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Who brings the kingdom?

February 8, 2013

I’ve been reflecting about our role in the coming of the kingdom of heaven to the brokenness of earth.

Often we hear people suggest that we are called to bring, build or establish the kingdom of God on earth. However, nowhere in Scripture are we told to do this.  The bringing of the kingdom is God’s work, in which we have the privilege of participating. Jesus “went through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1).

We don’t bring, cause, build or create the kingdom. If we use these terms, we risk taking ourselves too seriously. We risk mission narcissism and even the idolatry of our own effort.

This distinction between God’s work and our own doesn’t minimize the importance of our ministry. Rather, it makes our ministry possible. Jesus invites us to a dynamic and even dramatic way of life and service. We are sent in Christ by the Spirit with the staggering commission “to proclaim the good news of the coming of the kingdom, cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse and welcome the outcasts, and cast out demons” (Matthew 10.7-8).  That high calling is a long way from how I’ve lived. Much of my ministry has occurred behind desks and in conference rooms:  managing church, mission and academic programs; preparing sermons and lectures; writing books. Yet I hear in the voice of Jesus God’s call to all of us.

With that compelling (and for most of us, utterly daunting) call, it’s vital to distinguish who does what:

God brings the kingdom. In Christ, by the power of the Spirit, our lives bear witness to it.

God  builds the kingdom. We have the privilege of participating in what God is doing.

God provides signs of the kingdom. We are invited to allow God to work in and through us.

Remember as a child being invited to help prepare a party? Or maybe you don’t have to go back that far—we all like to be included in making something wonderful happen. So with us, God and the kingdom. God invites us–each in our own way–to help prepare earth to receive the kingdom banquet.

We are participants in the coming kingdom, not producers of it.

If this participation involves proclaiming, curing, raising, cleansing, welcoming and casting out–it’s no wonder Jesus told us we better wait and ask to receive the power to do this (Acts 1.8). I propose this as God’s invitation as we begin our Lenten journey.

Quotation from Dearborn, Beyond Duty: A Passion for Christ, A Heart for Mission (2013: 40). Available on Amazon US, UK, India, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain.

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