Kingdom of God article from Scot McKnight (pdf)

On Scot McKnight's blog (Jesus Creed), he recently did a seven-part series exploring the biblical teaching on the Kingdom of God. In my humble opinion, this blog series is an excellent companion piece to the practical application on Kingdom living you'll find in Part 3 of his book, The Jesus Creed.

Since I feel that "The Kingdom of God" is perhaps the most crucial topic that a Christian is to understand (after all, it was what Jesus’ proclaimed as the “good news” or “Gospel!”), I asked Scot if I could publish the whole thing at my website for people to be able to download and read.

So here it is! It’s in pdf format, so you can print it out and give it the attention it deserves. Follow this link:

The Kingdom of God by Scot McKnight

For those of you who have not yet read Scot McKnight’s The Jesus Creed (and shame on you! It did after all, win Christianity Today’s 2005 Best Book on Christian Living!), you will love Part Three (chapters 13-18), which deals with “The Society of the Jesus Creed.”

In the prologue to part 3, Scot writes,
“Because Jesus’ mission was to establish the kingdom of God—
The society in which the Jesus Creed transforms life—
A spiritually formed person lives out kingdom values in the Society of the Jesus Creed.”

It is a very readable and practical guide to living the Christians life of "Kingdom Values"--the values of transformation, "mustard seed," justice, restoration, joy, and eternal perspective.


Something is not right with the world

All you need to do in order to believe this is to go to a funeral for a 14 month old. Little Noah McKenney passed away on Monday, after having been born with spina bifida, and then battling brain cancer the last two months of his life.

His parents, Todd and Bethany, are old friends of mine from the singles ministry (dating back 15 years ago) at The Chapel. I remember Bethany as this hippy-ish girl with this beautiful long mane of red hair—always smiling and playing her guitar at area coffee shops. Todd was a prim and proper lawyer. We always found it interestingly odd that those two paired up! Todd is now Pastor of Community at The Chapel, and we have kept in contact here and there over the years—most recently bumping into each other at the CCO’s Jubilee Conference this year.

As the mourners filed through the sanctuary of the church, different videos were being shown on the two large screens above the pulpit: shots of Bethany with her newborn baby, another scene with Noah’s older sister, Selah, singing to him as he laid in his rocker, and videos of Noah’s first birthday party. In front of the pews sat Bethany, very distraught. Todd stood next to her, shaking hands and hugging loved ones as they filed in…a pained smile on his face as he’d greet friends and family. He held a soggy Kleenex in his left hand.

I hugged Todd and held Bethany’s hand, and then I passed the open coffin. I could only just glance at the little boy lying there—“Oh, Lord!” I thought, “He has red hair!”

Images of my own red-headed son, Trey, flashed into my head.

How could I ever handle losing him? Or Joel or Kaira?

How does a parent cope?

I sat in a pew and cried.

Some would say, in some desperate attempt to find comfort at a time like this, that God must have wanted this to happen—that it must have been God’s will for Noah to have died at 14 months.

I disagree.

This is wrong. Period. Something is not right with the world.

This is the carnage left by the Fall. This is why Jesus introduced the Kingdom of God—to overthrow the power of death through the power of His resurrection.

Paul knew the pain of watching loved ones suffer because of death. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he was not teaching pie-in-the-sky feel-goodisms or ivory-tower theology. He was telling us the wonders of the resurrection that we need to know when we come face-to-face with the sting of death.

What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever. But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.
When this happens—when our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die—then at last the Scriptures will come true:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. How we thank God, who gives us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord!

(1 Corinthians 15:51-57)


White Evangelicalism and Racial Issues in America

One of the best books I read during my time at “New Staff Training” with the CCO is Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith. Emerson and Smith are Sociology professors (at Rice University and North Carolina, Chapel Hill respectively). The book is a sociological study on the racism that remains to this day in America, and how evangelicalism actually is contributing to the problem.

The big idea that kept rising to the surface for me concerned a truncated version of racial reconciliation that has been in vogue in white evangelical churches for the past 10 years. I’ve been pastoring in white suburban churches during these years, and have witnessed it first-hand.
Emerson and Smith articulate it on page 74 of Divided by Faith:
“For them (many white evangelicals), the race problem is one or more of three main types: (1) prejudiced individuals, resulting in bad relationships and sin, (2) other groups—usually African Americans—trying to make race problems a group issue when there is nothing more than individual problems, and (3) a fabrication of the self-interested—again often African Americans, but also the media, the government, or liberals.”
Yes! Nailed it! And I didn’t realize it until I read this a few weeks ago!

In the evangelical churches I’ve been associated with, all three of these have been the way we have been framing the subject matter. Most white evangelicals would say that they are not themselves prejudiced, that they do not have a personal problem with black people. They would say that they would, in fact, welcome individual relationships with African Americans. They would be the first to say that there is not room in Christianity for anyone to feel superior over another person of another race.

But, and right here’s the rub, they keep it at the individual level. As long as individuals are not themselves prejudiced and acting sinfully toward other individuals, then they feel that the race issue is being solved.

This is a symptom of a grander issue: Generally speaking, white evangelicals have embraced a truncated gospel—a gospel of the individual being reconciled with God and with other individuals. It is not a gospel of community. It is not a gospel that allows for the redemption of social structures because it is a gospel of individuality.

So, there is a general suspicion of social-structure redemption. It is viewed as “liberal,” since it’s assumed that social action is not concerned with what is truly important: the individual human heart. Since a white evangelical does not see racism in his own personal individual heart or in those around him, he assumes that talk of racial problems must be a fabrication of the self-interested. He rejects affirmative action, for it is seen as a self-interest fabrication, since racism is a matter of the individual heart. In general, we white evangelicals have been blinded to systemic racial problems in society because we are limited by our individualistic gospel.

The extent of racial reconciliation in white evangelical churches, then, has been a truncated solution—individual reconciliation. Hug a black person, pledge to never be prejudiced, and that’s about it.

But that’s not enough. Until Christians understand the systemic injustice of racialization, we are not only unable to be a part of the solution, we are a part of the problem.

I'm Baaaaaaaa-aaaaaak!

After a long hiatus, I'm finally back.

A new ministry, a new rhythm of life.

My next several months are going to be focused on learning a new position (as "Area Director" for a college ministry called the "CCO"--Coalition for Christian Outreach), and figuring out how the new ministry will dance with home life with my family.

And I will also, of course, be sharing my thoughts here at VanguardChurch--especially on issues about how postmodernity effects the next generation as they seek God.

I look forward to conversing with readers about how to reach college-aged students (as well as all other postmoderns) with the gospel of Jesus Christ...
...and I look forward to how our discussions about postmodernity and the Bible will get us closer to the real Good News of the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached.