Last week I wrote about the gospel of the kingdom. I want to follow that up with an example of some distinctions between the gospel of salvation and the gospel of the kingdom.
There is no need to defend that Jesus preached the kingdom and not merely salvation. It’s all over the gospels.
Mark 1:14-15 (ESV) 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Acts 1:3 (ESV) He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
What I want to do is lay out how an emphasis of preaching salvation without the kingdom differs from preaching the gospel of the kingdom in our message, disciple making, how we engage society, how the church is manifest as well as the implications on who we work with.
HERE THIS: THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM DOES NOT NEGLECT SALVATION. JESUS SAVES, BUT HE SAVES FOR SOMETHING NOT MERELY FROM SOMETHING.
Jesus saves his people to go and make disciples and subdue all things in bringing them back under the rule of Jesus as ambassadors of his kingdom and image bearers of God. The gospel of the kingdom saves and sends on mission, not as ministry professionals, but as God gifted artists within their God-given domain that is already “glocal” (local and global).
So, what are some distinctions in the gospel of salvation and the gospel of the kingdom in message, disciple making, engagement, church and collaboration?
Gospel of salvation (GOS): Focus is on avoiding hell and going to heaven
Gospel of the kingdom (GOK): Focus is on the king and his rule over everything and our submission to the king
When I was a kid, I got hit with a simple decision: go to hell where it’s super hot and there is a devil or pray to Jesus and go to heaven. That, I’m not kidding, was the “gospel” I heard. That jacked me up for quite a few years. I was 20 before I heard someone preach the gospel from the pages of the bible and it was powerful, instantly transformative and took me from death to life and sent me on a global mission for the fame of Jesus.
Heaven and hell are not all that is at stake. Jesus is reestablishing his rule that was challenged in Genesis 3, and his death and resurrection has broken the curse and all things are being brought back under his rule and I have, as a rescued image bearer, a task of joining in that work.
There is a difference.
GOS: Focus is on becoming a member and it linear and programatic…Christianity 101, 102…etc. The focus is on programs and ministries ran by the professional ministry people and maybe the rest of us can be a professional ministry person too if called.
GOK: Focus is on the good news of the kingdom making sons and daughters who hear and obey the King.
I used to think about disciple making in terms of stages of intellectual growth. Then I encountered the globe and saw non-educated people with a bible and the Holy Spirit who knew and practiced more than I did. I discovered that the power they lived with flowed not from their intellect but from their obedience. That’s not to demean the intellect, but to help put it in the right place, and it’s not at the top nor is it the power source.
Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV) Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Hearing and obeying is life and it is the essence of discipleship. Effective disciples don’t attend many classes; they are taught how to hear and obey and can be powerful followers of Jesus the day they are saved.
GOS: Rather indifferent to society. In fact society is something to avoid because it could tarnish the Christian.
GOK: Society is God’s created order and because Ephesians 1:7-10 and Colossians 1:20 teach us that Jesus is reconciling all things back under his rule, including people, we are to engage in domains (law, government, medicine, agriculture, construction/infrastructure, etc.) as God’s means of reestablishing his rule on earth as in heaven.
Theologically I understand there is a difference between the world as the system opposed to the kingdom (1 John 2:15-17; 1 John 5:19) and the world as the realm of God’s created order.
I was told to avoid the world as a youngster. It was never described to me what was meant by that. So, I assumed if it was not in the church it was the world. Bad assumption. You know what happens when you assume, right? Ass…u…me… You get it.
But I was a kid, how was I to know?
Jesus made the world. It’s not inherently evil (See Genesis 1:31) and Genesis 1:31 Notes and Genesis 1:32 Audio. It’s broken and Jesus is fixing it and we are his agents in doing so.
C.S. Lewis and the Chronicles helped to put all that biblically back together for me. Read your bible and read the Chronicles along with it and the repairing of the world will begin to make sense as a historical and true story line.
We are to engage and not avoid the world. We are to not be stained by the lies of the dark kingdom, but we are to definitely engage.
GOS: The church is a building or an institution that is identified as a place not a people.
GOK: The church is the “ecclesia” the called out ones…the family of God in Christ Jesus…the people of God under Jesus’ rule.
Let me be clear. To the immediate glance, there may not be much difference here, but the out working of each concept is seismic.
We’ll work these out over the next few weeks. But trust me, there is tactical difference between the gospel of salvation and the gospel of the kingdom.
If the church is a place, then the kingdom’s great movements in hard places is less than it is here in the west because we have buildings. I have actually had people in our 14 year history ask me, “When are you guys going to be a real church?” Seriously. Consumers visit TRC and go other places because we rent space we share with a school even though they like what they hear because they think the church is a place. Never mind the city gave us an entire elementary school and we use it to partner with the city to engage the domain of government to help solve the foster and adoption crisis in our state and country. We have chosen not to meet there for now because we are doing kingdom work not simply having a service in it.
Those poor persecuted Christians…they need some buildings like here in the states. Right? No! If the church is a people then we have some things to learn from those believers in hard places.
With the gospel of the kingdom practices change. Priorities change.
Therefore, the question becomes, who can we work with?
Who do we work with?
How one thinks about the kingdom determines how they practice their stuff. How one practices their stuff determines who they can work with.
I guarantee you many have not even thought this through. They think that because we believe in Jesus we should be able to just do the same thing. It’s not that simple. Many who believe in Jesus have tactical differences in how they apply Jesus’ commands to disciple the nations.
Heck, some don’t even base their ministries on the command as anything they need to give significant thought to beyond an offering or percentage of their budget they give to the poor missionaries so they don’t have to endure such terror themselves. When you think kingdom you have to think about what Jesus said for us to be doing. If one thinks through the question: What if the church was the missionary? Their tactics have to change.
Collaboration is an emphasis right now in many circles. It’s common for folks to look to work together, but anyone who collaborates with others knows you can’t collaborate with people whose ideology has tactical differences.
You can’t collaborate with people whose vision is actually a tactic and they’ve sold God’s vision out for a ministry strategy.
Why? Because to take on the tactics of one whose tactics are disconnected from God’s vision for the world is to deny the vision that has given manifestation to who/what you and your work is.
I understand that some have not even considered collaboration to that microscopic level yet, and I would say that is why they are not likely effectively collaborating with anyone because it keeps “not working”.
Effective collaboration can only happen with transcendent, Godward, biblical vision not ministry tactics.
I’m not spending my time meeting just to meet and say we are together. We have global partners depending on us, we’ve got local government depending on us to legitimately make a difference in our town. We don’t have spiritual play time to give out. I know that sounds offensive, but we have to spend mission centric time doing mission centric things. That’s the only way. I know there are many items one could bring up and ask about such as particular spiritual disciplines exercised with others etc. Know that those things are the hidden power behind the mission centric work and collaboration. They are a must but they are a must to drive visionary leadership that determines ministry tactics.
Most people and tribal type thinkers try to start with their organizational affiliation and work toward some common vision. That simply does not work.
You can’t simply get together and hope common vision happens. Vision is a result of following Jesus and him giving a task that fits within his vision for his glory among all nations. Too many ministry people focus on tactics as a vision rather than letting God’s vision dictate their tactics.
What we say in our family is this: Vision – Relationship – Collaboration – Organization (family)
If one is to collaborate effectively, they must not sacrifice the vision that carries a very specific DNA which then determines how they function (their tactics). One has to have shared vision with those they collaborate with.
That shared vision then leads to relationship.
Visionary relationship leads to collaboration that is full-bodied in that neither entity has to sacrifice tactical plans but rather receives more help in executing plans because there is a nuanced tactic that will actually help achieve the vision.
This kind of relationship creates an organizational family. This is exactly what we have at GlocalNet.
At GlocalNet we have all been birthed from the same vision and we manifest that in a multitude of ways, yet we share relationship and collaborate on visionary distinctives, and we are a family that gathers together. I get on a plane to spend days with these guys more often than I do people in my own tribe in my own town. Why? Because we are a family birthed from vision.
The kingdom creates family that transcends tribes because we have one King and one kingdom with one vision that dictates how we function.
Often I’ve heard that people won’t allow me to talk because we are doctrinally reformed, practically mission heavy, spend time with Muslims (actually talking about Jesus and his kingdom and inviting them to church), go to hard places in the world, send our people to hard places, may expect others to go to hard places, might ask ministry seeking people to work a real job and do ministry for a while so they can learn to be good evangelists and do church and work like the rest of the people, and might actually ask folks to align themselves with that kind of vision and it simply messes things up. Can’t let that in the house!
If we focus on salvation without the kingdom there are just too many competing visions with too many tactical distinctives that prevent real collaboration and family growth. If we focus on the gospel of the kingdom we can build trans-cultural family that looks like Jesus wants it to and directly impacts the whole world through every domain of society.
Final thought…clear vision and clearly aligned tactics will make one effective but narrow the focus of where and with who they can work. This is not bad. This is good and deepening. Give it a try.