What I'm Reading: 003 -- The Tangible Kingdom
What I’m Reading by Matt Schuler
003: The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay
Everything personal starts with real relationships. There’s something pretty appealing about the way Hugh Halter and Matt Smay describe The Tangible Kingdom and how they follow Jesus and invite others to do the same.
Early in The Tangible Kingdom, a question is asked to someone who wouldn’t fit in most of the churches I’ve seen: “If Christianity was only about finding a group of people to live life with, who shared openly their search for God and allowed anyone, regardless of behavior, to seek too, and who collectively lived by faith to make the world a little more like Heaven, would you be interested?” The response of this disconnected, disenfranchised man was an enthusiastic, “Hell, yes! Are there churches like this?” Not everywhere, friend, would be my response.
It got me thinking about God’s desire for all people to be saved, His plan for salvation, and the primary purpose of God’s people. A few weeks ago, I preached the message: “God wants all people to be saved.” But do we? Some times our answer is no. We wrestle with this all the time, whenever we’re confronted with something which goes against our expected norm.
Living in the U.S., we’re in the middle of one of the biggest transitions in the history of church history, where Christianity is moving from the center to the fringes. Halter lays out the reasons for why people believe in different cultures, and how we can have a Gospel response.
This means we’ll have some degree of change in the life of the church. How do we live as followers of Jesus in every aspect of our lives, where we live, work and play? Halter comments, “We need to start by doing some things we haven’t been doing, and we must stop doing some things that we have been doing.”
I’ve heard some comment that the change which needs to take place is to retreat from the culture into holy huddles, separate from the world. That doesn’t sound ideal to me, and Halter comments: “Influence doesn’t happen by extracting ourselves from the world for the sake of our values, but by bringing our values into the culture.” When we receive the love and grace that only God can give, we’re empowered to share that with our family, friends, and everyone we meet. We might not do it perfectly, and we’ll regularly need to repent when we fail, but God uses everyday, normal interactions for His salvation purposes.
Last year, leading up to Easter we did a sermon series called “Life Together” which was loosely based on the book with the same name by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In it, Bonhoeffer writes (and Halter quotes), “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”
This is why my main encouragement has been to spend more time with our church family inside and outside of the church building. So, church isn’t just a place you go to, it’s a people you belong with in every life situation: good, bad and ugly.
“People will always be interested in good news if it is observable,” Halter comments. People are interested in something real and tangible, and I love how Halter and Smay show us how we can live in and as God’s Tangible Kingdom.