Scot McKnight & The Kingdom || Ben Tertin

Posted on November 8th, by Ben Tertin in Interviews. 10 comments

Scot McKnight & The Kingdom || Ben Tertin

Are you involved in the “kingdom work” of making the world a better place? Social justice work? Incarnational ministry? Yes! You’ve got your American evangelical sleeves rolled up, and you’re digging wells, raking leaves, painting stuff in the city ― you’re active in the public square, working for the common good. No more sitting around with a conservative Bible; you’re punched in and clocking some serious overtime on the Kingdom payroll. But then you meet New Testament scholar Scot McKnight (author of The Jesus Creed and The King Jesus Gospel), and with the cool, wry confidence of John Wayne, he locks eyes and says, “Where’s your Bible, partner? Let’s read it again.”

Addressing a group of college and young-adult pastors here in Portland last month, McKnight boldly fired an RPG into the pop-Kingdom theology that’s making church leaders drool and tweet every week. The social-justice, redeem-the-world, and incarnational-ministry crowds gasped in unison when McKnight declared that demonstrations of good works in the public square for the common good are not Kingdom work.

Kingdom work is not about serving the world? Could this be? Q Conference: Can you believe this guy?!

I don’t know about Christian conversations in your town, but you won’t clear10 feet in Portland without running into “social justice,” “incarnational ministry” or the “Kingdom of God.” As a Bible student, I’ve long sensed that something about this viral trend is weak-sauce, like something critical is missing. When I heard McKnight, I was intrigued. And once he and I finished the conversation that you’ll read below, I was spurred on with a great, powerful hope in Jesus.

My only advice to the reader is this: Listen carefully before reacting. McKnight will ruffle your feathers, and toward the end of this Q&A, he is going to knock some of us right off our perches. But if the perch is crappy and dumb, we probably want to fall back to biblical grounding anyway. Hear him out and, most importantly, look for yourself to see if what he’s said squares well with Scripture.

Ben Tertin: Do you have any gnawing questions that you haven’t been able to shake throughout the course of your life and study?

Scot McKnight: I’ve been studying the Bible seriously since I was 17 years old and teaching it for more than 30 years, and I think the gnawing question for me for my entire life has been the question about the Gospel, or about the King Jesus Gospel. But the specific question has been: “Why do so many people receive Jesus into their hearts but not live for Christ? Why are there so many “Christians” and so few disciples? I’ve chased that question a lot in my life.

Tertin: You’ve recently made some punchy statements about the modern evangelical understanding of God’s kingdom that sounded similar to things you’ve said and written about the Gospel, suggesting that we’ve embraced some massive distortions. Lately, it feels like there’s a spike in literature, conferences and discussions about the “Kingdom of God.” Do you recognize that as well? Why do you think this is the hot issue of the day? And could you explain the distortions you see?

McKnight: Yes. You’re absolutely right. On average, a book a day arrives at my house or my desk at Northern Seminary from guys wanting me to read and blog about their work. Certain publishers, like InterVarsity Press, send two to three books a week, it seems like, about social justice.

I see a huge shift in literature because there’s a huge shift within evangelicalism toward a social justice angle.

I’d like to explain to you how I think this has arisen. There are two major theological drivers behind this movement. First is the social gospel at the turn of the twentieth century. Second is the liberation theology, or the liberation gospel, that got going in the middle of the twentieth century.

You’ve got the Latin American theologies, like Gutiérrez, Boff, Sobrino, and then you get into African American liberation theology like James Cone, Martin Luther King, and then feminist theology ― the liberation themes go in every direction and form major drivers for so much of what’s going on today.

So when Evangelicalism categorically rejects the social gospel at the turn of the twentieth century, in its place there arises a reactionary movement that we called fundamentalism. But Carl Henry calls Evangelicalism back to a more intellectual and sophisticated commitment to our departure from society, and there has been a gradual opening of evangelicals to social justice and social concerns ever since.

I believe that the No.1 driver among evangelicals has been Jim Wallis and the Sojourners community. He single-handedly kept this discussion at the forefront.  By the late 90s there was a reaction to the so-called “moral majority” of the 80s. The evangelicals who said “We are not that conservative!” began to show a concern for the social justice of a more progressive wing.

Today, in every evangelical church of any size you will find the especially the young adults to be active in social justice but have almost no interest in evangelism.

Tertin: I definitely feel that. It feels far more acceptable to say “I want to give stuff to strangers” than “I want to evangelize.” More often, I think, we just say that both actions are one in the same. You’re describing a scenario that we’re talking about a great deal, here in Portland. And you boil it down to Jim Wallis?

McKnight: Well Jim Wallis is the leading voice. Look, there’ll be a lot of people…let’s say David Platt, or conservative evangelicals in the Southern Baptist tradition who are interested in social justice. Those people didn’t just read Jim Wallis and go get all excited.

But Jim Wallis was relentless at pushing evangelicals to see the social concerns of the Bible, and social justice gradually worked its way into the consciousness of American evangelicalism.

Tertin: So, in your estimation, what is the average evangelical churchgoer thinking when he or she says “kingdom work” or “the Kingdom of God”?

McKnight: OK. We need to look not at one, but two prominent views.

In the first evangelical group, when the word “kingdom” is being used, it refers to justice, and in particular “social justice.” It is fundamentally wrapped up in activism in the political sector. So when people say “I’m doing Kingdom work,” you can guess that they are working with the homeless, or they’re working with tsunami or hurricane damage, or giving water to poor people in Africa.

In the second group, the word “kingdom” means “redemptive movement” or “redemptive progress.” This way of using Kingdom language is more sophisticated and often more theologically connected to other themes. It is not so much about fighting in the political realm as it is bringing redemption into different dimensions of life, like education, family, local politics, justice.

So you’ve got one group of people for whom “kingdom” means social justice. It’s in the public sector, and it’s all about activism. And you’ve got another group of people who see “kingdom” as a redemptive movement, and it gets tied to personal salvation, and it gets tied to miracles, and it gets tied in some ways to redeeming all aspects of life in the world.

Jim Wallis is an example of the first group. Andy Crouch, who is writing about culture making and now, in his new book, about redeeming power, is an example of the second.

Those are the two primary ways that the Kingdom is used in the evangelical church. Both of them are saying something important. Neither of them has a robust understanding of “kingdom” in the Bible.

Tertin: OK. So what specifically are we missing?

McKnight: The definition of “kingdom” that I lay out in my book, which is called Kingdom Conspiracy, and it won’t be out for another year, is this: Kingdom is a society – the Church – a society in which God’s will is done as a result of redemption. There are five elements of the Kingdom in the Bible, and every one of them must be present before we are adequately talking about “Kingdom.”

  1.  There’s got to be a king, and that’s King Jesus.
  2. There’s got to be a rule. The King has to rule, and Jesus rules by way of redemption and revelation. He reveals how his people are to live.
  3. There has to be a people. The people in the Bible are Israel and the Church.
  4. There has to be a law. For a kingdom to exist, there has to be a law that governs the people, and our law as Christians is Jesus’ teachings and life in the Spirit as the Apostles reveal.
  5. The last dimension of Kingdom, which is far more prominent in the Bible than most people give any credit for, is a land. The land is huge in the Bible. “Land” gets expanded in the New Testament, but let’s just stop there because I don’t want to get into it at this point. The point is that when Kingdom is talked about, and when we talk about it, we’re talking physical.

But we get a lot of people who don’t give a rip if their understanding of Kingdom is biblical ― if when they say “kingdom” it’s what the Bible means by “kingdom.”

Tertin: What makes this unimportant to folks? Why don’t they care?

McKnight: Because they know and like what they’re doing and they want to use a religious terms to describe it. They want to see providing water for four people in Africa as spiritual work, so they call it “Kingdom work.”

Look, the true Kingdom of God will always involve the King ― who is Jesus ― it will always involve that king’s kind of rule, which is a redemptive rule. It will involve the people, and that’s the Church. It will involve the people of God doing the will of God, and that’s the teachings of Jesus. And it will involve expanding the large promise of Israel without destroying the fabric of the Bible.

So, “Kingdom work” is always ― necessarily ― church work. Kingdom work is local church work by God’s people who are bringing redemption to people and bringing them under the rule of King Jesus. There you go!

Tertin: I think that many folks will get stoked with you right up to that last point where they’ll charge you with legalism. Do you feel that coming?

McKnight: Legalism? What are you talking about?

Tertin: Well, in Portland we love to talk about the redemptive work of the Kingdom in terms of seeing a school rebuilt or repainted, Jesus showing up to do great works through us. But then when you shift to “Now we also need to obey him in all that we say and do,” it’s like “Woah! Woah, man. Don’t deplete the power of grace. It’s never about rules. It’s not about law.”

McKnight: Anyone saying that does not understand grace, nor do they understand law. These people are using John Calvin’s language of grace without John Calvin’s understanding of redemption as a complete surrender to the lordship of God.

Tertin: So what do I do as a pastor, then? You constantly point to a lack of biblical understanding as the culprit behind these major mistakes. I’m resonating with what you’re saying, but what do I do? I can’t make people read the Bible. I feel like they don’t care, and I get bummed.

McKnight: Patiently, patiently, patiently, we open up Scripture, and we explain and teach and educate, and over time people listen and chose whether or not they want to surrender their minds to the revelation of God in Scripture. That’s what I would think.

Tertin: Yeah, that’s good. I think I get frustrated because I want something clearly measurable to happen quickly. And I want it to be very observable, within the week! And then I get real impatient, and frustrated, and then I move to something the culture deems more relevant or exciting.

McKnight: Ben, one of our biggest problems is in the model we have for preachers. The preacher stands up and tells people what to think. As a result, pastors are persuaders. Let’s put it this way: People come to your church because they want to hear the lead pastor.

So our “educational” model gets reduced to charismatic speaking ― it’s one of preaching and declaring and proclaiming ― rather than one of reasoning and listening and observing. I think the educational model within the church has got to change. It has to be “Come, let us reason together.”

To learn a biblical understanding of “kingdom” will require patience. It’s going to require silence. It’s going to require looking at a lot of passages in the Bible.

Let’s ask ourselves an intelligent question: “What does ‘kingdom’ mean in the ancient world?” We open up the Old Testament and discover, shockingly, that the word “kingdom” is synonymous almost always in the OT to the word “nation.”

All of a sudden “kingdom” means people. So when we talk about Christian Kingdom work, we better mean “working in and for a local church.”

So when you’re helping the homeless in downtown Portland, that’s good, but that is not Kingdom Work. Why? Because those people don’t live under the rule of King Jesus.

Tertin: What do you call that work, then? Evangelistic work?

McKnight: In the NT, that work is called “good works.”

Tertin: I guess my last question, then, is about my responsibility. What is the verb? What am I supposed to do in regard to the Kingdom? I’m constantly told that Christians are supposed to “unveil” or “usher in” the Kingdom.

McKnight: Those words you used about the kingdom are ― at best ― things that God does. Your job is to enter it and declare it.

Tertin: What about so-called “incarnational ministry”? I’m often told that the Kingdom of God is brought to bear through incarnational ministry. Your thoughts?

McKnight: This is an interesting, analogous use of the word “incarnation.” God becomes incarnate in Christ. It is about becoming what he was not. So, I’m OK with using incarnational language in this way as long as we are careful to say that we are entering into the specific sort of thing that Jesus himself did.

Now, here’s my problem. We often describe incarnational ministry in a way that means “I kind of go undercover,” doing some kind of compassionate, good work. Then we call that Kingdom work, even though it’s not church work. That’s what concerns me. I don’t think there is such a thing as Kingdom work that’s not church work. In other words, if you can’t replace the word “kingdom” with “church” in whatever you’re saying, you’re probably not using the word accurately.

 Tertin: That seems like a good way to put it. Much to consider, here, for sure. Anything else that you would add?

 McKnight: Yes. It is very important to me to summon both groups of young adults ― these redemptive people and these justice people ― to summon them to look at the Bible again to see the significance of the Jesus’ Church as the place where justice is to be embodied. The social justice work can spill over into the world, but our primary place of effort and service is the church, not the world. We are drawing people out of the world, into the church.

And then the other group of people who are so interested in redemption, I want them to realize that somehow their understanding of redemption is not what the Bible means by redemption.

Tertin: What do you mean?

McKnight: The true goal of Kingdom work is to show the world that it is the world by being the Church in such a way that we reveal an altogether different arrangement in this world under Christ.

The goal is not to make the world a better place, and it is not to have significance in the world.

Tertin: But Jesus came to serve the world, yeah? We say that all the time. So if we’re going to follow in his way and truth and life, we as the Church are going to serve the world.

McKnight: First of all, I would never say that the mission of the church is to serve the world. Jesus came to condemn the world, to show the world that it was a structured rebellion against God and to redeem people out of the world, into the Kingdom of God and into the Church. I am not here to make the world a better place.

I’m not here to make my hometown of Libertyville a better place. I want it to be a better place, and I think that if I serve God by entering into the church community, Libertyville has a good chance of becoming a better place. But Libertyville or the world might get worse rather than better.

The word “world” in the NT is almost entirely negative.

We’re not here to serve the world; we’re here to serve God. We’re here to serve the church.

If, however, by “serve the world” we mean “extend the Gospel and the goodness of God’s grace into the world to bring people into the Church and under the rule of King Jesus,” then that’s a good thing.


Ben Tertin Ben Tertin, M.Div.T.S., Th.M., is a pastor at Imago Dei Community in Portland, OR, and a doctoral candidate under Scot McKnight at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. He and his wife hang out on the beaches and in the woods with their two kids, camping and exploring. He's a writer, teacher, fisherman and bluegrass lover. Connect with him on FB or Twitter: @bentertin.
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10 Responses to “Scot McKnight & The Kingdom || Ben Tertin”

  1. Kyle says:

    Great interview Ben! It encouraged me in many ways and challenged me in many others. As a communicator I need to always be looking at the words I am using and how I am using them. Your interview makes me want to pick up scripture and take a good long hard look at how I may have gotten lazy.

  2. Chris D says:

    Thanks guys. Provoking indeed. I have, admittedly, unknowingly submitted to the “first evangelical group” profile you’ve described here. It’s fitting that this discussion came up now as we are working through Acts in our home community. In Acts we see the disciples’ activity truly source from the Holy Spirit. Not mere “good works,” kingdom work. Still trying to wrap my head around the idea.

    This bit is not sitting well with me: “Jesus came to condemn the world…”
    Can you share some more insight on this? Was it not our own sin that separated us and therefore condemned us? Can Jesus be both the redeemer and the condemner?

    Thx,

    CD

  3. Jeremy says:

    My question is the same as Chris D. Scot seems to make a statement in direct conflict with John 3:17.

    • Ben Tertin Ben Tertin says:

      Jeremy & Chris (+all the FB commenters who honed in on this point as well). I totally hear you! I was wondering the same thing, and I think this is what McKnight is getting at:

      In the NT, “the world” or (cosmos) is very often used to talk about that structured rebellion against God. In John 3:17, the verb “krinō” is rendered in our English texts as “to condemn” but could also be understood as “to judge.” Here, though, as in many passages in John, it stands in opposition to the sense of “saving,” so “to condemn” is a good translation. Therefore, the believer is not condemned (krinō, 3:18) and will not be condemned (5:24, which literally means “does not come into judgment”). So far, this does not argue directly with your point.

      But we absolutely MUST interpret this passage in the context of the gospel according to John as a whole, and the whole Bible. We have to deal with John 9:39, where Jesus declares his purpose for coming into the world: “For judgment [krima, a noun stemming from krinō, which literally means “a decision about the question of legal right or wrong, and thus a determination of the innocence or guilt fo the accused and assignment of appropriate punishment or retribution”] I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

      John insists that God gave Jesus the “authority to judge (krinō) because he is the Son of Man (5:27). Several factors help to alleviate the seeming contradiction between “he did not come to condemn” and “he came to judge.”

      First, in these two passages, the meaning of krinō/krima is neutral. Anyone familiar with Daniel 7:13-14 would not be at all surprised to learn that the Son of Man has authority to pronounce judgment, and that he specifically came for that purpose. This, I think, is the grounding idea for McKnight’s statement that caused some shock in many readers. When McKnight says “Jesus came to condemn the world,” I do not think that he is unaware of John 3:17. I think he was simply understanding “krinō” in the sense of “judgment,”
      or to put in in other words, I think McKnight was saying that Jesus came to show the world that it was condemned. (Read his statement again; he actually defines what he means by “condemn” right in the quote.”)

      Here is the extremely important point >> Jesus came into an already condemned world. This was McKnight’s point; I am sure of it. There was no need to “pronounce condemnation” in the sense of Jesus himself sentencing people to death for the first time or something (which is the sense of the negative statement in 3:17, I think). He came to say that the world is condemned. Sometimes we think that Jesus, happy and soft and cute, came into a neutral world full of innocent fools and gently reminded them that they were not super totes legit but could be if they just filled their own hearts with love. As D.A. Carson puts it, “[Jesus] did not come into a neutral world in order to save some and condemn others; he came into a lost world (for that is the nature of the “world,” 1:9) in order to save some.” Notice the negative use of “the world.”

      In the verses immediately following 3:17. John is not speaking of “the world” holistically, or in the sense of “the entire world.” This was McKnight’s point later in the interview, as well, where he pointed out that most of the NT uses “the world” in an extremely negative light, describing essentially as rebellion against God. Notice how in verse 18, he distinctly separates the one who believes from the one who does not believe.

      The one who does NOT believe stands condemned already (ēdē kekritai) because he has not believed in God’s one and only son. “As with the arrogant critic who mocks a masterpiece,” writes Carson, “it is not the masterpiece that is condemned, but the critic.” This is the one who stands condemned already, and God’s wrath remains upon him (3:36).

      Looking once again at McKnight’s statement in light of the context of his discussion with me, I don’t think you can say that he was saying Jesus came to condemn the entire masterpiece holistically, as it were (which agrees perfectly with 3:17). In other words, McKnight is not forgetting about John 3:17 or suggesting that he was more correct than Jesus. McKnight was talking about “the world” in that negative sense that the NT so often does.

      Here is one final point, from me. We need to be more careful when we listen to people. I know that McKnight was ruffling feathers from the get-go, and I think that some folks wrote him off too quickly, jumping on that verse in a literal sense, but failing to read it carefully in context of the whole. This is why McKnight’s own definition for what he meant by “to condemn” was missed. In the immediately following clause of the same sentence he says that by “Jesus came to condemn the world” he literally means “Jesus came to show the world that it was a structured rebellion against God.” This, I don’t think anyone can argue, is an accurate representation of the NT. Furthermore, notice the closing thought of McKnight’s point, which makes it impossible to read his words as a contradiction to John 3:17: “[Jesus came] to redeem people out of the world, into the Kingdom of God and into the Church.” This surely does not mean the all-world, holistic condemnation that John also negates in 3:17.

      (I’m totally down for push-back, so let me know if that doesn’t make sense. Most of all, thanks for reading and thinking about how to live the Christian life in the best possible way we can, caring for one another and loving our good God! Pretty legit :)

  4. Alan R says:

    I’m confused by his distinction between “kingdom works” and “good works.” Kingdom work is confined to “working in and for a local church”? When Jesus tells stories about the Kingdom, he seems to intentionally shift the scene out to the margins, as if to say we’ll meet him out there. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, the King says ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    • Ben Tertin Ben Tertin says:

      Hey Alan. It’s a fair point, you make. My impression of McKnight’s statement was not to say that “good works” are necessarily out of the realm of “Kingdom work.” Instead, he was saying that just because the work is “good” does not mean it is “Kingdom work.” Based on his own (5-point) definition of what the Bible means by “Kingdom,” I think he is saying that the good work is truly a “Kingdom work” when it is done in submission to the will of King Jesus, when it is in accordance with God’s redemption and revelation or “rule,” when it is done by real human beings whom are accurately named “God’s people” (i.e. the church, notice how in the verse that you quote he is talking about “these brothers and sisters of mine, his people, his family), when it is done according to the law of God, and in a physical/tangible way.

      Doe’s McKnight push the envelope too far? Perhaps. But he is responding to the same envelope being pushed over the cliff in the other direction….the way that we tend to say giving someone something, by virtue of simple generosity, is “Kingdom” work. We can call it that if we want, and God will surely still love us, but we won’t be acting in accord with the Scriptures.

      One last point. I think that this tendency stems from an unhealthy disdain for the church. We seem to look at working to build up the church as a self-centered and negative activity, like it is inherently self-serving and greedy. I have been told on many occasions that doing a solid ministry within the church is by definition “not missional.” This is surely a problem that McKnight is reacting to, as well. God, throughout his story with human beings, has been saving this world through a community of people. We absolutely do good works, constantly, and over and over again spur one another on to do those, but it seems that the OT and NT picture of God’s salvation of this world comes first through the Jews and now “The Church,” or the “Kingdom of God.” I know I just opened up a whole ‘nother discussion, but I have a meeting to be at in less than 60 seconds, so I’ve got to go :) Let me know what you think when you have a minute…..

      Most of all, thanks again for reading, chatting, thinking abou this…..

  5. Jeremy says:

    Thanks for the reply Ben. What you say makes since. I’m by no means a theologian, and normally don’t read this sort of stuff. Once the Greek gets pulled out, I always worry I’m being taking for a ride. That being said, the reason 3:17 is the first response, is that it follows the verse everyone knows. So on a cognitive level there has been a lot of repetition of that verse (with or without the context). When Mcknight says Jesus came to condemn, when he means judgement I have to believe he is doing it to be provocative. I mean he is make a statement logically in contradiction to the verse that follows the most repeated verse. The way he states it it is meant to contrast. But I don’t know him, so I shouldn’t assume intent.

    Thanks again, this all very confusing to me, probably over my head.

    • Ben Tertin Ben Tertin says:

      No prob. And don’t think that it’s over your head. The point of the Greek references is to help us see how John is understanding Jesus’ statements. I think that your comment on John 3:16 is extremely observant: We repeat that over and over and over again and think that it is the NT in and of itself. How many of the people you know could recite John 3:16? How many could give you a short statement about the basic flow of John’s Gospel? In my world, it’s about 100 to 1, former to latter.

      Jesus did “come to condemn the world,” if by those words we mean, that he “came to judge most of the world as false and damnable,” or as McKnight put it, “as a structured rebellion against God.” Notice that the idea of “world” is a crucial part of the equation.

      In one sense, the “world” could be seen as the cosmos, the whole of creation, or all people for all time, or something like that. In another sense, the “world” is the opposite of “God’s Kingdom”; Jesus and his people are righteous and in-step with God, while “the world” is that dark side of the universe which breeds chaos, destruction, sin and evil. So, while Jesus did not come to crush the whole universe (“condemn the world”), he most certainly did come to judge the dark side of the universe (“condemn the world”).

      Here’s an encouragement for you, Jeremy. You absolutely are a theologian. You have to be one, as a believer. Theology is simply “theos” + “logos” > “God” + “word.” Essentially, theology is words we use to talk about God. How do we talk about God? What do we say? As a believer, you desperately want to use correct words and ideas about God, because if you don’t care to do so, the only thing left is incorrect words to use about God. I know that when you say, “I’m not a theologian,” you mean, “I don’t know the biblical languages and haven’t studied all of the many different interpretational positions on these issues,” and to that I say, “No problem!” You are not an island. God is not demanding perfection, “Or else!”

      You live in the eternal company of God’s people as a contributing member, and we — together — keep working to get our words (logos) about God (theos) right. The fact that you are reading the Scriptures, asking GREAT questions and staying engaged with real Christian issues tells me that you are one of the best “theologians” around, a real son of the most high God, working to get it right. Stay the course, my friend. No endeavor is more valuable.

  6. \ says:

    When people seek God and use the bible as a means to seek Him…their ideas often go “against the grain”, and that’s not such a bad thing, although by many it is because of the culture of Christianity and the perception of what this is about.

    The Kingdom of God has always been His. Y’shua came with the message the Kingdom is near you. And it is. But its not near us just because we do things we think make God happy or even declare the Kingdom. We can paint a house or sweep a street but if we are not telling people about Fathers love then yea…the Kingdom is about us.

  7. Josh C says:

    I work in the church and outside it concerning social justice issues. I never assumed that serving was in itself kingdom work, because much of the service or activism could be done by others not inside the church.

    But before the ACLU and Unitarian groups cared about the needs of the poor, Jesus paints a picture of them with His own likeness. He places Himself in their clothes, in their situation. When we serve, we give opportunity to Kingdom work, but when we are lead; we are doing Kingdom work, just as Jesus said “I only do what I see the father doing.”

    I’ve always seen kingdom work as advancing the “rule and reign of God.” If you have watched the move The kingdom of God, then you know how far removed that thought could be misconstrued. The crux of the conversation shifts in our comprehension of our own usefulness in advancing the kingdom through our actions. It skirts back towards religion, though James points out there is a religion that is acceptable before God in James 1:27.

    So how is this conversation edifying to the body of Christ?

    I believe it is, even though it smacks of semantics, confusion and criticism at times the take away are:

    If we blend our activism with our following of Christ we can be lead down a path of fatalism. If we believe we can assist God in His work then we have taken a burden far too large for us to carry on our shoulders and anger & frustration will mark our lives.

    Yet if we on the other hand realize “this is an acceptable” religious practice, to serve the poor, for they will always be with us and we are lead by the Holy Spirit……….. THEN; we do not need to prescribe labels to our action or consider the results. Just as we do not need the Holy Spirit only to work, but we need the Spirit to live as Christ lived.

    Jesus looks at us and says, I am the vine you are the branches, whoever abides in me together we will bare much fruit.

    There should be no sense of criticism in examining whether we are operating out of a place of inspired service or have fallen into a place of fulfillment and satisfaction through our efforts. The conversation is helpful in this way.

    When we keep the things Christ focused on in the forefront of our mind, the actions that followed Him will accompany us. May God’s church be strengthen and exalted as the beautiful bride of Christ.

    Aligning our actions with biblical reasoning keeps us on a true path. But be careful not to quench the Spirit as you we look to adjust the course of the church. Many who are swept up in movements and continue in the faith, grow in an understanding overtime; but how we should long for the joy and hope of their salvation to be kindled in the hearts of us who have come before.

    There is no argument whether we should take up social causes in and through the church, we are compelled to follow in the example of Jesus to serve. But understanding the difference between our service, what is public engagement and what is evangelism can help us to walk in confidence, freedom and keep us from overcommitting to become ineffective. Servant Evangelism, should be a humbling process, not merely an easier way or deceptive way to share the gospel.

    When we actually have to put ourself aside in service and our sense of right aside as the Lord leads, we are humbled. I would challenge the church to consider blessing other churches when you do servant evangelism.

    If we really want to show the love of Christ to our city, we may want to start with the church. It is through our relationship a better theology can grow, but how can we participate with the type of oneness Christ prays for if we dont even know each other. There is no good answer not to bless the ministries that work alongside you. John 17

    In the Love of Christ,
    Josh C.

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