Jesus and His Passion for a Big Kingdom | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeJesus and His Passion for a Big Kingdom

By Shane Bennett

Driving Merchants from the Temple

Driving of the Merchants from the Temple, by Ippolito Scarsella.

If God’s job is to make his sheep fat and happy, he’s not too good at it. I think about believers in the Caribbean and the US suffering the effects of Harvey and Irma today, Mexicans dead in a massive earthquake, and Christians persecuted in the Middle East. Not to mention potential believers like the Rohingya of Burma who are fleeing for their lives in the hundreds of thousands.

If his job is to radically remake everything, I wonder why he’s so slow about it. Realizing, however, that the fundamental unit of the “everything” getting remade is the human heart, mine and yours, I sadly acknowledge I’m part of the slowness.

Alongside the long list of things I don’t understand and the timing issues I don’t get, one thing seems pretty clear in the Gospels: Jesus inaugurated and relentlessly lived into a vision of a certain and vast kingdom of God—a new reality in which outsiders become insiders, evil is pushed back, justice becomes the norm, and as N.T. Wright brilliantly summarizes, God “puts all things to rights.”

God’s job, then, is to bring about that kingdom. Jesus, by the way he lived, the things he said, and the places he hung out gives us both a framework for what the kingdom looks like and a model for participation in it.

I’m particularly encouraged and re-centered by some of the key biblical ideas highlighted in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course regarding this:

1. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man.”

While this carried messianic allusions for his Jewish listeners, perhaps it also provided accessibility to non-Jews. At least it lowered some of the walls of exclusivity raised by Jewish-specific titles like Son of David and Rabbi.

2. Jesus hung out with outsiders.

Matthew tells us Jesus went and lived in Capernaum, fulfilling scripture (Matthew 4:12-25; Isaiah 9:1-2):

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

This also put Jesus nearer to the nations. While messiah-seeking Jews could come up from Jerusalem to encounter Jesus (as Matthew says they did), Gentiles found him teaching, healing, and driving out demons right in their own back yard! The presence of the kingdom of God had come even to them (Matthew 4:24-25).

3. Jesus gave Gentiles access.

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, or as I like to say, “wreaked havoc on the holy hangout,” he was not teaching us that Girl Scouts can’t sell cookies in the foyer and realtors should leave their business cards at home on Sunday morning. Instead he was rolling back a situation that prevented access to God by Gentiles. He re-opened a path for the glory God deserved and wanted from the nations (Matthew 21:12-17; Isaiah 56:7-8). Can’t you just hear him shout it?

“For my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”

4. Jesus passionately advocated for care for outsiders.

We see him in action healing a Roman soldier’s slave (Luke 7:1-10) and driving out demons from the daughter of a foreigner (Matthew 15:21-28). We hear his words of scathing rebuke (Luke 4:24-26). Were there not widows in Israel? Were there not lepers in Israel? Yet God had sent the prophet to foreigners!

5. He worked long and hard to build global, kingdom understanding in his disciples.

I particularly love how Jesus agrees to spend two days in a Samaritan village (John 4:39-41). Poor disciples! Jesus was leading them into the very places they promised their moms they’d never go! This is such a cool model for us to both go and take others into important situations that are beyond our realm of comfort.

Our Response

What can we do to grow in alignment with Jesus on this? How can we see and live out the kingdom he envisioned? The answer could be as big and diverse as the cosmos, but here’s one thing that hurts and one thing that should be fun:

First, realize that we may have more in common with the religious leaders Jesus was smacking around than the outsiders to whom he showed such lavish kindness.

It’s possible this is just me and not you, but give it a little thought. If you’re reading Missions Catalyst, odds are you’re an insider to the things of God and to the current Christian culture. Our enemy would love to build a mindset in us in which we thank God for our special status and cluck our tongues at those gays, Muslims, liberals, etc. who are outside looking in.

Second, give up on this generation and focus on the next!

I’m kidding. Let’s not give up quite yet. But I want to invite you to build kingdom-minded kids by sending your youth group with me next year to connect with refugees. It would be a little bit like when Jesus took his guys to hang out with the Samaritan woman and her village. Let’s spend a week in a US city, learning about the refugee situation, connecting with a local church, working hard, and authentically serving an unreached refugee community.

Sound like a step in the right kingdom direction? Let’s talk.

» You can also comment on our website or Facebook page.

Flood the nations with grace and mercy | World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

 

Bangladesh5

God’s Church advances in Bangladesh, Niger, China, and beyond. Image: Global Partners. See related story below.

Missions Catalyst News Briefs 09.06.17

  1. BANGLADESH: The Thriving Wesleyan Church
  2. NIGER: Evangelicals Planting Churches
  3. ARAB WORLD: Launch of Educational Channel for Refugees
  4. CHINA: Movement Envisions Sending Thousands
  5. WORLD: The Month in Review

… And find more stories in our social media streams.

Greetings,

Do you know Graham Kendrick’s 1987 praise song Shine, Jesus, Shine? With all of the stories of flooding in the news this past week, not only Texas but also in South Asia and Africa, I keep thinking of these lyrics:

“Shine, Jesus, shine! Flood the nations with grace and mercy. Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light.”

Even as nations like Bangladesh and Niger are experiencing flooding, they are sending out workers to flood the nations with grace and mercy! See stories below.

Shine, Jesus, shine.

Pat

BANGLADESH: The Thriving Wesleyan Church

Source: Global Partners, June 29, 2017

The fourth annual district conference of The Wesleyan Church of Bangladesh was held in May 2017. Seventy-one delegates were in attendance. More than 100 people gathered for the occasion. Four years ago, this partnership started with 14 churches and 700 members. Today, there are 46 vibrant Wesleyan churches and 2,160 members! Bangladesh is an Islamic nation, but many people are open to the good news of Jesus Christ.

[Over the last] four years, the Bangladesh church [has been] equipping leaders. There are now three ordained ministers and nine licensed pastors serving the church. Thirty young leaders are engaged in Ministry Training Institute (MTI). MTI is a week of intensive sessions and classes held twice a year for leaders who are seriously pursuing ordination.

Pray that The Wesleyan Church of Bangladesh would continue to flourish. Pray that the leaders and the members would remain faithful to the Lord, especially when faced with the many challenges of proclaiming truth and following Jesus.

» Read full story.

» Being Christian in South Asia can be dangerous. In a story from nearby Pakistan, we read that on his fourth day at a new school, a Christian teen was brutally attacked and killed in the classroom by Muslim students as the teacher looked the other way (God Reports). Looks like 2017 has been a difficult year for Christians in India as well (World Watch Monitor).

NIGER: Evangelicals Planting Churches

Source: Words of Hope, August 22, 2017

The Evangelical Church of Niger (EERN) has a goal to plant 52 new churches inside the country. In a place like Niger where the population is 97% Muslim and less than 1% Christian, this is no small feat, and Words of Hope is coming alongside the EERN to assist them in their efforts. Before a church is planted in a certain region, radio broadcasts are begun in the heart language of the local people in order to introduce the gospel message in a non-threatening manner.

One of the newly planted churches recently had the joy of celebrating nine new baptisms. Formerly Muslim soldiers who have now converted to Christianity volunteered to guard the pastor on his way to the church to perform the baptisms. The soldiers celebrated at the church upon the pastor’s arrival and carried him into the building, where they had prepared a big ceremony.

Thank you for remembering our brothers and sisters in Niger. Please pray with us that every person in Niger gets the opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus in their heart language.

» Read full story.

» Readers interested in Africa might also appreciate a recent opinion piece from Nicholas Kristoff titled Good News, Despite What You’ve Heard. He reports on great gains in the battle against extreme poverty, illiteracy, and disease (New York Times).

ARAB WORLD: Launch of Educational Channel for Refugees

Source: SAT-7, August 17, 2017

A new satellite television channel, SAT-7 ACADEMY, [launched] on September 1, 2017. Broadcasting round-the-clock in Arabic, the channel will offer millions of displaced or refugee children complementary learning opportunities through a variety of television programs.

War has forced 13 million children out of school across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Schools that have not been destroyed are overcrowded, and the fear of violence has caused parents to keep their children at home and teachers to abandon their posts. Families flee conflict to save their lives, leaving behind their homes and jobs as well as putting their children’s futures at risk. These children are in danger of becoming a “lost” generation.

By launching SAT-7 ACADEMY, SAT-7 is striving to help bridge the gap in education, equipping children, parents, and teachers across the region.

“Through this new channel and the different online platforms bearing our already trusted name, we will provide essential educational services to thousands of families who are in circumstances of considerable hardship. They will be able to access our learning content from any place, at any moment and, soon, through any device,” explains SAT-7 Founder and CEO, Dr. Terence Ascott.

» Read more.

» Note: A study of Middle Eastern children’s mental health, the largest study done so far, reveals scars left by extreme violence they have suffered (The Independent).

CHINA: Movement Envisions Sending Thousands

Source: SEND International, August 15, 2017

Thousands of Chinese youth [gathered last month] as the Chinese church works steadily toward an ambitious goal: to send 20,000 missionaries by the year 2030.

J.E., SEND’s regional director in Asia, serves as one of the consultants from various organizations who are coming alongside mission-minded Chinese believers.

“It has been amazing to watch the mainland Chinese church develop this growing heart and passion to reach out,” he said. “It’s very much an indigenous movement, but when we are asked we can share insights from our own history and experiences.”

“They’re drawn to the Middle East, to Muslim countries, even to the unreached within China’s borders,” J.E. explained. “China is home to more than 400 unreached people groups—second only to India.”

The goal of 20,000 wasn’t arbitrarily chosen. Chinese leaders estimate that about 20,000 missionaries have served in China in the past 200 years, and they want to repay this “gospel debt.”

Previous Chinese-led missions movements have started out with great enthusiasm, but various factors, including lack of support from churches back home, led to missionaries often returning after just a few years. The Mission China 2030 movement aims to change that.

» Read full story.

» See also a story about Russian missionaries venturing into some of the least-reached parts of Mongolia (Christian Broadcasting Network).

WORLD: The Month in Review

Source: INcontext Ministries August 2017

Since June, INcontext Ministries has been doing Facebook Live events to encourage Christians to have a kingdom perspective on the news of the previous month. If you are a Christian on Facebook, please consider sharing this great resource to your “news junkie” friends.

Typically the speaker presents the stories through media clips, then proposes the questions that the world would ask, and finally suggests what kingdom questions we can ask ourselves and the church. Good stuff.

» Watch the August video and check out their archive of Facebook videos. Each spends about 25 minutes covering five news stories.

» Also read a recent article on what they call the “age of cynicism,” explaining how false news navigates naivety. Excellent. Be sure to read to the end.