Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, Luke 8:1 NASB
Matt and I are preparing for a new in-depth multi-part upcoming series on the church. In preparation I have been posting in large part about the problem of modern western culture church, or at least what we have evolved church into. I have identified some issues with hierarchy instead of equality, hiring kings to run our churches instead of worshiping THE ONE king, and business models replacing the family within church politics. But there is another area that likely trumps all of these. Matt and I have touched on this many times in several different videos.
The primary message of Jesus was for all to leave the world and completely be immersed in His kingdom. This was his definition of a disciple. In my mind the main problem with the modern western church is that we have missed or forgotten the pre-emanate calling of Jesus and replaced that calling with a lot of things that don’t fit, and in many cases are actually the opposite of what Jesus asked us to do.
At the beginning of Luke 8 we get a picture of what Jesus wants for His disciples and how the church will come together. He uses the expression the “kingdom of God.” Matthew’s circumlocution is very similar, “king of heaven.” I want you to stop and consider something that you may have never thought of.
Jesus wasn’t preaching a good life, he wasn’t even necessarily preaching the salvation of the world, or the desire to give you miraculous powers and gifts; He didn’t even really seem to be to bent on getting you to heaven. Jesus simply invited people to experience His kingdom. Today the church has sadly wandered from this invitation.
The Old Testament set the picture for what the message of Jesus would bring. But we have gotten way off track. Roman Catholicism turned Christianity into a celebrity religion that isn’t in the Bible. Rather than realize this is wrong and not advocate it, the modern evangelical church has continued to attempt to turn Christian leaders into celebrity saints. The modern-day lead pastor has become the icon of a celebrity saint to be nearly worshipped as a god-king for all within the political church. This has come full circle back to the ancient problem of Genesis. Humankind wants to worship themself not God. I have written enough about this though, let me continue with how this affects the kingdom.
When you walk into any synagogue during any place in time you won’t find great people (celebrities of the faith) on display like you do at a catholic church. The Hebraic way of thinking was on the central message not those associated with bringing the message. To esteem them equal to the message would make them idols which God clearly warned about in the Torah. What mattered was the message not the messenger. This is why even Messianic Jews consider Jesus a bit different than our modern evangelical friends do. Jesus brought the message of His father’s Kingdom.
“The kingdom of heaven [of God] resembles a concept in rabbinic Judaism called tikkun ha-olam, which literally means ‘mending the world.’ When one enters (or joins) the kingdom of heaven, one becomes a partner with God in spreading redemption throughout a hurting world. That person goes out and feeds the hungry; clothes the naked; visits those who are in hospital and prison; prays for the sick and defends the rights of the orphan and widow. A person who has entered the kingdom of heaven gets involved in people’s lives. He or she pursues a lifestyle characterized by mending our world: where there is hatred, he or she bestows love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.”
I have for many years said that modern evangelical Christianity is bi-polar. If you came to Christ through a step plan of salvation like the Romans road, or a colorful bracelet that tells a story of PSA/ECT style “abusive” thinking your likely in need of therapy. Too many have tried to make this plan of salvation fit with the overall message of Jesus and it simply doesn’t. It’s cut up and re-arranged to fit an agenda. My main problem with presenting the plan of salvation (and hell) this way is that it frames God as worse than Hitler (in being the judge that chooses to send people to what sounds like a never-ending torture chamber rather than the author of love, grace and mercy. It’s simply trying to preach or promote a bi-polar version of Jesus or His message. It’s messed up, but that’s humankind, not God.
Watch this video for more on that: https://youtu.be/GXl3u5DoDGs
Christianity’s eschatological focus is on the afterlife. We have made Christianity a religion of death not life. What originally drew me into the Old Testament was the emphasis God gives in the Torah to live here and now, and the theological idea that God will reign on this earth. That was also the culminating message of Jesus. “Unto the least of these” is a kingdom attitude and that kingdom is here on earth.
When you study the Hebrew and Greek of the Bible, we find that there are 17 different terms that describe what evangelicals simply call the church, bur what we make out the church to be is closer to some concoction or pieced together potion than it is the picture that Jesus painted for us. The transition from the first century Hebraic minded church to the modern evangelical, dare I say Roman Catholic version of Jesus, has nearly destroyed the message Jesus preached and His kingdom. The fact that that ekklēsía doesn’t mean “church,” and brings imagery that isn’t biblical is just the beginning of our modern problem. Ekklēsía is but one of dozens of significant problems that is affected by our birth culture thinking. Faith, salvation, obedience, law, gospel, kingdom, sin, forgiveness, repentance, grace, and love need to be interpreted within the meaning of Jesus and His kingdom message, the meaning of God’s word in the lives of the men who heard them and what it meant in their context. We have evolved the church and its terms to mean things far different than what they meant when Jesus proclaimed them to His first century disciples.
Let’s get back on track with the central message of the scripture and Jesus, to be fervent disciples and proclaim His kingdom in all of life. Some of us need a total reset.
 Joseph Frankovic, The Kingdom of Heaven (HaKesher, Inc., 1998), pp. 31-32.