In my last blog entry, I wrote about the growing significance of the scattered church.
For centuries, the church could maintain a powerful influence on Western society simply by inviting people to come to church meetings. But now, many people are wary of organised religion and attach a stigma to church meetings. Faced with this challenge, it is becoming more and more important for Christians to think about what we do when were scattered all over the place throughout each week.
Many Christians are currently grappling with this question, and many are being drawn to Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God as the source of some answers:
In fact, since the early 20th century, theologians have increasingly recognised that Jesus core message was to do with the kingdom of God. There is ongoing debate about exactly what he meant, but the basic idea is clear. Jesus saw the start of his ministry as a divine Dunkirk D-Day landing, in which he began to wrest control from Gods enemy, Satan. Instead of fighting to reclaim land, he fought to reclaim people. In his death and resurrection, Jesus demonstrated authority over Satans deadliest weapon, death itself, making it only a matter of time before Satan himself would be totally defeated the cosmic equivalent of V-Day, when Berlin fell in 1945. This will happen at Jesus promised second coming, which will end the global spiritual war that has raged since the first human sin.
So, the kingdom of God is growing and eventually every knee will bow to king Jesus. It is global, and involves not only healing for the sick and forgiveness for the guilty, but an end to ethnic strife, proper care for the environment and the eradication of poverty. It is about heaven coming on earth.
To achieve this, God is undoubtedly at work beyond church meetings and beyond the Christian community. For example, he does not always involve Christians in efforts to feed the starving; and people in countries lacking a Christian witness sometimes have direct encounters with Jesus that lead them to Christian faith. There is a breadth to Gods activity that takes my breath away, and makes me really hesitant to predict how God will work!
However, the New Testament also teaches that there is a special relationship between the Christian community and the kingdom of God. Outside of a personal relationship with Christ by faith, no one has the righteousness nor the Holy Spirit that characterise the kingdom (Rom 14:17, Phil 3:4-9). Jesus said that the way into his kingdom is to be born-again (John 3:5). More than that, he involves Christian in exercising his royal authority, both now and in the age to come (Eph 1:19b-23, 1 Cor 6:2a, Rev 20:4-6). So, the church is thoroughly involved in the business of the kingdom!
In his own ministry, Jesus established and extended his kingdom on earth, as he displayed:
- Authority over guilt
- Authority over sickness
- Authority over evil spirits
- Authority to teach the truth
- Authority to confront error
- Authority over a range of overwhelming problems
When the church exercises Jesus authority in similar ways, then the kingdom of Christ is further extended. We can do this in our Christian meetings and we can invite people to come along and be part of the kingdom.
But, Im really interested in the fact that many people who are interested in Jesus are hesitant to go to church meetings, and therefore in the growing importance of what is done by the scattered church. The doctrine of the kingdom of God is hugely encouraging for us, because it means that Christians can exercise Christs authority not only in Christian meetings, but also in the world.
Later posts >>>