The blog post below is written by one of the leaders in our SLI program. They were asked as a part of the leadership program to write about the Kingdom of God. Specifically, what does it mean to tangibly live out the Kingdom of God?
– SLI Staff
Advancing “the kingdom” sounds extremely abstract. It conjures up images of heavenly palaces and streets of gold. Like a filmstrip in my mind, I see angelic, Mario Kart-like beings laying golden bricks each time I or anyone else does a good deed, but building the kingdom is not some video game with a magical points system. In contrast, advancing “the kingdom” is actually executed more effectively by simple, tangible methods.
Since I am the human of humans, I recommend we start out talking about ourselves first. I have realized that worshiping God every morning has an impact on my whole day. If I don’t experience time with God first thing in the morning, I can only – at best – fake it the rest of the day. Faking it does no one any good, because when life gets hard, you’ll crumble and when someone needs you, you’ll hide.
Once we completely surrender ourselves for the day, we need to do away with things that do nothing to help us or others attain true freedom in Christ. If we hold any man-made, unbiblical ideas about salvation that are discouraging we need to annihilate those opinions, because these views could potentially prevent others from seeing the truth of Jesus, disguised behind the accidental condemnation we are projecting out into the world. Most likely, a lost person is already going to feel like he or she has entered shark infested waters when entering a group of Christ Followers, so we can not allow their fears to be reality. We can not control how they feel coming in; we absolutely can control how they feel leaving.
If our goal is to help a person find spiritual freedom, we must first discover a way to meet his or her immediate, physical or emotional needs. This is done by allowing yourself to be open and authentic when sharing your own experiences, struggles, dreams, interests, and annoyances so that others will feel at ease discussing these subjects without fear. Meeting someone’s initial needs is also done by genuinely caring for them. Caring about what they’ve been through and about what they care about. For example, when someone talks to me about sports, I can’t really hang conversationally. All I can really do is listen, but I don’t believe my simply listening is in vain. Though I may not truly care about the topic, it is important I truly care that a person has spoken. Everyone – extroverts, introverts, odd hybrid personalities – just want to know they have value.
Being genuine is more difficult than one might imagine, but there are simple ways to begin a conversation with someone in hopes to go deeper. Obviously, it’d be freakin’ weird to start a conversation out with, “Hi! My name is Zac, and my parents’ divorce devastated me for years! What’s your name and biggest regret?!” But! You can begin with “So, what kind of music do you like?” Asking someone lighthearted, generic questions about themselves is an easy way to quickly gain insight into a person’s life.
Taking culture into account is a necessity. Everyone’s outlook is effected by their background. It determines what we view as negative and positive, which is why we must know what is truly wrong and truly right. The Irish pastor behind “Tangible Kingdom” speaks about hanging out with people in a bar and creating strong connections with them over drinks. Alcohol is just part of the Irish culture and was used as a means to begin relationships with people who might have been otherwise closed off if he had not had a drink with them.
The bottom line to furthering the kingdom in a tangible way is to be real. Show people exactly who you are, flaws and all! Show them that perfection is not a requirement for God to love us. We have been entrusted with the privilege of testifying of God’s grace, so we never need to mislead people. We never need to act like we have it all figured out. We need to be honest.
—written by Zac Blackwell, leadership apprentice with Summer Leadership Intensive