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Ruminating on t-shirt theology

Recently, Elliot of Claw of the Conciliator spotted a t-shirt on his way home from church. I was so enthralled with the slogan that I ferreted the infobaun until I found a place to buy a similar shirt. (Hat tip to A Living Room which provides a link to CafePress, who sells the shirt.)

The shirt’s slogan taps into a vein of faith-thought I’ve been contemplating of late. I’ve been gathering pieces and images of what living in the Kingdom looks like here-and-now—perhaps a bit like bubbles and molecules or green open spaces. I’ve been thinking some about church walls (or lack thereof), and I resonate with what Wayne Jacobsen’s description of the church that Jesus builds and Wolfgang Simpson’s neighborhood dinner reveal about living-together as followers of Jesus.

This shirt’s slogan is another of these snapshots or glimpses of living-out-the-Kingdom-together. It articulates to some extent a longing to experience the fullness of Kingdom living, a living together as brothers and sisters the way the Word describes those in the earliest days—as Jacobsen expresses it here:
. . . brothers and sisters growing in their relationship with Jesus and each other in a way that transformed them. They loved each other, grew together in God’s wisdom, shared their possessions together freely, and saw him reveal himself in extraordinary ways to them and their culture.

Was it perfect? Of course not and Scripture graciously made that clear as well. They struggled through failures and sin. They had to deal with those who tried to exercise control over others and brothers and sisters who preferred the comfort of false teaching to the challenge of the true. But throughout God kept making his way and truth known. They were filled with awe and God’s grace multiplied among them in demonstrable ways.

Who wouldn’t want that?
This is often a great deal more than what most of us experience today. Many writers and thinkers out there suggest that one reason for this is that our view of “church” is far too narrow. Jacobsen points out that what we’ve come to call “church” (what I’m coming to think of as “church-in-four-walls”) is only one expression of this living-together-in-the-Kingdom. It’s “not where or how [we] meet, but whether or not people are focused on Jesus and really helping each other on the journey to becoming like him,” he says. “Meetings are less the issue here than the quality of relationships.” Across the pond, David contemplates on the same thought:
Meetings should be an expression of community: community should not function around meetings. If we are going to do Church differently we need to get away from thinking that meetings are important. Community is important. That may happen around a kitchen table, round a glass of wine or over a meal. I am not saying that we shouldn't meet to pray and praise and learn and teach, but if a community is measured by it's meetings then there is something wrong.
Somehow, many have come to think of “going to church” (dare I define this as any gathering from a house church to a mega church?) as a full expression of living in the Kingdom. But this church-in-four-walls is but one manifestation of a boundless Kingdom. Living-out-the-Kingdom-together is much bigger, much grander, much more. It is an outward reaching, outward spreading thing, like vines spreading over a fence or a pitcher of water poured spilled on the floor or seeds scattered and sprouting alongside the road. The Kingdom moves and breathes and seeps into every part of creation, inviting everything it touches to enter and drink and live. How can we not move and breathe and invite and live with it?

I’m the first to admit I don’t have this living-out-the-Kingdom-together thing even close to worked out. Heh, I've got more questions than answers. But I’m discovering that has something to do with living-together every moment in God’s wide open spaces of grace and glory and love—not just one or two times a week in a place called "church." It's got not as much to do with getting people to church as it does with moving with the Kingdom among the people. It’s about surrendering to God and embracing what he is doing here-and-now. It’s got a lot to do with relationships, both with fellow believers and those who are standing outside the Kingdom doors and don’t even know it. It's got to do with healing, restoring, renewing, and remaking every place I step. It drips with love and grace and new life. It’s got a lot less to do with me and more to do with God.

And I'm finding that's not a bad place to be.

(Images: CafePress)