Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Kingdom of God is Within Us

We spoke on Saturday about the truth that the "kingdom of God is within us." The passage actually refers to when the kingdom of God would come and Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'here it is,' or 'there it is,' because the kingdom of God is with you.
This is one of the biggest repositionings that we need to make, to stop thinking that we do ministry over there--in the church--and to start thinking that "I am ministry because Jesus is within me."
I think in some ways that going to a building to worship has unintentionally created a segmentation that allows us to forget about being available for the Kingdom of God to show up. I realized that I used to say "I am going to church" when now I am say, "I am going to Pine Lake," because the church is not the building. The church is me at Starbucks when I am with another who knows him and we speak about what he is teaching us or what he calling us to do. The church is me when I stop and help someone in trouble. The church is me when I open my home to others. The church is me when I read a distressing article and I stop and pray.
Let's journey together in making this paradigm shift. It's going to take awhile and it's going to take focus, but this is worth it.
It's like a person who found a treasure hidden in a field. When the person found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought the field.
The shifts most likely won't happen in big degrees, they will be small adjustments along the way. Nothing is too small to share, but do tell us because then we can all share in the joy of discovering the treasure.

12 comments:

Angie said...

This winter we are snowboarding as a family on Sunday instead of attneding church service. I would like to share with you the transformation that is happening in me and in us as a family as a result. Since I can not rely on the service for my worship and a sense that I have given my one day a week to God (which really wasn't true anyway as I wouod come home from church and do laundry and go to the grocery store and carry on as if it were any other day of the week), I have had to rethink about how we as a family can honor God with this day. So last week I put together a worship playlist on my Ipod that I thought we could all find God in for us to listen and worship to in the car on the way to the mountain. This worked pretty well as we all sang along at times and my boys asked some good question about God and He was very present with us. When we arrived the parking lot was packed and we were feeling rushed to get our runs in as we had to leave early for my son's basketball scrimmage later in the day. On the way to the lodge a woman had gotten her car in stuck some thick slushy snow on the side of the road and even with the help of her friend outside pushing with all her might she could not break free. Instead of passing by in our rush to beat the crowd to the lift line, we all set our snowboards down and headed to help free this woman's car. I know this sounds so everyday, but to me it was a spiritual shift from being a church attendee to being a Kingdom citizen. I used to leave a worship service, Bible study, prayer group even an outreach event and feel I was done and could now focus on myself and my family, but I think God intends these gatherings to prepare us to be available to Him in the rest of life. They are just the warm up, and I was using them to segment my life in Chrsit from the rest of life. Since Sunday, God has given serveral other opportunities to reach out to others in mercy. One was to hand out my last homeless pack as I exited I-90 yesterday afternoon. The old me would have thought, "good I'm done with that now", but the new me went to the store to buy more supplies and restock my car so I am prepared to reach out to the next homeless poerson God puts in my path.

Tamara Buchan said...

Thanks,Angie, for sharing how God is repositioning your thinking. I appreciate your comment that you understand now that the worship service is used to prepare us to go and be a kingdom citizen, watching and be prepared (as you are now with more Corner Bag supplies) for the opportunites that God puts in our paths.

Allexia said...

I am a student at Seattle Pacific and my great aunt sent me the link to your blog. I just wanted to let you know that the thoughts and ideas you present are worthwhile. Continue to pursue them. I will keep Missio Lux in my prayers as time goes by!

Dave L. said...

Recently I had the opportunity to step into the non-church world and share my faith with Bob, my son-in-law’s step father who was terminal with colon cancer. He came from California for a final visit at Thanksgiving. There was no false pretense of what Bob thought about religion. He was an honest man who had a belief in his Creator but was at a loss on who God was. Bob thought that all things had a purpose, leading to his terminal condition was in some way related to his lack of participation in what he viewed as “church.” His concept of God was based on judgment from well meaning Christians telling him he did not measure up. Bob and I had two conversations which involved me listening to what he had to say and respecting him for his honesty. Bob acknowledged his need for God but felt that since he was not a “church attendee” it would be hypocritical of him to go now, since he was in trouble. I was able to relate to him that I too did not measure up to a finite God falling well short of our connotations of what we “should be” compared to what we really are. God’s love and acceptance is extended in grace, freely given to us from His desire for us to know Him. I was able to pray with Bob, asking for healing and a relationship to develop where Bob would come to know God’s love.

Bob went back home after the holiday, his condition deteriorating rapidly. Through hospice care, Bob was open to a chaplain, making peace with God in a remarkable way. As he entered into eternity he portrayed the peace of God, acknowledging God’s presence in his life.

As I reflect God’s grace extended to me, I am grateful for the time I spent with Bob. God reminds me it is not always about going to church, it is about people in relationship with God and to each other. I love the church and have benefited from the Holy Spirit calling me to come together with others for purposes of edification and spiritual growth, but there is more. There are those who for one reason or another I miss. I look forward to getting to know Bob better at a point in time where relationships are free from judgmental concepts.

Dave L.

Tamara Buchan said...

HI Allexia,

Thanks for your comment! I love your aunt. Would you like to be put on the opportunities for outreach list? We are doing some good things in the city.

Tamara Buchan said...

Dave,

Thanks for sharing your insights. It is good to remember how much God can use us when we make ourselves available.

Lar said...

Hi Tamra,
I agree with your suggestion that going to a building to worship creates an unhealthy segmentation in our thinking. If I understand Rom. 12:1 correctly a Christians' entire life, wherever he/she might be is to be offered up as a "reasonable act of worship" (NIV). It is encouraging, therefore, to see your movement toward a holistic reingagement of Christianity with life, and an uncloistering of the Church. As Christians began to "unsegment" their thinking and see worship as a life given over to God they become the message to the world and the Church breaks out of the building. I love the way Paul Vieira puts it in the title of his book "JESUS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING". If you haven't read this one yet I highly reccommend that you do.

It is very exciting to see the way God is working in His people in so many different ways and so many different places to bring them back in to meaningful contact with the world. I have often thought that we Christians have, in many ways, become "of the world but not in the world" instead of the other way around.

andrea said...

I know I am late on the train, but just wanted to say that I could not agree more with the idea that God is within us. I truly believe we are a walking, breathing, acting "church" everyday. Not an ambulance goes by that I don't stop and pray that wherever they are going the people on the other end will be taken care of. Not a news article goes by, especially regarding Kenya, that I don't pray for my friends in Karare, Nairobi and Nyeri. But recently I was tested. Tested to see if I could speak about God and his love to others who do not know Him. I am still young in my path to Christ and this could have been a hard task for me. Yet I took faith and prayed for the right words to be said at the right time. That time came during a funeral, to my boyfriend and his brother. Under normal circumstances I would never had said a word, but I felt compelled to say something. The words flowed from my heart and mouth without thinking. At that moment I truly felt like I was God's conduit, making sure Jacob and TJ heard what He had to say. A last note, with a new frame of mind - I am the ministry – everyday seems more special and my general outlook on life is more pleasant. I hope you feel this way too!

Tamara Buchan said...

Hi Lar,

I totally agree with you about the idea of worship being expanded beyond gathering on Sunday morning to Romans 12: offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Moving into that kingdom mindset helps us to stay focused on our larger purpose as people; to be in relationship with God and to love the people he created.

What are some of the ways that you have "offered your body as a living sacrifice?"

Cathy said...

Yes, I believe in what this initial blog says and our Saturday discussion about the Kingdom of God Within. When we accept Jesus we are changed. When we stay focused on Jesus and what he calls us INTO then we begin the evolving process that God carries out. We are called to live in the present moment being present, available, and take action as it confronts us whether it is action in stillness or movement. Having a faith in Jesus is not an on and off thing. So the Kingdom of God within is about active living with God 24/7.

I have a concern with something I notice is happening. There seems to be a focus happening about the "building" being an issue. A building is simply a place of gathering. When we focus on being a "buildingless" church we are at risk of being caught in a focus trap. We the church run into trouble when we try to create so much structure around how to live out the church and provide for others it creates a structure that walls us in and others out. OUr focus is snagged on something other than the most important thing - being in relationship with GOD. I think we need to stop using the building as the issue and focus instead on how to be living 24/7 as a community as well as individuals. I do not know why God has kept this in my thoughts and jars me every time I herethe word building used. Rather than wait any longer to say something I will start right where he has me and trust He will handle the outcome. He knows where he is leading me/us with this thinking.

Right now what he is showing me is that we are using Building to mean the strcture of the church but using building is too misleading.
Individuals segment their lives seperating God from living life moment by moment. Not the church but a church structure can encourage or discourag this. Where the structure of church causes us to get tangeled up is that it is to easy to go and be anonymous and therefore it becomes too easy to treat our faith as a set of laws where we can check the box and be done for a time- see I went so i check that box until next time. I believe the church falls into Structure Trap (an organizational entity) trying to meet all needs and do all things and be responsible for all things. When this happens the focus is on the tasking part of the getting it done which is criical if you are doing it all. This then requires the structure of organization, funding, people, support, coordination etc that leads to the "walls" or building effect. A focus on tasking is on meeting a "law" such as a certain time, outcome etc. "Get this and this done and then I am done until the next task". Once we really begin to move in faith we see all the needs around us which is a temptation to try and do it all. Which means we need lots of people to help and then to try and Control it all so it gets done. This leads us into a structure trap. Because the structure tries to keep control the majority of individuals begin to do the wait to be told what to do rather than thinking and being involved. This happens because of human laziness and becuse that is what the structure requires/fosters. This leads to them not being a part of the whole process and leads to disconnection with living faith and why are we doing this... This sets up for the check the box to be a good christian thinking - i.e. the law which gets in the way of being organic and growing.

Thus we are pulled away from that initial place where we started out walking in living faith. Kind of a circular trap the trap of good things distracting us from right focus which leads us to playing God and taking responsibility for all things. We know who loves to play this game with us.

Okay this is not a black and white thing fitting every church group or individual so please don't go there. Think about it at a bigger level. A cycle that if unbroken any group living in faith can slip into. WHy scripture says to stay alert.

Based on my Scripture studies, so far, Scripture calls us the body and the parts of the body. If I relate that to the human body, as scripture does,then I can see how some parts of my body have the ability to step in and cover for other parts when they are not available. Such as feet opening the door wider when my hands are full, one kidney covering for the two, toes working for fingers etc. Other body parts can only do what they are designed to do. If they do not do what they are designed to do I die. Such as the lungs, bladder, heart etc. God designed the human body and saw it was good. Therefore, he does not ask, expect, or even want all parts of the body trying to do all things. If I then look at His church, we the people-parts of the body, I can say the same thing is true. Some of us are made only to do certain things (specific passion areas or gifts or tasks) and others are made to shift as needed. I believe this is true on an individual level and faith community group. That means when a faith group tries to do everything that group is trying to do more than what God has designed for them. That very trying to meet it all then creates the need for human structures to get it all done which leads to... "If you give a mouse a cookie" syndrome (check out childern's books to understand this comment).

So to live a Kingdom of God within us life I believe the paradigm shift is not about buildings and Sundays services etc. But about shifting from trying to do it all, responsible for it all, or making someone else (Pastor, church)responsible for our growth but towards being in true connection with each other (which means smaller groupings). With each and everyone seeing themselves as being responsible for God's church - we the body-individuals.

Here is were the rub happens. How do we do that without falling into other human traps such as too much structure, no structure/too loose, too many things going on or not enough, too much accountabiltiy or none. How can small groups stay in God's truth and not get lost through a small deviation in the truth-in quilting a tiny discrepancy 1/16" at one end of a stitch line can result in being 12 inches off down the line so to a group without boundaries. Who helps hold those boundaries accountable. How to aviod falling into living by law or no boudnaries.

For an individual to live the Kingdom of God is simpler than a group together, yet impossible because GOd created us to be in connection which is needed for the individual to stay focused and not lost by the world. A group is simpler because they can help each other stay focused and clear but harder because of all the traps waiting to trip them.

SO how does a group live the Kingdom of God within individually and as a faith community? My only thought at this point is that they must have as their foundation some good "check in" questions that are consistenetly and regularly checked as a group. Such as "why are we here", "are we getting distracted by trying to do too many things at a time" (God designed stress signals warn of this), "who is responsible for individual growth and who is taking responsibility for it?", "is power sharing equal?", "Is this getting too complicated-why", "Are we connected to God or only each other?", "are we becoming inbred?", "Are we using all of God's decision making resources- scripture, Holy Spirit, prayer, faith community, our own reasoning or just a few?", "are we trying to force the timing?", "is this something we do or something we are to hand over to others?", "Do we have a balance of learning, doing for others/each other, celebrating, playing, praying, and being still...".

This is long winded. If you read it all -wow - what perseverance.

Tamara Buchan said...

Hi Cathy,

I very much appreciate your thoughtful response. I read it more than once, because there is much food for thought in it. I love that you are brought up the Body of Christ because I also see how incredibly important it is for walking a life of balance and focus. It will be foundational for the formation and practice of missional communities.
I also love that you recognize the value of check in questions: to see how everyone is doing, but also to ask "how are we doing as a community?"
You have a very good understanding of how the structures can call us into the places that can trap us. That is why I am so very concerned that we lay a foundation on Jesus Christ and build a structure that helps us to live like he did.

lar said...

Hi Tamra

I perceive that you are good at asking hard questions. That is a good gift to have.
I'm pretty sure that I would have no idea on how to become a living sacrifice. Nevertheless in an effort to move toward a meaningful response to your question I will make an observation or two. It does seem to me to be helpful to reflect first on who we Christians are. As Christians we have been crucified with Christ and raised again with Him to new life. Only now it is His life, He lives in me (Gal 2:20,& Rom ch.6 e.g.). So, in a real sense, I am a living sacrifice, my "old man" is dead (Rom 6:6), sacrificed with Christ and yet I live. It appears therefore that living the Christian life is all about being who I am. Authenticity, not living up to some standard is the issue. We can relax, stop trying to measure up, and concentrate on loving our neighbor. I think your move out of the building is a significant step in that direction.