wanted us to live there too so that we could be part of the restoration of his kingdom? We have a greater impact and voice toward restoration and justice if we are one of the community.
And so being new to Niagara Falls, ON I am hoping and praying that we build this solidly in the DNA of our new church plant that is part and parcel of its community — active in social justice and community transformation by coming alongside those in need and not so much giving handouts. I’m praying that God by, his Spirit will wake us up to being on mission however that may best serve his kingdom.
’til next time.