5 Stars Out Of 5
Drawing Lines Defining the Kingdom of God and the Church, Let's Get Outside the Box (or Building)
July 21, 2015
As Christians, we are adopted into God's family; we desire to follow Jesus and play a role in God's Kingdom. What exactly is that role? Many of us turn to our churches for answers, and while that isn't inherently wrong (my husband and I are active members of our local church), we may sometimes feel like we're missing something. Maybe we haven't found our niche yet, where serving is more of a joy than an effort. Maybe we have found our "place" in the church, grown roots, looked around and found ourselves wondering, "Is this really all it is supposed to be? I feel like there must be something different, or more... a feeling I cannot put my finger on."
If you can relate to the sentiments above, you're new to the Christian faith, or you've come to the realization that we, as individuals and families can get caught "keeping up with the Jones" as much in church as some do outside of church, this book would be an inspiring read for you.
Author, Reggie McNeal, has a tremendous amount of respect for the church as the body of Christ here on earth. That doesn't stop him from asking some pointed questions and making some undeniable (if we're being honest) assertions based on his observations of the current affairs of the church. This whole book isn't in the tone of "I figured out what's wrong with the church and you'd better listen to how it should change...." though. I've come across enough books that offer criticism and simplistic demands for change without offering depth regarding how things came to be the way they are, constructive conversation regarding potential challenges with the author's views, or relational advice about how others may respond to personal changes readers make. Here are a couple quotes:
"The missional church conversation of the past two decades has drawn attention to the bedrock Kingdom truth that mission is central to the Kingdom. This emphasis comes after centuries in which the church has focused primarily on getting the message right (which was a natural outgrowth of the doctrinal concerns that powered the Reformation.) Now the shift is underway to getting the mission right. (page 43) Living the truth, not just speaking the truth, is the acid test of authenticity. (page 44)"
I would like to warn readers that there was a brief time in chapter 3 that I contemplated McNeal was a soft-spoken social justice gospel preacher. Meaning, I had concerns that he placed such a high emphasis on serving others and attempting to improve the lives of those in need that it appeared to eclipse the foundational truth that our eyes are to be on Jesus as we serve Him through true religion. This quote spurred my contemplation, which is listed as a key point about the Kingdom narrative ("kingdom narrative" are the words the author uses to describe God's vision for the actions of the church on earth, as well as how His servants and beloved children fit into that plan as the Church): "People who do good by enhancing life contribute to the kingdom enterprise, even if they are unaware of it.(page 46)" If this chapter strikes doubt in your mind about whether the message of the book is for you or not, I'd urge you to continue reading. After all, some would argue C. S. Lewis held an inclusive gospel interpretation, believing one did not necessarily have to profess the name of Jesus in order to be saved and enter into Heaven. His writings are certainly worth reading with discernment.
Here is a list of topics found deeper in the book that provided an opportunity for reflection, prayer and conversation:
Challenging the theory that building a "good" church and congregation will trickle out and improve the community with a suggestion to consider doing things in reverse order and allowing God to worry about growing the church
Is there a distinction between serving God and being a good church member?
Does the church still have a role in education? (such as in teaching kids to read, and other "secular" academics like math tutoring?)
Who should be the primary agents of God's work in the world, the church leadership or laity (laymen)?
What if the content of our worship gatherings shifted from providing a worship experience to focusing on what God is doing locally between gatherings?
How a misconception about evangelism causes anxiety in believers when considering witnessing to those outside the church.
There is much more in this book than I've listed here, but I hope that sharing the points I found most intriguing and inspiring has been helpful to those reading reviews!
***For the sake of full disclosure: I received a copy of this book courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of review. The opinions expressed above are my own; I was not obligated to give a positive review.