1. Running the Human Race or Running on the Rodent Wheel?
Maybe you have never heard this, but I have.
People say, “Is this all there is to the Kingdom – going to church, being good. If I have an opportunity, sharing my faith…” Of course, we know there are the ‘special ones’ - those that have ‘callings’ and ‘ministries,’ then there is the rest of us. We work, maybe at home, maybe in an office, factory, shop or store. We have families, t-ball, soccer, never enough time for everything and usually just barely enough money! We watch American Idol and gather with family for Thanksgiving.
Somehow we feel like we are walking on a treadmill, going nowhere fast. We’re frustrated at the way things are going. We all have ideas on how to ‘fix things’. But, interestingly – in this land of democracy, government of the people, by the people and for the people – we don’t feel we have a voice. Of course, maybe everything is really like a big factory. If we just do our bit, everything will get done, pretty much as well as it can. We hear stories about people who make a difference. We admire them. But we are not them. We hope something changes but we also have those creeping cynical thoughts…
2. The Whole Meal Deal
French fries are not the whole meal!
We really get it when it comes to fast food. The Whole Meal Deal has a burger, fries AND a drink. All for one low price, of course. However, we don’t expect that to be the way things are with our LIVES. We live fragmented lives. There is our family life. We see them a little in the evening and, if we are lucky, a lot on the weekend. Then there is the church ‘family’. Family is in quotes because we know that sitting in a pew looking at the bald head in front of us and shaking hands politely on the way out doesn’t make a family. But, hey? Maybe in this case, honesty IS NOT the best policy. <wink, wink>. Then there is work. Time for another hat! Business is, after all, business. Don’t mix business and family, business and friends, business and politics.
Yes! We understand the rules – keep our opinions on politics out of our church; if we want to keep our friends ONLY discuss the political views we all share. And, keep religion out of everything – it certainly has no place at work, no place in politics, no place in our schools. We know the place – if we are really committed, let’s pray a ceremonial prayer over a family dinner. Nice. Safe. Compartmentalized.
Everything has a place and everything in its place. That IS the American way.
We’re doing it. We are good at it.
But, why do we feel so disconnected?
3. Log Jam - In search of the key log
In the old days, men would cut logs from the forest. These would be floated in the river to the mill. It all went well until there was a log jam. Nothing moved until a skilled lumberjack came in and found the key log. When the key log was removed, like magic – the jam broke up and the logs moved down the stream properly.
Now, there may or there may not be a key log. People seem to suspect a key log. You can tell this when they say things like, “The problem with the church is such and such. …we’re not praying enough. …Christians today aren’t really committed to Christ. “ Etc.
Now, I see problems, the ones above, others, actually a never ending stream of problems and issues. I think I see the ‘key log’, too. And, yes, I will tell you what I think, why do you think I am writing this, anyway? Here it is: I don’t think we have a clear picture of what Jesus expected us to build. Many of us assume that Jesus planned for us to build churches; now some people are starting to say build the “kingdom” instead of “churches”.
What is the word we translate ‘church’? It is ecclesia. In my opinion, the ‘key log’ is this: We don’t know what an ecclesia is, what it supposed to do and how it is supposed to do it. We have a nice ‘religious’ system in Christianity, but do we have ecclesia? I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but that 501C-3 organization on the street corner, BY LAW, CANNOT be the ecclesia. A part, to be sure… but not the whole meal deal.
4. Building a Court House in the middle of a jungle village?
Imagine – two hundred years ago, we receive a letter from someone asking us for advice on how to set up government for their community. We jot down a note telling them to build a Court House where people can gather to hear and solve their local civic issues. Off the letter goes. What we didn’t think about is this – the letter was from a village in the heart of the jungle. It was written by a well meaning missionary. Would building a nice two story brick building actually put in place the local governance that they needed? I doubt it. Governance is more than just a building.
Now, run the clock backwards a couple thousand years. Jesus talked about the ecclesia, his ecclesia. The early believers ‘got it’ and right away they began building lovely chapels on street corners. Right? Well, not really…
5. Putting the world into a bottle
If you could, would it be a good idea?
Imagine, if you had the power… for fun… you put the earth in a bottle, a very, very large bottle. How would that work out? Let me guess… it would cause some problems. My guess, not just a few little things would go wrong; really big things would happen – big things, bad things. Well, at least that is probably not going to happen. It could ruin the natural order.
There is this thing that Jesus came to establish. His Kingdom. He is the King. He is putting things under his rule, his domain, his Kingdom. Of course, the Jews were wondering if he was going to establish a Kingdom like the Kings of old. The Jewish covenant people lived in a theocracy. A King, ruling under God, conquered lands and set up his rule over the land, the citizens and the foreigners. So, naturally the Jews wondered if Jesus was going to be the King, imposing his rule over the land, the citizens and the foreigners.
Well, Jesus did establish the Kingdom. And, he is the King. However, it is not a natural kingdom, a kingdom of this world, it is a spiritual Kingdom. You don’t enter his Kingdom because someone, at the point of the sword takes over the land and its inhabitants. This Kingdom has NO foreigners in it. Anyone who would try to insist that the non-believer live by Biblical principles is in for an immediate surprise.
“Do such and such”
“Because the Jesus is the King. He is in charge. This is what he wants. Haven’t you heard of ‘What Would Jesus Do? This is it.”
Laugh out loud. “What? Are you kidding? Hmmm… are you serious? You are? Are you crazy? Jesus is not MY king. I don’t live by what he says. I am my own boss. Got it?”
Citizenship is usually reserved for people born into it. The Kingdom is no different. We are born into the Kingdom when we recognize and pledge to the King. As with other kingdoms, split allegiance is frowned upon. Jesus is pretty picky regarding this. “My way or the highway” would be a good paraphrase of numerous things He voiced: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light. No man comes to the Father but by me.” So narrow. We can be part of the Kingdom. Or not.
If we are part, Jesus is in us and the Kingdom is within us; the others are outsiders, outside of the ecclesia.
Here is a key issue: We do not have an equivalent English word to use to translate the Greek word ‘ecclesia’.
So, we use the word, ‘the church’ which has come to have a common definition when we think of the ‘local church.’ And, what is that? First of all, we KNOW that ministries are NOT the ‘local church’.
Churches have services in designated, public locations.
Churches invite the general public to attend Church Services.
Church Services are held weekly and focus on the Ministry of the Word and Worship, in the sense of singing and praying.
6. The King’s rule is LAW. What part of his GOVERNMENT don’t you understand?
It is any wonder we don’t understand ecclesia. First, do we really ‘get it’ regarding a king? I don’t know about you, I hear little about kings in this day and age except in fairy tales. I know of NO modern, good, benevolent King with a nice Kingdom that people are dying to join. Actually, when I hear of modern ‘kings’, I think of the word ‘dictator’ with associated adjectives such as ‘evil’ and ‘oppressive’. So, we are already starting on the wrong foot.
Now, when we think government, we are at least comfortable with that concept. We elect officials and they represent us in Congress, the Senate or City Hall according to fair (?), just (?) and non-religious laws. Of course, we are now on the second wrong foot. I don’t know about you, but when you take out both of my feet I am pretty much at a stand still and not going anywhere.
And that is just where the church is today, at a stand still. Wait, we are actually walking backwards! We’re losing members, influence and strength. The key log that I am trying to help you see is this. We don’t understand the ecclesia, so we build buildings on street corners that cannot even BE the ecclesia.
Well, what is it? What is the ecclesia?
You are kidding, right?
Yes, you read right.
The ecclesia is the government of the Kingdom.
How do we know this is so?
History – just try a quick Google search. Type in “Ancient History Ecclesia.” Then read. This is not difficult. But, I can’t guarantee you it won’t be painful. This is what you will find.
At the time of Jesus, there were lots of city states that were ruled by, get this: the ecclesia. The male citizens would be ‘called out’ to come together to manage the city in a democratic way. The ecclesia was a form of government of the people by the people. These assemblies looked after social and civic things, all of the common things that you expect the government to handle.
Did the Christians, ‘get it’ – that they were supposed to establish Kingdom government? Yes!
They handled social welfare issues. Check Acts for the first accounts. They took care of their people, widows, orphans, distributing food. The scripture says that there wasn’t a needy person among them. They handled their own civic issues. It would be a shame to take their issues before unbelievers! And, by law they should have taken their cases to the Roman magistrates.. think about that one.
The early believers created spiritual city-states, Kingdom governance right in their midst. Think on this – the Church of Galatia, the Church of Thessalonica, etc. Plus, the believers introduced ‘scandalous’ practices! Everyone KNEW that slaves couldn’t be part of the ecclesia; they were, well, property. And, everyone KNEW that woman couldn’t be part of the ecclesia – they should be at home, pregnant, barefoot and UNEDUCATED. Who WERE these Christians? Woman were part of the ecclesia, and slaves. SCANDALOUS!
7. Land ahoy!
The Jews had responsibility for the land, the citizen and the foreigner. God was at the top; his rule extended through the Land of Promise.
We don’t have a place, or land, the Kingdom is within us. And so, naturally, we don’t pay any attention to the world around us. We don’t pay attention to our cities, our towns, our neighborhoods or our neighbors. We let the state handle social welfare issues. We let the state handle education and civic issues. We let the state do it all. Why? Maybe it is because we’re spiritual. Everything is evil – right? Making money is evil – but, giving money is good. Politics are evil; lets include baseball, playing cards, hanging out with friends. We’re even against high heels and narrow ties. How is that working out for us?
And, how is that working out for our neighbors and our neighborhoods? If we check out Jesus on this subject, he said to make disciplined followers where we live, that would be Judea; then to move out beyond our neighborhoods, that would be Jerusalem, and out an out until we impact nations! Talk about Kingdom government responsibility! We live on the LAND, here, now. Yes, we are citizens of heaven living here – His ‘occupied terriority’ should be among us and reflect in every dimension of Kingdom society and culture.
8. The tail is wagging the dog
In these modern, ‘progressive’ times; we believers simply don’t ‘get it’. Some are confused thinking we will impose Kingdom rule on the unbeliever. Others are confused thinking that meeting on Sunday morning for prayer, praise and the ministry of the word is “IT”. Many are just beginning to pay attention to the word ‘Kingdom’ and think it might be a good idea, but have no idea what it might actually mean.
God’s wisdom should be shown to everyone through his ecclesia.
Now, the following is REAL COMPLICATED. So, read carefully.
Do you suppose, if we learn how to use God’s wisdom to govern ourselves, to provide for our families, to create a strong KINGDOM economy, to handle –in RIGHTEOUSNESS – our civil disputes, to properly EDUCATE our children in all facets of citizenship- to be good Kingdom Kids, to read/write and work effectively for a living, to take care of our NEEDY, to take responsibility for the good of our local neighborhoods and communities, etc.. Do you suppose, do you just suppose that if we DID it and DID it well that we would be salt and light to a dying world?
Perhaps we would say, “This is what we do. Try it. It works. Oh, and doing things this way is not OUR idea. It is God’s wisdom.” Imagine –the ecclesia taking responsibility and doing what needs to be done – demonstrating God’s wisdom. This is Kingdom governance. It may be ‘novel’ to our ears. But when Jesus left things to the early believers, they did it.
Is anyone interested in being part of the HEAD or are we content being the TAIL?
9. DemonNations ..er ..er DenomiNations ..er ..er DeoNations
If you are going to do anything, you need to get organized. The more complex the task or project, the more important it is to get organizing. Now, we have organized ‘the church’ as non-profit, 501c-3 institutions. That isn’t TERRIBLE, most churches don’t have a charter of being the ecclesia – providing Kingdom governance for the spiritual city-state in their town. Think on this: the Ecclesia of Ephesus, the Ecclesia of Corinth, the Ecclesia of Philadelphia. Ok, this is where we are at right now. We have churches. We gather, we worship. We have a starting place; we can take some next steps.
Or can we? Organizing to do things better is ALWAYS good. Organizing BECAUSE we ARE better, or because we THINK we are better, is well, let’s be honest, not so good. The enemy is so repetitive. Divide and conquer is a favorite past time. Look around at churches in YOUR community. If they are fragmented, competitive and proud, you have one option: Repent. The early believers got sick and died because they didn’t recognize the Lord’s body in the Lord’s Supper. How do you think WE will fare if we don’t recognize the LORD in his body across our community?
While I am on the topic of not recognizing the body, I would like to make a personal, definitive call to cease a dividing practice we have.
You know there are ‘real’ lawyers and people who do legal things, we call them para-legals.
There are ‘real’ medical people and people who do medical things, we call them para-medics.
There are ‘real’ churches and then there are people who do ministry things, we call them para-churches.
If you remember anything tomorrow when you wake up after reading this, this is it. It is ILLEGAL for the 501-c3 non-profit organization to be ALL that the ecclesia is called to be. So, the next time you or someone around you is tempted to tell you that a ministry is not the church, just remind them that the local church is not the ecclesia, either. Even, I’d say. Let’s quit with the ‘name calling’. Let’s quit with the divisions. Let’s quit ‘playing church’ and get down to being the ecclesia.
10. Measuring the speed of darkness
Maybe you see it, maybe you don’t. I see it. We have a problem. A big problem. We’re building local churches; that isn’t bad. We’re not building the ecclesia, that is bad. We’re building ministries. We’re disjointed, divided and not effective. The enemy has limited power… but he can deceive and divide! It is time for us to not be children in our thinking. The goal is that children grow, become adults and take responsibility. We, the believers, need to take responsibility for building the Kingdom among us.
It is time to say “NO” to division. It is time to grow in our function. It is time to learn how to be the ecclesia.
11. A good start?
How about this… Call out believers in your region to discuss together how to be the ecclesia. And, do it in a scandalous way. Include the women. Include the slaves. Oops, guess that doesn’t apply. Well, this might be more difficult – mix up the ‘clergy’ with the ‘laity’. You may be the last to get the news, but we are ALL called to be Kings and Priests. We are all called to ministry and service. Yes, that is right. All. Called. To THE ministry. Got it? Good.
Discuss how to take responsibility for the spiritual city-state that actually exists across your region. Discuss and then do it. Simple!
One more thing – honor those who have Kingdom responsibility, Pastors, Sunday School leaders, ministry founders, those who serve in the marketplace, in the factory and in the home. We ARE the body and we all have value; God gives us all a place to serve.
12. Kingdom Nation Seekers, apply here
Blessings are funny things. You sometimes have to be something to get a certain blessing. If you want the blessing of marriage, you need to have a spouse. If you want the blessing of kids, you need to have children. The emergence of the ecclesias (ecclesiae is the proper way to write, but no one would ‘get it’). If the ecclesias begin to carry out their responsibility to be spiritual city states predicts something. In other words, just as we have ‘spiritualized’ our governance responsibilities, we have spiritualized what God meant when he said that Abraham would be the father of many nations, he was talking about n-a-t-i-o-n-s that actually exist, and do Kingdom government in all the areas you have been reading about.
If we would make disciples of all nations (peoples), we must BE a people of God!