Paper Pt XI: Implications for Purpose

Kingdom Justice and Ecclesiastical Purpose

The good news of the Kingdom is the proclamation of the Kingship (Messiah or Christ) of Jesus.31 The Kingdom of God is the powerful advancement of God’s agenda, His ‘making all things good again,’ through the victory of Jesus over all other powers on the Cross. The resultant state of this victory is justice; God’s manifest ‘good.’ This victory has power over sin in all of its manifestations, within individuals, between individuals, between ethnos, and even where it is found ensconced within the power structures of our societies. If the Kingdom purpose is justice, then the Church’s purpose is to further that justice, through proclamation and participation in God’s ‘good.’

6) Personal Transformation – If Jesus has conquered sin through the Cross, then by being joined to Him, individual humans are being transformed. We must acknowledge that when the gospel is preached women and men will be “taught to obey everything (Jesus) has commanded”32 as a result. Therefore notional and nominal assent to certain doctrinal statements will be replaced by confidence in, and reliance upon, Jesus’ victory over all powers. Justice (God’s ‘good’) will be manifested within us individually.

7) Deep Community – If Jesus has renewed the covenant people, and reconciled people to each other through the Cross33 then there will be a resulting experience of community within the Church. Mere coexistence will not suffice; attendance at the same events will be replaced by intimacy; participation in the same programs will be replaced by sharing common resources; receiving services from paid church workers will be replaced by laboring together for common goals; we will move to a place of vulnerability and submission before each other. Justice (God’s ‘good’) will be manifested in us communally.

8) Multi-Cultural Expression – If the Cross has “destroyed the dividing wall of hostility”34 between Jew and Gentile, then the Christian community will be marked by extreme diversity. A diversity that goes beyond ethnic diversity, and brings together people who share little except their common commitment to Jesus. The gospel demands true multi-cultural expression, where diverse backgrounds, value-systems, and even languages, must be brought together in common submission to the King.

9) Social Justice – The Church must go beyond individual conversion, and even personal and communal transformation, and work to see justice effected in any and every arena where systemic evil is present. The victory over the powers at work in individuals is also accomplished within the various economic, social, and political systems of the earth. This rebuts our conservative rejection of the social ramifications of the gospel, and the political alliances we have allowed ourselves to be co-opted into in some contexts. Global income inequalities, environmental degradation, human trafficking, urban segregation, minority disenfranchisement, etc. are all issues that speak to the veracity and effectiveness of the gospel. Justice (God’s ‘good’) will be manifested on the earth.



“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Abraham Kuyper (Dutch Prime Minister 1901-1905)


Paper Pt X: Implications for Ministry

It has been said “the Church is like manure, if you spread it around beautiful things can grow, but if you pile it all up in one spot, it just stinks.”24 Jesus models this for us in many ways, sending away those who desire to follow Him,25 sending out the Twelve26 and the seventy-two,27 and ultimately commanding His followers to scatter abroad.28 We must hold our own ministry up to the same mirror. Are we producing harvesters or consumers?29 Are we gathering crowds or sending out missionaries? The difference between fertilizer and sewage is whether the excrement is dispersed over the field or sealed to prevent contact; which one are we trying to accomplish?

4) Outward Ministry – Ministry is primarily conceived of in terms of leading church events and programs; preaching, worship, teaching, childcare, or even technology or maintenance. The ministry of the ‘royal priesthood,’ however, is not to other priests; the Church’s ministry is not to itself. Ministry must be re-conceptualized in terms of mission; and we must cement this in the theology of all Christians. Our ministry is to the world; this is the reason God has covenanted with us, and it is the guiding principle that should govern the purpose of both individual Christians and the covenant community as a whole.

5) Redeeming the Trades – When ministry is taken outside of the context of the Church community it is primarily conceived of in terms of evangelism, or compassion ministries; providing material resources for those in need, offering prayer and healing for those suffering, or engaging in discourse with the hope of conversion. A theology of the Kingdom necessitates that we begin commissioning (and perhaps even ordaining) lawyers and artists, carpenters and philosophers, educators and urban planners, even homemakers and retirees; in effect, we must redeem the entire scope of work available for use in the Kingdom project.  Most importantly, we must go beyond talk in doing this, we must actually equip and hold accountable for such callings, as we do for preaching.

Kingdom theology is about God’s mission to the world. Therefore, the Church must minister to the world. This ministry is to bring God’s powerful rule and reign into every corner of the world by means of our presence and influence there. The Vineyard movement has a history of reexamining the significance of the priesthood of all believers; “everybody gets to play.”30 It is time to take this to its full conclusion; a theology of the Kingdom demands that we think through what we mean by ‘everybody’ and what we mean by ‘play.’ Church can no longer be a place where paid clergy minister to Christians, rather Church must be a community equipped by leaders to minister to the world.


Paper Pt IX: Implications for Authority

Kingdom Power and Ecclesiastical Authority

Trying to dig a posthole is problematic enough, having small children try to ‘help’ only makes it worse; usually they end up standing in the hole you are trying to dig. God exercises power by giving it to others to act in collaboration with Him in spite of the potential problems with this approach, Jesus models the same thing in His ministry; the disciples are often standing in the way of Jesus’ intended purpose. In handing a child a shovel, you are not actually asking them to help you dig a hole, you are offering to teach them how to use a tool; Jesus’ larger purpose had to do with what was happening in the disciples themselves. The Cross itself crystallizes this into a poignant focus, it is the exact point at which God empowers His people at His own expense; dealing with human opposition in a way that actually benefits us instead of eradicates us.

1) Power is for Others – Those who have power, influence, and control in the Christian community have been given this for the sake of others. Leadership is for the Church, not the other way around; strength is for service, not status. This makes discipleship (not mere education or direction, but rather building up others into Christ) the primary purpose and goal of leadership.

2) Leadership is for Equipping – An obvious corollary is the equipping function of leadership. Leaders should be creating space for others to learn to engage in the purposes of the Church. Our hiring practices greatly inhibit this; every time we hire outside our sphere of discipleship we communicate bad theology. Many will ask, “what do I do when I have a leadership shortage?” The response is, “you don’t have a leadership problem, you have a discipleship problem;”21 hiring people who can ‘get the job done’ reveals a failure to understand that the job is the creation of people who can get the job done. This, of course, signifies a willingness to allow ‘amateurs’ to lead the charge, which will frustrate some, just as it frustrated the Chief Priests in first century Palestine.22

3) Leadership is for Sending – The role of leadership in the Church is to commission the Church for pioneering work. This is a major problem point for the Church; we have difficulty breaking out of our ‘gathering’ paradigm and into a ‘sending’ one. We must be diligent at establishing new works by sending every capable soul to the mission field. This ties in directly to our definition of success; a large crowd with open wallets and smiling faces. If we actually understood that our “success is determined by our successors”23 we would be perfectly happy to dismantle our own ministry, send out dozens of new ministries, and start over from scratch.


Paper Pt VIII: Missional Implications


The covenant community exists as the means to accomplish God’s purposes; this has considerable implication for what the Church attempts to accomplish, how we work toward those goals, and the rubric used to measure our success. Our task is to take our ‘theology and practice of the Kingdom,’ as revealed in the Cross, and apply it to the Church. We will draw fourteen specific implications by looking at how power and authority function in the Church, how justice is the mission of the Church, and what the Cross reveals about the success of the Church’s mission.


Paper Pt VII: The Church


The Church is a shorthand term for an aspect of the Kingdom of God upon the earth. The common metaphor for the Church (the Body) reveals three essential realities about how the Kingdom is revealed in the Church: 1) people connect to the King just as the body connects to the head; 2) people connect to each other just as the knee connects to the leg; and 3) the Church performs the will of God just as the human body performs the will of the individual.
1) The Church is not a program, a structure, an institution, an event, a particular resource, a set of practices, or any combination of these. The Church may use these, create these, attend these, or even onfuse itself as one or more of these, but it is not. The Church is the people who are connected to God. All of those people, joined to God by the reconciling work of Jesus on the Cross, are the Church.
2) The Church is more than just individuals who are connected to God. Our connection to God becomes a connection to each other. Discipleship in the Kingdom is not something that can or should be done alone. God intends for us to know and be known, to confess and hear confession, to work together and become vulnerable before each other. Again, this is not about sharing a pew or even a cup of coffee, but about intimacy and a shared life with a common purpose.
3) The Church is more than people simply enjoying fellowship with God and each other. We were birthed out of God’s mission, and in fact exist as the means for God’s mission. If we are in intimate connection to the Messiah, then we will be engaged in His work; “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”18 To state this in strong and clear language; the Church does not have a mission, rather the mission has a Church. The Church is the method of the mission. The mission is central, and it is for this that the Church has been called forth as a Kingdom agent.
Therefore, our reconciliation to God is accomplished through the Cross, the “dividing wall of hostility”19 between peoples is destroyed by the Cross, and we are recreated to “do good works”20 as we are joined to the Cross; in this way we are a Cross shaped community. The Cross is the paradigm for the Kingdom, and also for the Church. We are a community created and defined by God’s Kingdom action in the Cross. We must learn how to live fully in this story, and not some other narrative.


Paper Pt VI: Victory

Kingdom Collision: The Cruciform Lens

‘Tis at the cross of Christ where earth and heaven meet
Where sin is overcome, to God the victory13

These popular lyrics, which we sing during corporate worship, capture in poetry a reality that must be our paradigm; our lenses through which we view the rest of theological discourse. In Kingdom language the realm of God comes marauding into our realm precisely in the Crucifixion; it is the point at which heaven collides into earth. In eschatological language, the Cross is also the proleptic invasion of God’s Future into our present;14 the point at which the end of the story crashes into the beginning. The Cross is the precise way in which God’s power and justice are brought to bear upon a world that has been subjected to other powers and other notions of ‘justice.’
In the Cross God’s power is revealed; so too a godly vision of justice. The Cross is how heaven imposes itself upon a rebellious earth, and is the manner and method of heavenly conquest and victory. In the Cross God brings His power to bear on the earth by allowing a rebellious earth to impose itself upon heaven, and to suffer the world’s ‘justice’ in order to defeat the powers at work on the earth. The powers of evil come fully to bear on Jesus, but they are exhausted in His body, and those powers are broken in His death.

15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Colossians 2:15

The Cross breaks the power of sin. We often isolate this to individuals, however, it is also at work in other spheres. The justice (the making things good) that is effected within individuals is also effected in the power structures of communities, societies, and nations, through the death of the Messiah. In fact “God was pleased to reconcile all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven;”15 nothing escapes God’s desire for redemption. Even power and justice themselves are redeemed; the Cross is powerful without being coercive, and ushers in justice without collusion with worldly concepts of justice. We should not ignore the fact that the cross was the symbol of Roman power and justice long before it was used by Jesus to symbolize God’s power and justice.16
So the Cross, then, becomes the paradigm for Kingdom thought. If we seek to understand God’s rule and reign, if we seek to come under it, to propagate it, or to implement it; we must think deeply and honestly about the death of Jesus.17 It is for this stated reason that we are left with the twin symbolic ordinances that recall His death, our participation in it, and the results of that on our behalf. Through it, we see God’s power displayed and His justice manifested, His character revealed and His plans culminated.
The phrase Kingdom of God, then, is a shorthand way of referencing the unfolding narrative of God's power coming to bear on the world through a covenant people, with the climax seen in the Crucifixion of Jesus, the promise in terms of His Resurrection, and the future consummation in terms of His judgment and a resulting state that we can call justice...


Paper Pt V: Power and Collaboration

Kingdom Power: God’s Collaborative Action

We read in Genesis that God decides, “let Us make man in Our image, and let them rule;” after He does so we read, “and God saw that it was very good.”8 God’s rule, even from the beginning, is exercised through a people. Humanity, made in God’s image, is given dominion over the earth; reflecting God’s goodness and justice into creation.
This same pattern of authority is seen throughout the ongoing story of scripture. God covenants with Israel, and begins to teach them how to be human; they are to exercise an influence over the earth, to be a light to the nations. So too the Church, the covenant people in the Messiah, is the very dwelling place for God, and the central conduit for His authority upon the earth in this present age.
While the metaphor of ‘King and Subjects,’ or even, ‘Shepherd and Sheep’ may (out of context) invoke an authoritarian approach, God also uses other metaphors for His relationship to His creation. Like a Father, or even a Mother,9 with children, God is intimately concerned with us. This is no mere autocrat, governing by fiat, but rather a doting parent, deeply concerned with the wellbeing and the maturity of His children; hoping to involve them intimately in the family affairs. Even beyond this, provocatively, God is a Husband,10 wooing a Bride.
To talk of power in terms of God’s Kingdom, is to talk of power ‘in and through’ a people. As Paul writes, the church is “the fullness” of Christ as He “fills everything in every way.”11 It is for this reason that “the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”12 God’s intended vessel for His power is a Spirit-indwelt people, empowered for His Kingdom purposes; the hope for our world is the covenant community in Christ; a restoration of God’s “very good.” Therefore, power in God’s Kingdom is tied to what God is doing and how God is doing it; to talk about justice and power we must look to the Cross.


Paper Pt IV: Justice and Purpose

Kingdom Purpose: Justice and God’s Good Desire

We see in the opening verses of scripture the repeated refrain, “God said” and, “God saw that it was good.”3 This is the opening salvo in God’s Kingdom story; the Kingdom project begins with creation. God creates a world of marvelous diversity; creative explosions of sound, smell, and color; a wonderful harmony and plentiful provision abound. God’s creative activity realizes His goodness, and His desire for goodness.

This same creative goodness is revealed under different circumstances in the second great Kingdom initiative; God calls Abram from the ranks of sinful humanity and makes a deal with him. God promises to bless him, but also to bless the whole world through him; “I will bless you, and you will be a blessing.”4 The Kingdom project goes forward in Jesus. He fulfils Israel’s calling on her behalf, redeems Adam’s humanity; and initiates a new covenant community on the earth.

The Church lives in the tension of proclaiming the Kingdom promise in the midst of a broken creation. We embrace the vision and mission of the God “who is over all and through all and in all,”5 to “place all things under (Jesus) feet.”6 This is the prophetic future of the New Jerusalem in John’s vision where every wound is healed. This consummates the Kingdom story; it is the ultimate goal of God’s Kingdom project.

31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
Acts 17:31

It is in this context that we can begin to talk about justice. Something is just when it can be truly said, “and God saw that it was good.” We tend to think of justice in terms of the great problems and evils in the world (in a world broken by Adam’s rebellion this is proper), however, justice has more to do with the way things ought to be, than with the way things are. It is the brokenness of man that required Jesus’ death to undo, and it is the resurrection of Jesus that gives us the foretaste of the New Creation, where judgment will be past tense, and justice will be reality.

Justice is rooted in God’s desire to manifest goodness, and so in the context of a “creation subjected and in bondage to decay”7 we see justice spoken of in the scriptural promises of Creation and New Creation, and in the language of future Resurrection and Judgment; where all wrongs are made right, and we will share in the new heaven and the new earth.

Justice, then, is simply the state of ‘goodness’ that is a reality when God’s rule is implemented. In the now, and in the not yet, justice is simply a description of the state of individuals, situations, societies, and systems that have come under the good authority of Jesus the King. We turn now to a discussion of that authority at work.


Paper Pt III: The Kingdom


Most are quite familiar with the basic phrases used to explain the Kingdom, “God’s rule and reign,” “wherever God is king,” “wherever what God wants to happen is what actually happens,” and so on. This rudimentary definition is actually surprisingly versatile; God’s Kingdom is where His purposes are accomplished by His power, and by His methods; wherever this is not the case, we find ourselves outside His Kingdom, and under the authority of another. We will briefly answer: What are His purposes? …powers? …and methods?


The Dangers of De-Construction

Or as my friend Phil Harold puts it, "What happens when the spiritual journey ends in little more than a prolonged rant against existing forms of religion.  Its all about dissociation.  There seems to be a stunning capacity to persist in that mode indefinitely today, and an equally stunning incapacity to find a spiritual home."


Just Be Quiet!

11 The more the words,
       the less the meaning,
       and how does that profit anyone?

Ecclesiastes 6:11


Paper Pt II: Why Write?

This paper is born out of the twin impulses of 1) grappling with the implications of allegiance to a Crucified Messiah and 2) watching Church leaders and practitioners encourage and implement a praxis that seems to have other allegiances.  There are simply too many examples of practice and language that communicate a foreign theology. A praxis that effectively equates success with a pastor’s ability to raise a salary, or a praxis that attempts to grow a church by way of racial profiling (i.e. the homogenous principle), clearly communicate a theology very different than the one we claim to hold. People who implement such a praxis are often comfortable with much of the theology outlined in this paper, and even some of the implications for praxis, yet fail to comprehensively work that theology out into their vocabulary and practice.

I am sure that others will be able to find yet more practical implications, and specific recommendations, than those that we will here outline. The goals of this paper are not an exhaustive study, but rather something more like planting a flag. It is imperative that we do not lose sight of the very center of God’s purpose and powerful activity as we begin to pour our time and energy into maintaining the structures that were intended to be a vessel for that very purpose and power. Lest we become like a gardener who dutifully props up the tomato cages, keeping them perfectly aligned, long after the tomato plants have died.

We will break our project into four sections, the first and second are only necessary to lay down the underlying theological framework, the third will address the significance of that framework, and the fourth (and most important section) will address the practical application of that framework. Section one is a rudimentary discussion of the Kingdom of God, attempting to understand Kingdom theology in terms of ‘power,’ ‘justice,’ and ‘the Cross. ’ Section two will move briefly to examine the Church’s relationship to the Kingdom. Section three will extrapolate fourteen specific implications of our Kingdom theology for the Church. Section four is the crucial aspect of our work, here we will finally be able to critique current Church praxis and determine just how our practices fail to adhere to our theology.

From a Good Friend

(This was taken from the blog linked to in the title)

1. Expect substantial and relentless spiritual obstruction, confusion and attack from an adversary hell-bent on derailing God's Kingdom initiatives, especially in places of long-established demonic strongholds. Planting is a fight on spiritual, emotional, relational and physical/practical fronts; sometimes all at once. Chaos will show up in surprising ways and create setbacks threatening to wear down your resolve. The pain of the fight is real.

2.  Expect to have your faith tested beyond what you have experienced in the past. Church planting requires a strength of faith and trust equal to the Kingdom weight it must carry. You need to believe when the money is not there; when the people are not there, where the way is frequently blocked, problems cascade and you are spiritually, mentally and physically drained. It could all fall apart, but you must hold fast to God no matter. He will make a way where there appears no way. In the meantime, it feels like muscles being stressed and strained to be ready. Sometimes they tear.

3. Expect God to expose and work on your weaknesses through trial. Character flaws, relationship tensions, unhealed wounds and areas of spiritual immaturity will be brought to the fore so God can create a pure heart ready to produce Kingdom fruit. It will take time and is a critical part of the planting process: God plants his Kingdom more deeply in you so you're more fit to do the same in others.No one likes having to look into a mirror of sin and weakness. It hurts, but is necessary.

4. Expect the re-tooling of your expectations about what your mission is going to look like. The vision may or may not reflect where you end up. What sparkled off the page on the drawing-board may evaporate when real life takes over your days on the mission ground.  Again, he's focusing your effort around his will for what he's called you to do. We see in part; he sees exactly as he desires it to be. You might experience frustration as God goes to work. No one likes having to re-do what seems a winner.

5. Expect periods of second guessing and questioning. As you run into delaying obstructions which persist, you very likely will ask questions about whether God called you to do this in the first place. You might wonder if you are the right man or woman for the task. You may question your gifts or spiritual fitness. You might feel you are disappointing God because you're not making more headway. Questioning is good if it brings you to your knees and opens you to God's wisdom. This kind of suffering can be excruciating because it calls your sense of value and competence into question. Confidence in God gets built there.

6. Expect periods of discouragement even disillusionment. There are countless stories of missionaries and planters suffering great long, dark nights of the soul where it feels all has failed, God has disappeared (or worse yet is really ticked), and its might be time to abandon ship. Sometimes it will be accompanied by excruciating stresses and strains physically, financially, relationally, emotionally and spiritually. Being overwhelmed for an extended period of time can produce disillusionment also. These periods will come. You are being tested and made durable like a marathon runner. It hurts because you feel let down or you are letting down others who put their confidence in your mission.

7.  Expect training in humility where much of what you stood on in the past is removed so you have nothing to toot your spiritual horn about. If anything happens of any real import in the mission you've been summoned to it will be God's doing and his alone . . . period. Humility is prized by God. Suffering creates humility because it puts us in God's hands with only him to hold on to. Pride puffs us to blindness and missional impotence. Our initial, grand designs for God need some cutting down to size. Suffering gets the job done if we keep our eyes on him in the ordeal he fashioned for us.