When Jesus begins His earthly ministry, He picks up right where John the Baptist left off—proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand, that it’s within reach, that it’s immanent, that it’s here! Jesus could have preached His first sermon on ecclesiology, theology proper, the Ten Commandments, or even on Nehemiah’s leadership traits, but at the inception of His ministry He chose to speak about the kingdom and then proceeded to tell us what it looks like in the Sermon on the Mount.
As Dallas Williard in The Divine Conspiracy points out, Jesus isn’t declaring that the kingdom of God is now burgeoning into existence. He’s proclaiming that the kingdom is here, that it’s always been here, and that there’s a new, profound accessibility to the kingdom through the King! As followers of Jesus, it’s our privilege to usher in the kingdom and to represent the King.
Can we do this through church planting?
Jeff Christopherson seems to think so in his books Kingdom Matrix and Kingdom First. In fact, here at Send Toronto, all the church plants in our city have greatly benefitted from Jeff’s ardent desire to pursue the kingdom through church planting. What we’ve learned and received and heard and seen in His kingdom sacrifice is not only being practiced within our own churches, but in cooperation and excitement with all of the other churches (and denominations) in our city!
So then, the more appropriate question is:
Are we doing this through church planting?
Here’s two indicators that you’re seeking the kingdom of God first in your ministry (Matthew 6:33):
Don’t just love those who love you.
In Matthew 5, Jesus makes it clear that we don’t really have a problem with loving those who love us. However, if we’re to exemplify kingdom culture, we’ll love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. For many of you, this isn’t a big step of faith. You’re leading your churches to serve the poor and the marginalized. Some of you are even reaching out to the LGBTQ community and the Muslims in your city.
Unfortunately, for many of you, those who “persecute” you aren’t those outside of the Church. Rather, it’s more difficult for you to love the church plant down the road or across the city that has more people attending its worship gathering than your church. Or it’s more difficult for you to cheer on “successful” kingdom initiatives in your city because you wish you had thought of that.
Are you praying for those who persecute you? Are you content that God is building His kingdom, even if yours isn’t growing?
Critically evaluate YOURSELF
In Matthew 7, Jesus highlights the human tendency to be critical of others despite our own glaring issues. Let’s face it, as ministers, pastors, church planters, we have an unhealthy inclination to find something wrong with…everything. Some of us blame our seminary training, some of us blame our upbringing, but whatever the reason, the root cause is pride in our hearts.
Is your pride preventing the propagation of the kingdom?
The log protruding from your eye drastically skews your answer to this question. This is so much so that we often miss what this passage is all about. It’s not about taking care of your issues so that you can now be free to judge and criticize others. It’s about the reconciliation of brothers; it’s about you helping him; you serving him.
Are you a servant because you’re a leader? Or are you a leader because you’re a servant?
We (Michael Seaman and Daniel Yang) have been gripped by what we can do if our egos are put away and our Jesus is lifted up. We were two “lead pastors” assessed to do the same thing in the same city at the same time. After moving our families to Toronto a week apart from one another, God providentially ordained a blind meeting between us and said, “Are you willing to step aside and watch Me work if your families church plant together?” Three years into this journey of co-pastoring, we’re healthier than we would have been, stronger than we would have been, closer to the Father than we would have been, better husbands and fathers than we would have been. Don’t get me wrong; it’s been the most difficult season of our lives, but it’s been so much richer because of our pursuit of the kingdom of God…together.
One of our spiritual fathers, Bob Roberts, Jr. says:
If you start with the church, you might miss the kingdom; but if you start with the kingdom, you’ll always get the church.
Don’t miss the kingdom because you’re too focused on the Church, or rather, on your church. Seek the kingdom first and let Jesus build His church.
Michael Seaman and Daniel Yang planted Trinity Life Church in downtown Toronto in 2013. They met for the first time in Toronto just three weeks after Michael moved from Raleigh and Daniel moved from Detroit. After sensing that God had called them to plant Trinity Life together, with no core group, their two families began meeting weekly for prayer and envisioning. After nine months, their group grew and they launched their first public worship gatherings. Trinity Life is steadily growing and actively involved in multiplying other churches in the Greater Toronto area.
Published August 17, 2016