“What is the church?” is a prevalent question.
Within that phrase are the questions of what is the church supposed to be? what is the ideal model or structure? what is the best way to function as a church? These questions have been and will likely continue to be enthusiastically debated and discussed.
There is, however, a deeper underlying question…
“As the people of God, who are we?”
Herein lies the importance of rediscovering a theology of the kingdom of God, of awakening to an understanding of who we are as God’s people.
Regrettably, it is common for church people to view the kingdom as a vague unknowable mystery or as something relegated to the future. The present reality and nature of the kingdom of God has mostly not been understood.
However, if the very gospel that Jesus gave us is the gospel of the kingdom of God, and the church has not understood the kingdom, then what the heck have we been doing for all these years?!
Instead our identity has been shaped by organizations and denominations, and we have become much more comfortable with the question, “what church do you go to?” than the question, “what is the kingdom of God?”
It is because of a lack of understanding of the kingdom that we have not understood our identity as a people. We do not know where to place ourselves in God’s story.
This idea of remembering and rediscovering our identity is a recurring theme in emerging/missional conversations. It is the underlying message of Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Way.
Brother Maynard talks about remembering in answer to the question, “What would be the most important thing for a people living in exile?” He comes up with these three important points:
- They must remember who they are, and who their people are.
- They must remember what they have been promised.
- They must remember where their home is.
With our loss of identity, we also lost our true purpose. The entire concept of being missional must flow out of an understanding of the kingdom of God. Our missional purpose and identity is rooted in knowing our role and place within the kingdom.
Robbymac, in his article Chrysalis, explains it like this:
“The Jewish understanding of “salvation” was a holistic shalom, and our understanding of the in-breaking Kingdom needs to likewise be holistic – preaching the good news, caring for the poor and marginalized, and listening for the voice of the Father as He directs and empowers us by His Holy Spirit. Anything less would not reflect the fullness of the Kingdom that Jesus was announcing.”
The point is not whether we adopt the labels of emerging, missional, post-missional, or any other brand. The point is that we rediscover who we are as the people of God, that we learn what it means to be agents of His kingdom.
We are to be kingdom people wherever we are, looking at every day and every opportunity as an opportunity and a kingdom moment. The love and purpose of God is our motivation, His desire for shalom.
If we truly understand our identity, it impacts how we live and interact with others. We become agents of God’s grace, His love, the power of His life, and we understand better how to participate in His kingdom life on this earth.