"It is the decision to carry on the mission of Jesus’ kingdom that remains the basis of the church" says John Fuellenbach in Church: Community for the Kingdom. In my Church and Mission class this last quarter, we discussed this idea -- continuing the work of Jesus as the primary task of 'church'. We talked about Jesus' central message, the proclamation of the kingdom of God. We talked about how the church finds its true identity when it continues this proclamation, both in their corporate life and in the story they tell about God. We talked about how the kingdom is not an abstract concept -- Jesus' proclamation created a space that included the outcasts and the sinners and invited them into community. It gave voice to the voiceless, the enemy a seat at the table.
I asked my very big class (74 students!), what would it look like if our sole mission strategy was to continue Jesus' ministry? And what if it had to stay pretty concrete, staying pretty close to the actual things Jesus did in community with his disciples? What if that was the stuff we had to get right, the central stuff, and that the other stuff, while important, was peripheral? In our jobs at Starbucks, or in our neighborhood groups, or in our church systems, what if hospitality, including the marginalized, overflowing generosity, giving voice to those without, were the essentials? Could these sorts of communal practices point to God and change the world?
In our class, we replaced the church rubric (how many are in or out?) with kingdom rubrics -- how are our practices, anywhere, like the kingdom (or not)? Are our activities that we participate in moving in that direction? How might we foster, through our conversations, positive moves towards the kingdom at Starbucks, in our neighborhoods, and in our church systems? It was an engaging conversation that lasted all quarter -- both in small groups and in our large discussions. They are questions I hope they will continue to ask the rest of their lives.
Here is Part II
Here is another post on this topic...