Is the Church a Kingdom of Expansion and Advancement?

Jesus’ core message as he begins his ministry in the Gospels is, essentially, “Repent, for the kingdom of God has come near.” 

Photo by Capt' Gorgeous (Creative Commons)Photo by Capt' Gorgeous (Creative Commons)A lot of times, this gets misunderstood as, “Repent, because you’re going to die soon and you need to be sure you’re going to go to heaven.”  Or “Repent, because the end of the world is going to happen soon.”

But, as I said, both of those are a complete misunderstanding.  Jesus wasn’t announcing the end of your life or the end of the world.  He was announcing the presence of a new kingdom, one that stood in contrast to the kingdom of the Romans or the kingdom of the religious leaders.  This was “the kingdom of God” (in Mark) or “the kingdom of heaven” (in Matthew).

What Kind of Kingdom is this?

The kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom than the world’s kingdoms.  It’s a kingdom in which the poor in spirit (which Dallas Willis calls, “the spiritual zeroes, those without a wisp of religion) are blessed because, believe it or not, the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.  It’s a kingdom in which those who mourn are blessed because they will find comfort.  It’s a kingdom in which the meek are blessed because in the end they are the ones who will inherit the earth.

It’s also a kingdom where the first will be last.  Where the greatest must be a servant of all.  And where success is defined as laying down one’s life.

How Today's Church Thinks of the Kingdom

But this is not the kingdom the Church (at least the Church in the West) likes to promote.  We tend to lean into ideas of conquering and domination.  We talk about “expanding the kingdom of God” or “advancing the kingdom of God.”  We talk about “taking back our city for Jesus” or setting goals like “making this city the greatest city for Christ in America.”

But this kind of thinking belongs to the kingdom of this world.  It is the world’s kingdoms that talk about expansion and advancement.  It is the world’s kingdoms that promote taking back and making great.

But what Jesus taught us is that the kingdom of God is already here.  Why?  Because it’s king has already come.  The Church is not called to conquer or dominate.  The Church is called to live into the reality that this kingdom is real and at work right now in ways we have yet to discover.

How have you seen the Church promoting ideas of expansion and advancement?  Where have you seen the kingdom of God already at work in the world ahead of the Church?

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