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Seeking a deeper experience of Kingdom living-together

Over the last few months, I’ve been reminded a lot of how much God likes process. My kids and I contemplated that this summer as we delved into Genesis 1. Recently, Jeff Berryman wrote a great post on how the process “may not only be as important as the product, it may be product itself.” I’ve also been reminded that process involves waiting—a lot of waiting. David’s father recently reminded him “the best bit of the Bible is . . . ‘and it came to pass.’” And then there’s the upcoming Advent season, which reminds me that with God, waiting isn’t simply “passing the time” but is all about actively living in expectation for something yet to come.

This has been good stuff for me, because I’m in one of those waiting periods. About six months ago, when we moved to Virginia, we also embarked on an experiment of sorts: We decided to find out what Kingdom life is like outside (or beyond) the institutional church.

For regular readers of this blog, that won’t be a surprise. For almost two years, I’ve been thinking through what it looks like to live in the Kingdom and be the church. It started with a simple enough question: What is the Kingdom? And what does it look like? I began collecting images, and as I mulled those images I began to wonder: How does Kingdom life happen? How do we experience that life, real and present and here-and-now? And out of that another question began to develop: Why isn’t that life the norm in churches today?

Much of what came from those questions is summed up here and here. Basically, I’m discovering that Kingdom life is not something we create, but flows from our relationship with God as we walk with Jesus and those around us in the wide-open spaces of his grace, glory, love and life. It all begins with and flows from the Father and our relationship with him. Only as we live in trust with the Father can kingdom-living be expressed. And the “church”—this living-together in the Kingdom, this tangible and local expression of the Kingdom—operates the same way. It flows out of our relationship with God as we live with each other, encouraging each other to accept, deepen and live in and out of relationship with God. It is both purposeful and organic: it is the love, justice, life and mission of the Kingdom here-and-now as we go about living-together every minute of our lives.

I’ve come to agree with those who think that this kind of living-together isn’t generally fostered or facilitated by the way we “do church” today. Instead, it seems to grow more organically among folks who are simply walking with Jesus and those with whom their paths cross—if only for a season. And it seems to flourish in simpler, smaller and more organic and basic structures than found in the way we do church today.

Can and does this kind of life happen in today’s churches? Heck, yeah. But it’s rare, including for us. We’ve tasted it here and there, but not consistently—and that’s something we long for. So, when we moved, we decided to see what God would do if we expectantly waited on him to bring about this kind of living-together. We aren’t leaving the church (which is impossible if you are a follower of Jesus as we are the church) but seeking a deeper experience of it.

So, for the last six months, we’ve simply (but intentionally and expectantly) been walking with Jesus and those who cross our paths, taking time to reflect and process our experience with God as a family and with friends. Personally, these last six months have only, among other things, deepened my sense of God’s love and care as well as awakened a deep yet simple enjoyment of people. It hasn’t been easy at times—in fact, sometimes it’s downright trying—but I’ve been learning a lot, some of which I’ll begin sharing in upcoming posts. And recently, a few of us who’ve crossed paths decided to start meeting together more regularly and explore what it means to “be the church” and live together as followers of Jesus. I hope to post some about that too.

There’s a lot going on in this process, and I’m finding it too easy to let this longing for Kingdom-living together—be it for myself or for all God’s people—to become the focus of my thoughts and desires. But one thing I’m learning lately is about the value of waiting on God because it reminds me that it all comes from him to begin with: Life, Love, and this living-together in Kingdom. I can experience those things—and those things spill out from me to the world—in no other way but in relationship with him.

And when I remember that, the process becomes the purpose: walking with and trusting God. And then waiting, at least for the moment, isn't waiting anymore. It's walking in those wide open spaces of his Love, Life and Grace in which we live and breathe. And life in the Kingdom is good. Just like God.