Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God
Category: Christian Life & Discipleship
In his timely book This Beautiful Mess, Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, Oregon, clarifies our many misunderstandings of this thing called The Kingdom of God. McKinley hypothesizes that much of the church today has forgotten the true meaning of the gospel message.
According to McKinley, at the center of the gospel message is something not so tidy, not so neat, not so perfect. Building upon Jesus' words in the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," the conclusion is that the kingdom is for those who lack and those who are broken. Unfortunately, most of us are too busy involved in other matters to see the beauty (i.e. The Beautiful Mess) that is the kingdom around us.
Jesus' teaching of the kingdom being something here and now is something missed by most theologians—and therefore most Christians. In most eyes, the kingdom has been reduced, spiritualized or something future. That combined with the individualist mindset of our American culture empties the power and usefulness of the gospel. Shying away from such things as pain, suffering and poverty, what remains is an impotent shell of what the kingdom is supposed to be: an anchor of hope rooted in Christ's sacrifice, mercy and grace.
McKinley challenges us to re-imagine our life and our service with the Jesus and His kingdom at the center. Building upon anecdotes of his own journey and experience, McKinley paints a beautiful picture of what the kingdom should be. Laboring side by side with the members of his church, Imago Dei Community, they have seen their life and their city changed. He is clear that God is the one building his kingdom and they are only privileged participants—he is not promoting a social gospel.
Selflessly responding to the needs of the broken and suffering in our midst, the gift the church ultimately offers is found in Jesus. Practicing the presence of the kingdom (the book's subtitle) is not a one-shot deal—it is organic, time consuming, and long-term. The examples McKinley writes about are rich with grace, mercy and unconditional love.
McKinley never claims to be a theologian himself. However, the result of This Beautiful Mess is more powerful than any theology textbook can offer. He possesses credibility because he and his church are actually living out their theology. James chapter 2 states "Faith without works is dead." It is clear that McKinley, Imago Dei Community and their friends have faith. Let's hope that the church at large re-discovers its faith as well. If they do, they will find a beautiful mess waiting for them.
Tim Berroth, January 2007
Tim Berroth is a 36-year old freelance writer in San Diego, California. He is an elder at Crossroads Church. You can view more of his work at Hollywoodjesus.com, TheOoze.com and The Misguided Saint. Visit his blog at thefuse.wordpress.com.Order from www.christianbookshops.org
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