Abiding in the Heavenly City:
Implications for Discipleship of our Commitment to Suburbia
Vineyard City Church
For the Society of Vineyard Scholars
By The Renewal of Your Mind: Imagining, Describing, and Enacting the Kingdom of God
Why does this Place look so Familiar?
I found my way to a familiar place I swear I’d been some time before
I would’ve thought it was the marketplace but I could not find the door1
Kingdom is a powerful metaphorical framework for imagining life with God; it provides a way of picturing how God’s influence is infiltrating many aspects of our world and way of life. A Kingdom is an ordering of commerce, justice, personal relationships, well-being, and provision, in accordance with the will of the King. The way in which different people conceive of God’s Kingdom gives shape to the way those people attempt to order commerce, justice, personal relationships, well-being, and provision; however, our pattern of life may actually reveal more about the way we imagine the Kingdom than the Kingdom itself. Our evangelical imagination of the Kingdom looks remarkably similar to the suburbs.
This suburban imagination often enough leads us to a skewed description, and a skewed enactment, of the Kingdom of God. It easily leads us to describing the Kingdom without reference to issues of class and race, and without confessing our cultural idols of consumerism and individualism. This makes it simple and automatic for us to enact a lifestyle that reflects this monochromatic vision. It should not need saying that such an alternative vision of the Kingdom has severe implications for Christian discipleship.
Assuming that the goal of discipleship is conforming individuals to the image of the Son, we must re-conceive of the Kingdom in alignment with His vision of it. Jesus’ imagination, description and enactment of the Kingdom should be ours. Our framework for understanding and practicing the Kingdom needs to be rethought; our minds must be renewed, this is essential to discipleship.
Over the course of this paper we will first contrast urban and suburban environments and explore the evangelical imagination of the Kingdom manifested by a Commitment to Suburbia. Second we will discuss the theological underpinnings for such a commitment and examine the evangelical description of the Kingdom in terms of Church Growth. Third we will outline the evangelical enactment of such a Kingdom vision and detail four implications of such practice for Christian discipleship in terms of Diversity, Community, Systems, and Brokenness.