Thursday, March 29, 2012

How big is the Kingdom?

Jesus spent a great deal of time talking about the Kingdom of God. He talked about what the kingdom of God was like. He described how we could enter the kingdom of God. He spoke about those to whom the kingdom of God belonged. Many of his parables were kingdom parables. It is pretty clear from the New Testament that his disciples and followers found it difficult to understand his teaching about the kingdom of God. I am confident there is still great deal of confusion about the nature of the kingdom of God.

I believe most of us have a view of God’s kingdom that is much too small. It is so easy, especially in a culture which is so individualistic, for us to get wrapped up in our own little world. We believe we have the corner on God. Local churches can be so focused upon their own congregation’s goals and plans that they fail to see or become an active participant in the larger work of God’s kingdom. The Christian faith teaches us that we are a part of the family of God. We need each other, and we are responsible for and to each other. The problem is human relationships are challenging and difficult. Our fallen nature makes it so easy to focus upon ourselves and our needs, instead of reaching out to our brothers and sisters. Yet, we cannot become mature and responsible followers of Christ in isolation from the larger kingdom.

The early foundations for associations of churches, both locally and nationally, grew out of an awareness that local congregations needed each other. At their best, these associations or relationships enabled congregational collaboration and partnership. They allowed churches to support and encourage each other. They made it possible for congregations to work together to extend the kingdom in ways they could never have done alone. Obviously, associations and denominational organizations can also easily become focused upon themselves. They can begin to believe the kingdom revolves around them and their activity. Some of these organizations believe churches exist to serve the denomination. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Churchnet is a Baptist network serving churches. Churchnet is a ministry of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. We are approaching our 10th Anniversary as we make plans for our Annual Gathering on April 13-14, 2012, at Fee Fee Baptist Church. Our mission is serving churches as they fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Our vision is to encourage and equip churches to expand the kingdom of God. For 10 years we have been trying to build a new type of denominational network based upon a new paradigm. In reality, I believe it is our effort to get back to the original paradigm—churches serving each other and the kingdom of God. The goal of all our initiatives is “to create a space” where genuine Kingdom collaboration can take place among congregations and with ministry partners. From the very beginning we have said it is not about us. It is about the churches we serve and the kingdom of God they serve. We certainly have a long way to go, but I am genuinely excited about what God is doing in and through our Churchnet ministry.

It is because we believe in the kingdom of God that we have chosen to be a part of the North American Baptist Fellowship representing more than 23 million Baptists and the larger global Baptist family through the Baptist World Alliance. This recognition is why we believe in collaboration and networking with other Christians. I hope you will join us for our Annual Gathering. Come explore the kingdom of God with us. Come help us create a space for kingdom collaboration.

This article was written for a recent issue of Churchnet's page in Word&Way.