Expanders — of the Kingdom or the Brand?

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Are you a “self-seeker” when it comes to the Kingdom of God? Are you committed to seeking the Kingdom and “expanding” the Kingdom throughout the world — or are you actually putting your efforts into pushing your “brand” of “church” and simply ignoring God’s Kingdom as the real priority in your life and the lives of others?

Jeff Christopherson published Kingdom Matrix: Designing a Church for the Kingdom of God. There’s a lengthy description of the basic concept of his book on Amazon. (Disclaimer: I read the review, not the book, but it was intellectually and spiritually stimulating!)

In his book, Christopherson suggests that there are at least four, inter-related and identifiable groups in the congregations of people who are church-goers. They are the following:

 
Self Seekers (focused on how church expansion can promote their selves)
Brand Expanders (focused on expanding the church brand, not God’s Kingdom)
Kingdom Seekers (focused on knowing God & what His Kingdom can do for them)
Kingdom Expanders (focused on knowing God and expanding His Kingdom)
So studying Christopherson’s idea of these four “quadrants” made me wonder if I could “see” them in my own five decades of experiencing the manifest church. What I decided can wait for another day — I’ll leave it up to you to go to Amazon and make up your own mind about that issue.

I think the category of “self -seeker” isn’t too hard to recognize in the congregations we’ve seen through the years: these could be people who teach Sunday School to feed their egos, loving to be in front of people and seen as “authorities”; or deacons who have their hands in the church finances until they’re caught and maybe even imprisoned; and pastors… Pastors!! Oh, my!!! My father-in-law (a wise pastor for many decades longer than I’ve been around!) pointed out that pastors fall in the same three ways that plague any people in positions of rule and of authority. When they “fall”, it comes in one (at least) of three categories: the sin of greed, sexual sin, or egotistical lust for power and control.

But my thoughts are focused largely on the distinction between focusing one’s life on the Kingdom of God and the God of that Kingdom, instead of merely “pushing the brand”. “Pushing the brand” of a church becomes visible on a local level when churches compete for members, happily taking them from other local congregations. The Baptists and the Methodists gather in public to shake hands, slap each other on the back, and celebrate our “union in Christ” — but on the sly, tell their congregants to stay away from the special Easter program over at such-and-such church (“They’re trying to steal my sheep!”) or make it very clear that though we must love those — uh — “brethren”, their doctrine is so wrong they might even wind up in Hell (“Don’t even think of going there; stay here because our brand of Christianity is the correct one.church-competing

In the earlier part of the last century, Kokichi Kurosaki was one of the Japanese theologians who pulled entirely away from Western missionaries (and the churches they planted) and began the only indigenous, Japanese Christian movement. In a telling fashion, they called their movement Mu-kyokai [pronounce “Mu” + “key-yo” + “kai” (rhymes with “sky”] which translates literally “not-church”.]

In his famous book, One Body in Christ, Kurosaki describes the disaster encountered in Japan amongst the various churches planted by Western missionaries due to their intense competition. After WWII was over, the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, RCC, Pentecostals, and other groups had raced in  to plant churches and seminaries — but each fought bitterly against the others. And each fought to establish its peculiar theological system, dogma and creed against the others — creating a virtual bedlam amongst Japanese “Christendom”.

With a number of other Japanese theologians, Kurosaki developed a philosophy of the Body of Christ which essentially moved as far away from the “trappings” of these various denominations as possible, and instead sought to penetrate to the Foundation of what made the visible Body of Christ the true Body of Christ.

Of course, the Foundation — and there is “no other” — is the Person of Jesus Himself (á la 1Cor 2). The doctrinal and ceremonial trimmings “added” to the church throughout the centuries following the first, were deemed non-essential for this indigenous “Mu-kyokai” (not-church) movement. The movement has subsequently become the largest Christian movement in Japan, even today.

This “not-church” has never been “denominationalized”; it has no (human) head nor any headquarters; it has no particular structure and certainly no hierarchy. Any group of people who gather together in fellowship essentially create whatever social structure they wish — typically focused fellowship in which they care for one another and teaching in which those who are recognized as mature in preaching and teaching [cf. 1Tim 5.17] are given a leading place.

DISCLAIMER: Back about two decades ago), Kurosaki’s book planted a “worm” in the “apple” of my traditional vision of the church (not that I was terribly tied to tradition anyway!) Since then, I’ve discovered that the treasure wasn’t the “apple”, but the “worm”! (Jonah 4.7 shows that sometimes the lowly “worm” is the prophetic “hero” of God’s work.)
Where do you find yourself in the quadrants? Self-seeking and self-focused? Clearly in relationship to the God of the Kingdom, inhabited by Christ via the Presence of the Holy Spirit — or caught up in merely pushing another brand of “church” in competition with so many others?

I’ll leave it there for your review — self-review, not “reviewing those around you”!!!

EmDog

2 Comments

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  1. Megan

    Love this, Emil!! I wanna be a kingdom expander!

    • EmDog

      Gotta know who you are, Megan… You already ARE a “Kingdom Expander” — the other three “alteernatives” are carnal and dead… Since (by trusting Him) you’re One With Christ, you ARE a Kingdom Expander — and you don’t have to take any courses, get any certifications, make any commitments to others or “leadership” or a “church”: you ARE a Kingdom Expander because you Love as Jesus Loves (and you do THAT because He’s living in you — NOT “theoretically”, NOT “theologically”; NOT “doctrinally”; but IN FACT, IN REALITY, the KING has taken up residence within you, you Kingdom Expander!)

      EmDog

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