Kingdom or Church?

I was reading this and thought that the word choice was theologically and practically confusing. Besides it makes a distinction in the here-now that is not helpful. I think I know what he is getting at but the following logic seems forced:

“Among churches today, the conversation – a long overdue one – is
moving from church growth to Kingdom growth,” wrote Ed Stetzer,
director of LifeWay Research, in Outreach Magazine’s July/August 2007

Then I read this and I see that someone much smarter than I had a similar reservation about this shift in terminology. Although he is addressing another context entirely I think he is wise to ask,

In what sense is the Church a kingdom? Is there a kingdom of Christ
today that is apart from the Church? Is there any advantage to using
the word Kingdom instead of Church? I wouldn’t say that all of the
references to kingdom in the NT are to a future age (e.g., Col 4:11),
but most are, and I just think it’s better to keep the terms distinct.

5 responses to this post.

  1. My guess is that Stetzer is reacting to the tendency of some churches to insulate themselves from the surrounding culture, focusing all of their efforts in bolstering themselves as an organization. I know of more than a few churches who call their people to serve the organization with very little emphasis on ‘seeking the good of the whole city’ (Jeremiah 29:7).

    And to be honest, I found Todd’s comments far more confusing than Stetzer. How does he account for Jesus’ declaration that the kingdom of heaven is here? While we certainly wouldn’t want to overemphasize the here-now aspect of kingdom, certainly we can’t ignore that element of it either.

  2. Posted by Conibear Trapp on June 28, 2007 at 2:50 am

    Perhaps we require a clarification of terms here. Instead of churches, perhaps we should be speaking of congregations. These congregations would be a subset of the kingdom. Adding individuals to a congregation increases the size of the kingdom. However, adding congregations may increase the size of the kingdom at a much faster rate. I seem to remember reading that church planting increases the number of individual Christians in a community faster than evangelism by a single congregation does. Not sure if this is the distinction being made here or not but it seems reasonable.

  3. Look at how Jesus uses the phrase, “Kingdom of God” in Matthew 12:28, 19:24, 21:31, 43 and it is quite obvious that the kingdom of God is entered into upon salvation. That is also when we come under His Lordship as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. His rule is established in the lives of those who have placed their faith in Him, and it is those who have placed their faith in Him who are members of His body, the church. So the church is His kingdom, the place where He is the head, and has been given to the church after He has been made head over all rule and authority. As the Head He rules and reigns, and we in the body are about doing kingdom work here and now as we serve Him and serve one another. This is a spiritual kingdom, and a tangible kingdom.

    There will be a literal physical kingdom when Christ comes back to rule with a rod of iron from Jerusalem for a thousand years. The church will be priests of God and Christ and will be reigning with Him during that time.

    Actually, we see the kingdom of God beginning to reign upon the earth at the end of the third woe of the seventh trumpet judgement in Revelation 11:15-17, when the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.

    The spiritual kingdom now is the shadow of the physical kingdom that is coming at the end of the age.

  4. Posted by Paul Bright on July 6, 2007 at 8:44 am

    While in Russia, a prominent professor from an Arminian Southern Baptist seminary visited with a new ‘church-growth’ program for the Russian Baptist Union. I decided to sit in on the one-day conference to determine what someone else might say with regards to helping the Russian Baptist church grow. Throughout the presentation, this professor spent an inordinant amount of time on explaining how the church is the kingdom and how he was not there to give them a means to grow their churches, but the kingdom.

    The subtle change in lexical usage did have a reason; the presenter was trying to say that a person should look beyond the daily ins-and-outs of his ministry and understand that all efforts are part of the grand design of God. In this sense, I would agree. However, I do not know whether a lexical change is necessary or beneficial to do this, since a straightforward exhortation be better and more biblical.

    In the end, the presenter tried to force upon the Russian Baptist Union the “committee model” of the SBC. I cannot tell you how quickly the attendees faces changed when he began to explain that in order to build the kingdom, you need committees…and so forth.

    When probed by a seminary student on the meaning of his statement, “the church is the kingdom,” he did not seem to be able to answer. It could be that the whole thing is a marketing ploy to re-energize the do-nothing masses in the church to do something.

  5. Posted by Paul Bright on July 6, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Brothers, we should also be careful to make sure that, although we do not confuse lexical (and therefore theological distinctions) between church and kingdom, we do not therefore throw away the emphasis on kingdom within Gospel proclamation. Consider the following verses from the preaching ministry of the apostles in the book of Acts (8:12, cf. 14, 25; 14:22-23; 20:25; 28:30) and realize that this proclamation was done in light of the context of Acts 1:3 and 1:6. It could be, that in zealousness for discontinuity (which admittedly I do not share with you all in every letter), it is possible to miss the prerogative to include the practical hope of the kingdom (consider the people groups to whom the apostles preached, and compare this with the hope of the kingdom in 1 Thess 2:12; 2 Thess 1:5; Col 1:13; 4:11). Of course, this little snippet does not, nor can, cover all the variations of kingdom, but at least those who hold a dramatic change in the program of God in the church as severely detached from the kingdom will notice the presentation and hope of the kingdom for ‘church-age’ believers post-Pentecost (cf. Acts 26:18, 23), irrespective of nationality.

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