By Tinku Thompson, Bethel Seminary St. Paul
2017 winner of the 100,000 Hours Colloquy!
As a bi-vocational minister, the difference between my Sunday and Monday is very evident and gets amplified at times. I see a move towards teams and more collaboration at work. As I evaluate the messages we hear and songs we sing at churches, I feel like we are somehow promoting and going in the opposite direction.
Challenges with individualistic view
We live in a culture where independence is seen as superior to dependence on others and people are becoming self-centered, individualistic and have limited their community life to some events. This has affected the church also and we see a struggle to develop deeper relationships or involvement in others lives. Many times preachers are preaching messages which promote individualism more than a community mindset among people. The songwriters have also done the same and majority of the top Christian songs reinforce a me-and-Jesus view of salvation and Christian living when compared to a kingdom perspective with a broader understanding of Christ’s redemptive work and our call to follow Christ in his mission of Shalom (Sherman, 2011, Location No. 699). The counsel of the community or others is no longer valued and we see people taking big decisions on their own without consulting anyone else.
Why do we need a Kingdom view?
Jesus’ central teaching theme was the kingdom and the sermon on the mount was about the ethics of the kingdom. Joining Jesus on his mission of restoring all things will require us to reorder our priorities. This will require us to stop building and promoting the kingdom of self. This will take away from time invested in accumulating more worldly wealth or acquire greater worldly status (Sherman, 2011, Location No. 1433). Preaching the Jesus of Bible will require a shift from being more individualistic to becoming more community-oriented.
The Bible provides us a vision for life together from the first pages of the Scripture. At the end of the Bible, we again see people gathering in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3). From Genesis to Revelation, we see many examples of God’s intention for us to live together in community. All the believers in Jerusalem were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had a need ( Acts 2:44-45). All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them such that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had a need (Acts 4:32-35). This gives us a totally different view than what we see in today’s churches.
What has to change?
The messages proclaimed from the pulpits should have the Kingdom perspective and should connect the faith and the workaday of the believers. We should be careful that we are not presenting a too-narrow gospel which only focuses on personal justification and does not talk about the gospel of the kingdom. This self-focused or inward-focused gospel will never make a person look out for justice for the poor and the needy. This will also result in people not finding any meaning with what they do outside the church or their vocation. This kingdom perspective cannot be ignored in the area of finances and all the resources which have been made available to us by God. We should be looking for practical ways to help others within our community and should not be satisfied by doing things within our comfort zone.
As we struggle to overcome the pull from the culture to overcome an independent and individualistic lifestyle, we have to act with a generosity which will result in our world getting expanded. It is important that the Kingdom view is shared and focused on so that people will start understanding the biblical message about the Kingdom of God.
Nelson, Tom. Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011.
Sherman, Amy L. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2011.
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