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The growing church and the expanding Kingdom

October 16, 2018 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

For the next couple of months, I’ll be sharing my reflections on the book The Kingdom Unleashed, written by Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine, in the hopes of expanding our view of what God is up to in the world and how we can learn from it here in America.  

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matthew 6:9-10)

The kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ teaching; yet, in classic Jesus fashion, He never defines just what the kingdom of God is! Instead, he speaks in parables, comparing the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, to a treasure hidden in a field, to a man sowing seed, and to so many other images. Since Jesus’ day, theologians throughout the centuries have tried to define what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. Trousdale and Sunshine define it as “any place where the king’s authority is recognized and obeyed.”

The kingdom of God is therefore made up of people who acknowledge Jesus as Lord and are striving to obey Him. As they put it: “The Kingdom is built on repenting of our sin and rebellion against God and restoring our relationships with God and with our neighbor, resuming our role as regents acting under God, with authority to establish and advance God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven.”

Why does this matter? Trousdale and Sunshine argue that the American evangelical church has in many ways replaced the gospel of the kingdom with a gospel of salvation, emphasizing people’s souls (which of course is important) but not emphasizing the rest of the person and community as well. They give the example of William Carey, known as the father of modern missions, who went in the last 18th century to India to share the gospel. He led many Hindus to Christ during his ministry. But his concern for their wellbeing also led him to bring the first steam engine to India and to encourage local blacksmiths to copy it. He established the first banking system in India. He taught up-to-date methods of agriculture and forestry, and made important contributions to botanical knowledge. He fought for human rights and social development, including ending child sacrifice, abolishing the caste system, and providing medical treatment for lepers. He mastered several Indian languages and translated classical Indian literature into English for the first time. He produced the first Sanskrit dictionary. He brought the first printing press to India and developed typefaces for Indian languages. He established the first newspaper in Asia and the first lending libraries in India. Carey’s vision, clearly, was not just to bring a gospel of salvation, but a gospel of Kingdom to India, to not only bring people to faith in Christ but also to see India flourish under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Now, the likelihood of any of us duplicating what William Carey was able to accomplish is pretty slim. But the challenge remains: how do we live as disciples of Jesus in such a way that we are not only concerned about spiritual salvation, but also about seeing, as Jesus’ prayed, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”? Where in your life can you do good works (Ephesians 2:10)? Where you can act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)? How can you show your concern not only for your neighbor’s soul but the rest of their being as well?

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