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12/12/2005

KINGDOM FLASHBACK

This week at IKON (a bible study for post high school young adults meeting at The People's Church in Franklin, TN, 8ish, Tuesday nights) we're finishing up a four week look at salvation called REVOLUTION EVOLUTION. We never teach a series like this. Instead, we teach through whole books of the bible, verse by verse, but I felt strongly that so many of the frequently asked questions at IKON could be answered or replaced with better questions if we took four weeks to better understand how we are saved, what that word "saved" means, what we saved from, what we're saved for etc. And it seems to be working. Lights are coming on, shame and despair are being replaced with confidence and hope that comes from understanding just what it means to be a "new creation."

Tomorrow, the last night of the series, is the part of the salvation story that was left out when it was told to me growing up. Being saved from Hell and sin were always in the tale but the part about the Kingdom of Heaven coming through me right now, the part about me building God's Empire today, what that looks like and exactly how it comes about, those parts were mysteriously absent. Until...

I was working at Word Publishing in Waco, Texas as a phone rep. My job was to call church librarians and convince them to buy many many copies of whatever it was we were selling that month. Along came Tony Campolo and his book Carpe Diem. I sold many copies of Carpe Diem to churches because I read and believed it. In it the existential version of Max Lucado waxes philosophical and simply about the Kingdom of Heaven in ways I'd never heard before. He talked about the Kingdom of Heaven in a present tense and this piqued my interest and study of the phrase. And it sent me searching for other words by this conspicuous Evangelical. While I don't always agree with Mr.Campolo's words, I always come away thinking and living differently, especially about the Kingdom of Heaven, the role of Christians in aiding the poor and oppressed and the eternal value of the smallest act of love and compassion.

Here's just some of what he said in a 1990-something interview that got me thinking way back when:

"You know the difference between the sixties and the nineties is that in the sixties young people wanted to change America and they thought they could change it from the top down. They thought that all they needed to do was to elect their people to office. All we needed to do was to get in positions of power and we could impose a new and better world upon the entire society. Well, it doesn't work that way.

Jesus said it doesn't work that way. The kingdom of God doesn't come from the top down. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. I always tell my students that we are part of a mustard seed conspiracy. We do a little thing here and a little thing there. We work in a project here and we work in a project there and it begins to grow. It begins to move up through the entire system.

All across America people are becoming actively involved. I hate to say it but they are not really primarily concerned about national politics. They are interested in building a house with Habitat for Humanity in their own neighborhood. They are interested in working out of their local church or their local service club. They want to do something that they can see, that they can get their hands on. They want to deal with people face to face and they want to make a difference that they themselves can witness. That is what is new. It is not this macro-change; it is micro-change. The belief is that when there are enough micro-changes going on society will change."

Thank you, Mr.Campolo, for believing in the Church more than the White House and for infecting me with the same rightly placed confidence.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very poignant topic, I have been dealing with this in my heart…there has got to be more to Christianity than not sinning!

A few books that made me think about this:
Velvet Elvis: thought provoking
Divine Conspiracy: Deep book about the Kingdom of heaven now
Waking the dead: still struggling through this book, talks a lot about the good nature of human heart, which to me at first my heresy flag went up, but it makes me understand my son of God status and how when I was saved I was changed, not just given an out from Sin…

12/12/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its very true. We're rapidly losing interest in politics and more interested in what we do here and now, locally.

12/12/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post.

I'm glad conservative evangelicals have had an introspective and critical discussion going on for some time on this, saying, "Hey, we should know the Kingdom is not about a political agenda. We've gone too far, equating our agenda with His."

I look forward to more of it on the right, and hopefully someone will pioneer it on the left. Maybe Tony C. will lead it.

Instead, for now, we get Jim Wallis of Sojourners, for example, talking of how Jesus would obviously favor a single-payer health system, clearly oppose tax cuts for the wealthy, and object to only measured increases in certain programs. Jesus would clearly lobby for more federal education spending, etc. and so forth. Again, maybe introspection and "Just who did we think we were?" will come.

God's Kingdom is not of this world, so we should all agree politics ain't it. Say this much, though -- and you'll be called a conservative.

Or, we can spout about President Bush, and how much more taxes we think someone else should pay to help the poor. More fashionable, too.

And costs far, far less.

Brant

12/12/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ted Dekker's "Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth" is really good on this topic.

12/12/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Brant, what do you mean by "God's kingdom is not of this world"?

SG

12/12/2005  
Blogger Nick said...

I don't know if I can really say that politics has nothing to do with God's Kingdom. Christ bringing his Kingdom doesn't just mean this existential, post-world state of perfection, but it means the beginning of an active restoration and making right of all things here on earth - including but certainly not limited to broken political structures, racism (not being talked about much at all, really), poverty, and other forms of systematic injustice and corporate sin. These restorative, shalom values are things we can uphold now even as we live in the "already-not yet" tension of the Kingdom. As Newbigin writes, the Church is to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the Kingdom of God. That doesn't necessarily entail being linked with a political party in general, but sometimes intervention by political means and advocacy are necessary to champion for the welfare of the marginalized and oppressed. I love how International Justice Mission uses legal means and the justice system to proclaim the good news of Jesus' restoration and wholeness. I believe there's a place for organizations like Sojourners as well.

12/12/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if our country would see many more people come to know our Lord if our faith was NEVER mingled publicly with politics. when mingling religon' and politics religion becomes more like a big king-sized tomato rather than a mustard seed. the sad thing is that the reputation of our faith seems to be the thing that gets it in the face. anyway, its a good thing He knows how to work out his plan through us better than some big idea of political coalition. it didnt work for the Catholic Church in the Dark ages or the puritains, and as we are observing, the taliban.

It always seems to lead to zealotry and total fundamentalism.

seth

12/13/2005  
Blogger Mary said...

One heart at a time...and you just can't do that through legislation

12/13/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shaun -- I'm referencing Jesus, saying, "My Kingdom is not of this world" in John 18.

Best,
Brant

12/13/2005  
Anonymous Ardman said...

It seems to me that Jesus was more about promotion than legislation. I can't think of a single time where I've read about him appealing to the government to try to stop some form of immorality. Instead, he went directly to those who were living immorally, hung out with them, and gave them hope. As a result, many of them were changed.

It's interesting that the religious group who did try to use government to acheive their moral agenda was the same group that succeeded in getting the government to crucify Jesus.

If Christ is our example, I think this certainly says something for the way we should conduct ourselves. I feel like I often see the opposite here in America.

12/13/2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its is interesting when you read in James 1:27 (NIV)

27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

You look at the church through out history, they started orphanages, hospitals, nursing homes...legislation is not going to wipe out world hunger...caring will, easy to type and say but REALLY hard to put flesh on!

12/14/2005  
Blogger Hale-Yeah! said...

hah! I go to Peoples Church too. But ours is in Fresno, CA www.peopleschurch.org

12/14/2005  
Blogger Mary said...

But,maybe it is a bit unfair to point to every Christian working in the government and imply that they aren't doing God's work there. Faith and work can go hand in hand, even when it is government work, can't they? For me the irritation comes when people insist that you aren't a Christian if you don't follow a particular political agenda. And, even more disturbing, when they abandon Christian values to achieve that agenda.

12/14/2005  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Brant, let me rephrase. What do think the JESUS meant when He said his kingdom was not of this world. I'm asking because it's hard to verbalize. I'm betting you can. I just can't do it very well right now. The kingdom is here and now and not yet - anywhere Christ rules. He said the kingdom is in the heart. He prayed it would come. He announced it had come. It's obviously here in part so the "not of" is referring to what? The substance of it? The power of it? It's origination? All of that stuff? How would you explain this phrase to someone with no knowledge of scripture? Or can it be done?

SG

12/18/2005  

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