Saturday, March 25, 2006

Emerging Church, the Gospel and Kingdom Language

A long-but-well-worth-the-read article about the emerging church movement was posted recently on Crosswalk.com. It’ll be old hat for those of you who are already well-read in the emerging church conversation, but for newbies like me it is informative. Most of it is from a Challenge Weekly interview with Bruce McLaren, and it gives a good background to and overview of the conversation. If you're new to this part of God-talk dialogue, check it out.

One personal note, this article has helped me articulate another reason why the emerging, house and simple church movements resonate so strongly with me: the use of kingdom language.

In the Crosswalk article, McLaren indicates “very firmly that the Gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God must remain the dominant theology.” Kingdom-language has been with me for as long as I can remember. I first heard it as a child in late 1970s from my parents, who were involved in an in-depth discipleship program with young adults in a Mennonite voluntary service program. (They were reading and teaching Richard Foster before Foster’s work—Praise God—infiltrated the mainstream.) Later, in my mid- to late-20s, I began digesting the likes of Foster, Dallas Willard and other “kingdom living” writers for myself. That a wider “church” movement, in the midst of an even larger cultural shift, would make kingdom language central to their discussion—that excites me.

What is kingdom language? It is language centered around the reality of the kingdom of God. And what is the kingdom of God? As Dallas Willard says (oh-so-much better than me) in The Divine Conspiracy, “…[T]he kingdom has existed from the moment of creation and will never end (Ps. 145:13; Dan 7:14). It cannot be ‘shaken’ (Heb. 12:27) and is totally good. It has never been in trouble and never will be. It is not something that human beings produce or, ultimately, can hinder. We do have an invitation to be a part of it, but if we refuse we only hurt ourselves.” It is not limited to the human heart, but “governs the whole of the physical universe.” Jesus, says Willard, ushered in not the kingdom (because it has been and always will be) but “a new accessibility of the kingdom to humanity through himself.”

We were meant to live in this kingdom. We were made to live in this kingdom. What is this kingdom? It is life. It is life given, ruled and poured out by God. Ultimately, it is love.

And this leads me to another part of the emerging conversation that resonates with me: the drive to live and experience this kingdom life as described in Scripture. And that kingdom, that life, is more than just God and me. It also includes you and me. It is a family, like described in Acts: one that eats, prays, plays and meets together constantly. Here, the house church movement (particularly Wofgang Simson) is touching my hunger for this kind of community, fellowship, koinonia.

These are good conversations to have—how to do church so that the kingdom has priority. I’m looking forward to experiencing more of it (both the conversation and the kingdom.)

Blessings.

(Image: james.thompson on flickr.com)

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