Too often we think of “kingdom” work as only happening in the Church, probably because too many of us equate the Church with the kingdom. When Jesus preached, He didn’t say that the Church was near, but the kingdom of God. Jesus’ work among the sick, poor, and outcast created kingdom outposts, places where God was glorified. The kingdom appears where a cup of cold water is given in Jesus’ name, good news preached to the poor, and freedom declared for the captive and the prisoner. Most of us have sat through church services that felt completely disconnected from the realities of the kingdom.
Kingdom work looks like the young man who takes throw-away items, cleans them up, and gives them to the homeless, while pouring out cups of hot chocolate and distributing sandwiches. Unpaid, on his own, just because the image of God in him is compelled to dignify the image of God in those living on the fringes.
Kingdom work looks like the clinicians and medical professionals setting up shop among the poorest and most fragile because the treasure they store up in heaven is more valuable than any they can accrue in this life. God is glorified and the kingdom breaks through into the lives of the poor, sick, and suffering.
The Church is not the kingdom; it is the primary tool of the kingdom. Jesus didn’t establish the Church–His body–as an end to itself. The Church is the presence of Christ on earth and we tend to keep Him locked up in our church buildings, behind closed doors, and only let Him out when we feel like it. Shouldn’t the Church’s primary purpose be about the business of the kingdom? Then why is it that so often churches are primarily focused on their own business?
I’ll make a confession: I struggle to sit through church services where there is no call to action, where vapid preaching leads to hollow theology and dead religiosity. Having been on both sides of the pulpit, I understand why many in the Church leave our churches because they feel Christ’s call to the kingdom but can’t seem to find the presence of the kingdom in our churches.
The Church needs to be unleashed to serve its full purpose. We’re comfortable with the idea of our churches as houses of healing and prayer, of learning and worship, but who ultimately benefits? Is the good news preached to those who haven’t already heard it? Is the good news shown and spoken in equal measure? Is the kingdom breaking through in our communities because of the Church’s presence, or would they even notice if the doors of our churches closed permanently? These are uncomfortable questions that require uncomfortable answers.