Ever hit a line, or two, in a book that sticks with you for hours…days…or longer? Something that tickles at the edge of your thoughts long after you stopped reading? You have? Me too…in fact just last week, or so I had one of those experiences, and I’m going to share it with you. I was reading the introductions to a few books in my stack to queue up the next one…and a few lines from Barry D Jones’ “Dwell” has lingered in my thoughts for the last several days. He called into question using phrases such as we’re “building the kingdom,” “extending the kingdom” or “advancing the kingdom.” Being someone who uses those phrases, my interest piqued. He referenced the book “The Missional Church” in this discussion…where they made the point such language puts an emphasis on our efforts. He agreed and went more in-depth on the topic. I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with Jones (Barry, not Darryl)…but I believe the point deserves thought and so I ‘thunked.’
Context and intent are essential, and I believe when I’ve (and others at Crossroads) have used those phrases – it was clear we weren’t claiming the advancement of the kingdom depended on our work. We’ve spoken of the sovereignty of God often enough I would hope that no one would assume we’re making it about us and not about Him. My reflection on this did, however, make me wonder if we were clear enough? Maybe I need to watch how I’m saying the things I say…words are important. If I shorthand – or short-speak to be accurate – something, I need to make sure the intent and context are clear…not everyone knows what’s going on in my head (for which most of you should be grateful).
I also wonder how “we need to advance the kingdom” plays on a follower of Christ subconsciously. Maybe we understood what was being said, but as we internalize it…it becomes about being ‘good enough’…a problem rampant in the church today. We need to be seeking to do His will, to advance His kingdom…as He directs and asks us too…so we do have a role to play, but it is His kingdom, and God advances it, not us. It’s not our kingdom.
Thinking those thoughts got me thinking…what other things do we say that could possibly be misheard? More importantly, how do we combat wrong “hearing”? A couple of things come to mind there as well…first, we’re commanded to test all things against Scripture.
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. [1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 ESV]
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. [Acts 17:11 ESV]
The second thing that comes to mind…check with others (be careful which others, though). Best way is to be active and involved in some form of group life…ID group (small discipleship group) or a LifeGroup (larger bible study group). Make sure it’s a group that turns to the Bible to check…if that’s not the source of truth, it’s not the right group for this. Group life is a way to discuss and research…a way to have accountability. It’s called discipleship…being a disciple…making disciples.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. [1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV]
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. [Proverbs 27:17 ESV]
So, to wrap this all up, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying “advancing the kingdom”…as long as the context is clear that we’re working for God, through His power, because of His grace and mercy. It’s not us…it’s Him…it’s not our kingdom…it’s His…we’re His…He is in us, and we’re in Him…and that’s all we need.