Does the difference between church and kingdom ever feel confusing or blurry to you?
Consider these two simple definitions of church and kingdom:
Church = Christ + community
Kingdom = Christ + cosmos
Church is a community that practices worship, prayer, and scripture reading and teaching, as well as the sacraments of communion and baptism. It is the fellowship of those centered on confessing Jesus. We can think of the church as our extended family. The church gathers to come under the priesthood of Jesus in the smaller temple of the church.
Our word in Greek for church is ekklesia. Millikin in The Nature of the Church says, “In secular Greek, ekklesia was commonly used to refer to an assembly of representative citizens of a Greek city called out to transact the business of the city.” Essentially, this was a legislative gathering. Maybe a church gathering is supposed to legislate God’s activity on earth? That would mean activities within the assembly should find their outworking outside of that assembly.
Kingdom is the outflow of a church community members functioning as priests of their Messiah, bringing heaven into the world. This is the greater temple of creation where Christ’s reign is welcomed into every sphere, every nook, and cranny of the cosmos.
Baseleia is the Greek word a kingdom or domain, often referred to in the synoptic gospels as the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. Baseleia is a hereditary term. A kingship that can be handed to heirs. Kingdom is the extension of God’s influence into the cosmos by members of the ekklesia.
How does this all work?
Churches can function as many things, families, communities, cultural centers, boot camps, training bases, think tanks, prayer rooms, worship tabernacles, hospitals, oasis. No matter what, the church community at large should be focused on sending her people as families and teams out to represent and establish the kingdom.
Those functioning in business, government, education, or charities, etc are not less than the church, they are still the church. They may be functioning outside the “assembly” where the rhythms of the church are often more consistent. They may not have pastors or ordained priests in their group, but they are part of the priesthood stamped in the image of God, called to expand Eden. They are simply participants in the kingdom now, witnessing now and expectantly pursuing the fullness of that same kingdom to come.
Ministry-ready saints are to function in the broader world to bring the kingdom. Without a kingdom focus, churches become myopic. The five-fold ministry of the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers) works to capacitate the church as Jesus’ functional body in the cosmos. Another way to think about this is we are images of God emanating his presence and redemptive stewardship of creation.
Apostles — lay foundations for daily encounters with God’s heart
Prophets — bring revelation pertinent for navigating seasons and epochs
Evangelists — serve as midwives and adoption agents for the new family
Shepherds — give spiritual care as the moms and dads in daily life rhythms of the community
Teachers — shape theological understanding for functional outworking of faith
All these gifted people’s main function is to equip you to be the images of God in society and creation, emanating his presence like scattered stars in the dark, expansive cosmos.
“God chose to make known to you how great among all peoples are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
May “Christ in you” be love as a community in your church gatherings and may “Christ in you” be the truth as the expanding rule of God’s kingdom in the cosmos.