FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.As I mentioned yesterday Jesus only mentions the term "church" on two occasions. The "church" was not even close to the primary theme of Jesus' teachings. Jesus had a much bigger idea. What Jesus emphasized more than anything else was the Kingdom.
The parables Jesus taught were about the Kingdom. Frequently, Jesus referred to what it takes to "enter" the Kingdom and He takes pains to point out those who will not "enter". Jesus believed it was necessary to hang out with His disciples after His resurrection for 40 days to prove Himself as the resurrected one and He taught them during this time thoroughly about one thing-the Kingdom. This is recorded in the first chapter of Acts. Then, in the last chapter of Acts Paul spends two years teaching and conversing about two things with those who came to visit him in Rome-Jesus and the Kingdom.
The Kingdom is the rule of God on planet earth both personally and in community. The church is a simple gathering together of Kingdom kids. Remember, 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 where people are called out to meet for a purpose. It simply is a gathering of followers of Jesus. This church or gathering or assembly can exist within any religious culture. I know of a gathering of Jesus followers who meet in a Mosque to pray and study the teachings and principles of Jesus. What makes the gathering significant is the purpose for gathering, assembling or churching.
The simple gathering of followers of Jesus on any day and at any location is a church. These gatherings revolve around four ingredients-fellowship, food, prayer and the apostles' teachings. The only one of these ingredients that might throw you a bit might be the apostles' teachings. We see this as what had been passed on through the early disciples about Jesus and the Kingdom. Their His teachings.
So, since the kingdom is the rule and presence of God on planet earth, you could also think of it as wherever the King is, there is the Kingdom. The King and the Kingdom are inseparable. Therefore a good way to view the Kingdom is Christ-likeness universalized. Or, I like to say the Kingdom is Jesus actualized! The Kingdom is living out the principles and teachings of Jesus together.
The Kingdom is universal and everywhere. The church is a local gathering of followers of Jesus who are seeking, sharing in and spreading the good news of Jesus and the Kingdom. The Kingdom is everywhere and unlimited in its impact on society. The Kingdom is not waiting for a local gathering to be established in order to have its effect. The Kingdom is already there in every country and in every culture.
Now, take the same three characteristics of the preeminent Jesus we discussed and apply them to the Kingdom today-where the King is: FIRST-The example of character. The Kingdom is the only moral authority with any kind of power to change society. The facts are that the big C Church, Mosque, Temple or Synagogue are not capable of it. The organized Church, Mosque, Temple or Synagogue change from time to time. Sometimes it is effective in the community and sometimes it's not. Leaders are morally good and leaders become morally flawed. So, at any given time, these local religious gathering places will not be able to deliver a moral authority to the community. The Kingdom is constant. It's power and effectiveness depend upon its leader-Jesus. Therefore living in the Kingdom and inviting others to share in it is the only solution to transforming a broken culture.
SECOND-Jesus' teachings lead to fulfillment and meaning. Jesus is the ultimate standard and the Kingdom is the lifestyle of living this out in society. The lifestyle of Kingdom living is where ultimate fulfillment and meaning reside. They are the laws of the universe. You cannot break the laws of the Kingdom, but they can break you. For instance, one of the laws of the Kingdom is to forgive those who have hurt you. If you refuse to live out this Kingdom principle, you will pay dearly for it. You will be bound by your lack of forgiveness. You will be eaten up with this unforgiving heart. By breaking the principle, you are broken. When living within the Kingdom, you are safe and free and most fulfilled.
THIRD-The presence of God. Where better to discover a personal relationship with the God of gods than where He lives in His Kingdom. Most people only go to local religious establishments for special holy days in their religious calendar. It's been said that most go for baptisms, marriages, and funerals-only to be hatched, matched and dispatched. As followers of Jesus, we are to practice the presence of the Kingdom, the church (a gathering of followers), going to the people in our world rather than always inviting the world to come to us. With this kind of practice our culture will be changed.
Here's how it works. FOLLOW THE KING AND YOU'LL DISCOVER THE KINGDOM; EMBRACE THE KINGDOM LIFESTYLE AND YOU'LL DISCOVER THE KING AS YOU GATHER TOGETHER IN THE NAME OF JESUS. The church of Jesus-the Jesus movement-is living out the Kingdom principles in society wherever you are.