Christianity & the Kingdom of God

Reading Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity, I find hope that what we know today as ‘Christianity’ may indeed change to resemble more and more the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes that hope in me falters a little when I choose to focus on the distracting elements of the Christian Church–the divisions, the doctrinal arguments, the uglier side that exhibits hatred and separation from others. . . . But when I choose to look at the bright rainbow that makes up what we know as Christianity, and see God working in spite of our imperfections, I am glad.

In essence, I believe that Christianity is the answer only insofar as it resembles the Kingdom of God as proclaimed and demonstrated by Jesus. This is also a prevailing theme in the books and blogs I choose to read.

Here are a few snippets from my recent meanderings.

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“I urge you to still every motion that is not rooted in the kingdom. Become quiet, hushed, motionless until you are finally centered. Strip away all excess baggage and nonessential trappings until you have come into the stark reality of the kingdom of God. Let go of all distractions until you are driven into the Core.”

– Richard Foster, from his book Freedom of Simplicity

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Eugene Cho has written a post on the God’s Politics Blog about Anne Rice and the statement she made about quitting Christianity:

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else … In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control … In the name of … Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

‘What are your thoughts of her statement?

‘Here are some of my vomitacious thoughts:

  • Everyone’s [tempted] to quit Christianity.
  • Anne isn’t the first nor will she be the last.
  • In fact, one can argue that there have always been folks who have quit Christianity in every generation, every denomination, every tribe, and every community. Someone today — albeit, without the fanfare of Anne Rice — has just quit Christianity, and probably on Facebook or Twitter …

‘Part of me applauds Anne because I can certainly resonate with her feelings. Honestly, we’ve all been there on some level, haven’t we?  And we understand — in part — because if you’ve been part of the church and Christianity, you know exactly how far it is from the portrait of beauty, idealism, and shalom we think the church should be. Anne — to her credit — has shared in subsequent interviews that her decision wasn’t flippant but processed over several years and especially as she wrestled with numerous critical issues.’

Read the rest of Eugene’s post on God’s Politics Blog here.

And when you finish reading that, here’s Brian McLaren’s take on Anne Rice’s announcement.

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Neil Cole in the most recent Next-Wave e-zine talks about church planting and evangelism and how we have gotten the cart (the church) pulling the horse (telling the good news):

‘Of course we must also shift to a more holistic understanding of the gospel and the kingdom of God than we have had. Simply throwing out a lot of tracts or shouting at people on a megaphone is not likely to reap spiritual disciples or churches. Jesus brought the kingdom with him to the people who needed it most in a very incarnational and transformational manner. That is what He instructed us to be about.

‘Stop planting churches, start planting Jesus. Don’t build churches, that is not your job or mine. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” What He told us to do is to “Preach the gospel,” and make disciples (or followers) of Jesus. To risk being cliche: the horse must come before the cart. The seed must come before the tree, and the fruit will follow. Plant Jesus, and let him start the churches. Frankly, He is better at it than we are anyway.’

Read the rest of the article here.

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Finally, in focusing on the church and the good news of the Kingdom, we can’t escape the role of church leadership. Here’s a part of an article by Len Hjalmarson (also from Next-Wave) that addresses the shift in leadership style from ‘hero’ to ‘host.’

In a 2001 interview, writer and management consultant Margaret Wheatley said, “We need to move from the leader as hero, to the leader as host. Can we be as welcoming, congenial, and invitational to the people who work with us as we would be if they were our guests at a party? Can we think of the leader as a convener of people? [We need] a fundamental and unshakeable faith in people. You can’t turn over power to people you don’t trust. It just doesn’t happen.”

The best practices of leadership – those that seem to bring lasting change and genuine renewal to organizations and individuals –  are biblical practices. They’re practices that call us to covenant, community, faith, hope, and love. They are practices of hospitality and shalom.

“The kind of thinking that will solve the world’s problems will be of a different order than the kind of thinking that created them in the first place,” said Albert Einstein.

Our current leadership models were shaped by the Industrial Revolution and the need to increase production. Our models emphasized efficiency, command and control, and located leadership in heroic individuals. (We can’t merely attribute this model to large churches: the large church forms the aspirations of the small.) We also separated leadership from particular soils, assuming that leadership would look the same everywhere. As our lenses for seeing leadership narrowed, leadership itself became something exceptional, something unexpected.

But these lenses don’t allow room for new kinds of leadership, like the poetic leader described by Alan Roxburgh, or the “boundary crosser”  who enables rich connections in the community. If we don’t see or recognize new types of leaders, we won’t validate or equip them. Many good things that would otherwise happen might never occur because these leaders will be afraid – or not encouraged – to step up to the plate.

The leadership style that once dominated our culture is becoming passé. Instead of the Lone Ranger, we have Frodo, who carries the ring “though – I don’t know the way.” Instead of Superman, we have Neo from The Matrix. Often introverts who shun the spotlight, these are self-questioning types who rely on those around them for strength, clarity, and purpose.

Read the rest of this article here.

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