Tuesday, August 12, 2008



This seems to be one of the most frequently misunderstood issues of the Kingdom. The confusion centers around the distinction between the "church" and the "kingdom". Even though Jesus only mentions the "church" in two instances, today the "church" is the constant and most frequent theme for those who believe in Jesus. Why did Jesus avoid teaching about the church? Why did He spend most of His teaching about the Kingdom? The only logical answer that makes sense to me is that He intended for us to seek after the Kingdom and practice it in all of our relationships.

Most confuse the church today with the Kingdom just like most confuse "heaven" with the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is the rule of God on planet earth both personally and in community. The church is a simple gathering together. The term "church" is not a special or holy word as many believe and teach. It literally means "called out ones" and was used to describe city council meetings or any kind of assembly. It simply is a gathering of followers of Jesus. It's a movement, not an organization!

You see this plainly when you consider how Jesus and His disciples viewed and referred to the synagogue. Very rarely did any of them criticize the synagogue or suggest that other synagogues ought to be established or planted in order to have better teaching or worship or even a synagogue where Jesus' words would be taught. This is so different from what we see and hear today!

The followers of Jesus were caught up in actively following Jesus and His teachings. This is why I like to call it a movement-the Jesus movement. The Jesus movement met in homes and in the Temple courts. They went to synagogue, but they had a different relationship with the synagogue. They were caught up in this Jesus movement, so that they didn't feel the need to bash the synagogue. They orbited around it and people at the synagogue were attracted to the irresistible Jesus and the practice of the Kingdom in the dynamic of the disciples. They also orbited around their villages and businesses where friends and family were drawn in to the love of Jesus. The Jesus movement was in orbit wherever 2 or 3 followers of Jesus gathered together in fellowship. It was an orbiting movement!

In the same way today, there is no need for us to bash the synagogue (the church) or even to feel we must start new ones in order to have better teaching or worship than an already established one. There is not even anything from Jesus that urges us to build the "church". He said, "I will build my church." What He wants from us is to be it. Being the church of Jesus is patterning yourself after Jesus and His teachings and practicing the Kingdom principles within the context of a few friends-all in the name of Jesus. In that sense the church of Jesus is and can be anywhere and everywhere.

Luke describes these little gatherings and what they did in the Acts of Jesus: They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

It seems to me that rather than building the Church, it would be so much more effective to practice the Kingdom. NOTE some differences between the organized church and the Kingdom: - The Church is local and limited; the Kingdom is universal and unlimited. - The Church is an earth-to-heaven connection; the Kingdom is a heaven-to-earth connection.

- The Church is never called the Gospel or the Good News; the Kingdom is. - Jesus barely mentioned Church (twice); He taught so much about the Kingdom.

- The Church is visible; the Kingdom is invisible. - You go to Church; the Kingdom goes with you. - The Church tends to be an organization; the Kingdom, a movement.

- The Church gathers and scatters; the Kingdom is always present among you. - You enter Church by attendance or membership; enter the Kingdom by following Jesus. - The Church may or may not grow; the Kingdom is continually growing.

- Churches can be shut down; the Kingdom cannot be shut down. - The Church may have God present; the Kingdom is God's presence.

So, where is the Kingdom practiced? Anywhere and everywhere! The challenge is this. Are you patterning your life after Jesus and His teachings and practicing the Kingdom with a few or are you just attending a Church. The Church is great. The Jesus Kingdom movement is far better!



The Kingdom of God is primarily invisible, like the wind, but with some visible results. The Kingdom principles will move you to emphasize the internals over the externals. You will practice such invisible things as forgiving that person who has really hurt you.

- You will learn to practice such invisible Kingdom principles as dying in order to live. - You will learn to practice such invisible Kingdom principles as losing yourself to really find yourself. - You will learn to practice such invisible Kingdom principles as celebrating the act of mourning over that which keeps you from God. - You will learn to practice such invisible Kingdom principles as finding pure satisfaction from hungering and thirsting after the right things.

The invisible Kingdom principles can be summed up in the form of salt. Salt was used as a preservative to counteract the decay in meat. Salt had to touch the meat. It's very presence is the quality that is needed to be effective.

So, the salty, invisible nature of the Kingdom is to be sensed. Jesus said to His disciples: "You are the salt of the earth." As you follow Jesus and practice the Kingdom principles, your very presence will make a difference in those you touch and in meetings you attend.

The visible dimension of the Kingdom must be seen. Because of the invisible flow of the Kingdom principles, you will learn to practice some visible dimensions of the Kingdom-the dimension of light. Jesus said to His disciples: "You are the light of the world."

- You will learn that in order to lead you must serve. - You will learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive. - You will learn that little is much when God is in it. - You will learn that working with individuals is so much more effective and satisfying than working with the masses. - You will learn to bless and pray for those who curse you. - You will learn to love your enemies.

So, the Kingdom is demonstrated through your lifestyle-inside out. It's learning to embrace the preeminence of Jesus and His Kingdom as a lifestyle. You can live the Kingdom, revolutionary lifestyle right now and it will go against the grain of what the herd is doing and where the herd is going. The Kingdom doesn't need to be proved; it needs to be practiced!

This reminds of a story I heard many years ago about a young man who worked in a toll booth: "If you have ever gone through a toll booth, you know that your relationship to the person in the booth is not the most intimate you'll ever have. It is one of life's frequent non-encounters: You hand over some money; you might get change; you drive off. I have been through every one of the 17 toll booths on the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge on thousands of occasions, and never had an exchange worth remembering with anybody.

Late one morning in 1984, headed for lunch in San Francisco, I drove toward one of the booths. I heard loud music. It sounded like a party, or a Michael Jackson concert. I looked around. No other cars with their windows open. No sound trucks. I looked at the toll booth. Inside it, the man was dancing. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm having a party," he said.

"What about the rest of these people?" I looked over at other booths; nothing moving there.

"They're not invited."

I had a dozen other questions for him, but somebody in a big hurry to get somewhere started punching his horn behind me and I drove off. But I made a note to myself: Find this guy again. There's something in his eye that says there's magic in his toll booth. Months later I did find him again, still with the loud music, still having a party. Again I asked, "What are you doing?"

He said, "I remember you from the last time. I'm still dancing. I'm having the same party."

I said, "Look. What about the rest of the people" He said. "Stop. What do those look like to you?" He pointed down the row of toll booths.

"They look like toll booths." "Nooooo imagination!'

I said, "Okay, I give up. What do they look like to you?" He said, "Vertical coffins."

"What are you talking about?" "I can prove it. At 8:30 every morning, live people get in. Then they die for eight hours. At 4:30, like Lazarus from the dead, they reemerge and go home. For eight hours, brain is on hold, dead on the job. Going through the motions."

I was amazed. This guy had developed a philosophy, a mythology about his job. I could not help asking the next question: "Why is it different for you? You're having a good time."

He looked at me. "I knew you were going to ask that," he said. "I'm going to be a dancer someday." He pointed to the administration building. "My bosses are in there, and they're paying for my training."

Sixteen people dead on the job, and the seventeenth, in precisely the same situation, figures out a way to live. That man was having a party where you and I would probably not last three days. The boredom! He and I did have lunch later, and he said, "I don't understand why anybody would think my job is boring. I have a corner office, glass on all sides. I can see the Golden Gate, San Francisco, the Berkeley hills; half the Western world vacations here and I just stroll in every day and practice dancing.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Whatever you do for a living, you are being paid to do a certain work. However, you have a much greater calling to pattern yourself after Jesus and practice the Kingdom of God every day, all while you are being paid.

So, what does the Kingdom look like? It looks like Jesus, who can be sensed (like salt) and seen (like light) through you.