We’re discussing Scot McKnight’s latest book Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.
In chapter 7, Scot lays out 9 observations for the nature of the local church in terms of the kingdom of heaven.
First, kingdom mission means the local church is first and foremost a dwelling place for God. …
If the ultimate mission of God is to dwell among the people of God, then kingdom mission is to be the dwelling place of God in this world. Kingdom mission is about being the presence of God in this world.
(p. 100). Now, this should sound familiar to those who’ve read some of the earlier posts on John Walton’s Genesis 1 as Temple Text in the Context of Ancient Cosmology, such as this one from the Creation 2.0 series. Walton argues that Genesis 1 describes the dedication of the cosmos as a temple for God, a temple in which humanity serves as the images of God and in which God rests.
Thus, the church/kingdom is the restoration of God’s original intention that faithful humans represent God to a world indwelled by God.
N. T. Wright teaches along the same lines in his excellent Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. Wright suggests that the scriptures may be understood in terms of the joining and separation of heaven and earth, God and man.
God walked with man in the Garden, they were separated by man’s sin, God entered the earth to walk and speak with Abraham, he dwelled among the Israelites in the desert and then, later, in the tabernacle and the temple. After the exile, he returned to walk among us people as Jesus, and now dwells among his people through the Spirit, making each local church a temple for the Spirit. And the end of time, God and heaven will come down to earth, heaven and earth will be merged, and God will dwell among his people.
And so, Scot’s observation makes excellent sense — emphasizing the present role of the local church as God’s dwelling place among man, and so the priestly role of church members to represent God to the world.
And so an important study for Christians is the nature of God. How could we represent a God we don’t really know?
Second, kingdom mission as church mission means the church is a kingdom fellowship, or a kingdom politic.
(p. 100). This hardly means that we become lapdogs for Republican or Democratic masters. In fact, we don’t even become a part of the worldly political process. It’s, you know, worldly. Rather,
a local church embodies—or is designed by God to embody—the kingdom vision of Jesus in such a way that it tells the kingdom story. That is a politic, a witness to the world of a new worship, a new law, a new king, a new social order, a new peace, a new justice, a new economics, and a new way of life.
(p. 101). American politics are about power — getting power, holding on to power, and using power to impose one’s will on others. This is not Christian and can’t be Christianized.
In one simple sentence: what Christians want for the nation should first be a witnessed reality in their local church. Until that local church embodies that desire for the nation, the church’s witness has no credibility. When it is embodied in the local church, that embodiment is the only activism the church needs. Put directly, fighting for justice means embodying justice in the local fellowship; striving for peace means striving for peace in the local church; opposing abortion means converting sexuality into a pure, loving, and family-honoring joy; contending for economic justice means living out the kingdom vision for all we own and have.
(p. 102). The next election or next candidate or next piece of legislation will not bring redemption or salvation or hope — or anything close to it. Rather, we start by embodying the result God desires — a better story, a better way of being, and a better way of treating each other. And until the church itself lives an embodied crucifixion, well, we have nothing to say to the world.
Third, kingdom mission as church mission means learning to live under King Jesus. …
We confess Jesus is Lord, so when we are faced with an economic decision, we look to Jesus;
when we are faced with a community decision, we look to Jesus; when we are faced with a family decision, we look to Jesus;
when we are faced with an education decision, we look to Jesus; when we are faced with a global decision, we look to Jesus; and when we are faced with a political decision, we look to Jesus.
We look to Jesus because Jesus is Lord.
Put now more boldly, the kingdom story defines justice and peace for us: justice is doing the will of God as taught by Jesus and establishing a kingdom society (the church) where that will is done; peace is the condition that flows from living under King Jesus, who defeats the foes through the cross and resurrection and creates peace with God, with self, and with others in the kingdom fellowship.
(pp. 103-104). We don’t get our values and dreams and visions from Western liberalism or conservatism, Obama or Limbaugh. We search the scriptures, not to justify our humanistic values, but to find God’s own values.