If you were asked what you considered to be the greatest tragedy in history, what would you say? Surely some would pick the Holocaust. Others in the U.S. might pick 9/11. Still others would settle on Hurricane Katrina. There might be a few who would reach back in history and choose the Great Plague that killed 15 percent of England.
As tragic as all of these were, roll all of them together and they do not compare with the greatest tragedy of all time – the fact that the vast majority of the world’s population is missing what God has been and is doing in the world right under our noses. God is moving through the lives of the majority of Christians who are mostly blind to what God is doing in the world.
Consider the following:
- There are still parts of the world that have never heard of Jesus.
- Most U.S. congregations are focused on their members and trying to prop up a dead and unfaithful local church.
- Many denominations hope their tribe survives long enough to pay their pension.
- The vast majority of money given to congregations goes to paying the building mortgage and the pastor’s salary.
- The church is one of the most conflicted places on earth.
The majority of church members are so fixated either on themselves, their church, or both that they can’t see God’s footprints. Some are fixated on turning their dying church around. Some are trying to figure out how to grow their church to the next level. Still others are wringing their hands over the decline of their denominations. Church and Me is just about all that most church members think about these days. And that’s tragic. Worse than that, it is condemning so many people to a life without God. That’s the greatest tragedy ever!
All of this is happening even though Jesus said, “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus’ focus wasn’t on the church. His focus was bringing the Kingdom of God into this world. To him, the church is a vehicle for the coming of the Kingdom of God. We are so far from that focus it’s tragic.
So what can Christians do? Here are some brief suggestions:
- Pray and focus on Kingdom issues rather than church issues.
- Reestablish a loving relationship with Jesus rather than mouthing platitudes about God that we don’t mean.
- Focus our attention on sharing the Good News and not ourselves or our church or denomination.
- Quit our in-church bickering and hold the bullies accountable for their infantile behavior.
- Shift most of our income to whatever will result in more people coming to Christ.
Does this mean that we should abandon our churches and leave them to rot to death? No way. But we have to begin viewing the church’s mission differently than we do now. We must see it not as an institution but as a God-given vehicle whose sole purpose is to bring the Kingdom of God to bear on this world.
So how do we bring the Kingdom of God to bear on this world? That’s the million dollar question that Reggie McNeal can help us with. In his book Kingdom Come he says:
“There’s a reason Jesus taught us to pray ‘Thy Kingdom come … not ‘thy church come.’ … The church clearly plays an important role in God’s plans. It was established by Christ and he is its head. But have we put too much emphasis on the church? Have we confused a means of participating in God’s Kingdom with the Kingdom itself?”
So how does the church participate in bringing the Kingdom into this world?
I think we do this in three ways.
The way we live our lives in front of the world says more than we know about the Kingdom of God. It is still true that “Christ in us is the hope of glory.” Living our lives as close as we can to the way Jesus lived his brings the Kingdom to bear on this world. The next two ways both stem from how we live our lives.
Putting an emphasis on sharing the Good News with those are not part of the Kingdom helps the Kingdom of God to break into this world. But you know the figures. It take somewhere around 85 church members for every conversion experience to occur. That means that the majority of us never share our faith with someone. This failure is compounded when a church spends very little of its money on things that would cause others to find Christ. Some even think this focus is naïve and off target.
Putting our time, energy, and money into social justice issues brings the Kingdom of heaven a little closer to this earth. I’m almost hesitant to include this in such an important aspect of living a Kingdom type of life because some overemphasize it, leading to little to no emphasis on salvation. My tribe is one of the worst to make this mistake. Most of our missionaries are focused on social justice, almost to the exclusion of introducing people to Christ. But social justice without offering them Christ is a total waste, just as focusing solely on salvation to the exclusion of social justice.
Question: Are you ready to do your part in working with God to bring the Kingdom more fully into this world? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.