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Topic: COMMENTARIES by S. Michael Craven

What Does the Kingdom of God Actually Look Like?

November 4, 2013
S. Michael Craven
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For years now, I have been writing about the kingdom of God—in theory—trying to challenge, teach, and encourage Christians to recover and live out this essential dimension of the gospel. By God’s grace, I believe the church is beginning to awaken and more and more Christians are beginning to understand that the “gospel” is less about going to heaven and more about the redemptive rule and reign of God coming to earth.

Recently, I have launched a joint-venture with an inner-city ministry in what may be my most ambitious project ever, and I believe it offers a powerful opportunity to display the kingdom in a visible, tangible way to God’s glory.

H.I.S. Bridgebuilders was founded by my longtime friend, Mike Fechner, an affluent and privileged “white guy” and Velma Mitchell, who is, shall we say, the opposite. While Mike lived in one of the wealthiest suburbs of Dallas, Velma lived in one of the poorest: a black, single mother struggling to survive and raise her children in a community ravaged by crime, violence, and poverty.

In 1990, Mike seemed to have everything. He was successful, a faithful churchgoer, tither, husband, and father. However, Velma appeared to know Jesus in a much more intimate way; she truly trusted him in spite of her difficult circumstances. Velma fasted and prayed in a way that Mike had only read about, and he wanted to know and experience Jesus in the same way. A relationship formed and Mike and Velma began to see the kingdom of God coming to bear upon their lives. People once separated by race and socio-economics were being reconciled and discovering the kind of real human relationships that God desires for his people and his world.

Some twenty-plus years later, H.I.S. Bridgebuilders (HISBB) continues to work in south Dallas and other impoverished communities across the country, bringing restoration through Christ to people, families, and the community. After so many years working among the poor and most sin-ravaged communities in the country, Mike has learned that the oversimplified “gospel of personal salvation” falls far short of God’s desires and the biblical story of redemption. Instead he has come to see that unless the gospel is understood in terms of redeeming the whole person and restoring God’s created order, then it isn’t the whole gospel.

HISBB’s approach focuses on the four basic elements necessary to human flourishing: spiritual, physical, intellectual, and economic development. In order to thrive as beings made in the image of God, men and women must be reconciled spiritually to God through Christ. This, of course, is the most essential remedy to man’s condition. However, God is not content to stop there—as if he is indifferent to life on this earth. He loves his creation and desires that it be made right in every area that sin has made it wrong—that his dominion of love and shalom be established on earth as it is in heaven. This is the mission of his kingdom and the purpose of the church! We often miss this by placing too much emphasis on the church as institution. As a friend recently wrote, “The church doesn’t have a mission but rather the mission has a church.”

It is when we realize that God’s redemptive plan includes the whole person and all of creation that we obediently seek to bring forth the all-encompassing rule and reign of God. Every aspect of sin and the fall opposes human flourishing, but the kingdom of God seeks to make all things new. Where disease and illness abound, the church works to restore health and promote healthy living. Where ignorance abounds, the church works to offer remedy through education and vocational training. Where economic injustice prevails, the church provides needed relief while also creating conditions under which people can engage in dignified labor to the glory of God, thereby providing for themselves and their families long term.

When these four aspects of redemption (spiritual, intellectual, economic and physical) are working together, individuals are restored through Christ, thriving families are established, and communities are taken back from the principalities and powers that, at present, exercise destructive dominion over them. The invisible kingdom becomes visible!In the coming weeks, I will be sharing more about the impact of H.I.S. Bridgebuilders and my specific role in leading their economic development strategy.

This project has me more excited than just about anything else I have done in the last twelve years. Please pray that the Lord would give us wisdom as we seek to make the invisible, visible!

© 2013 by S. Michael Craven

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Responses
Response from : John Armstrong  

November 4, 2013 9:28 AM
 

Michael, you are on the right track and your emphasis is both biblical and prophetic in the truest sense. I will do all that I can to pray and support you my dear brother. I encourage all who read this to joyfully do the same. This is clear evidence of God leading our brother to embrace the kingdom gospel given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly, too few churches are engaged in living and proclaiming this gospel but this is a man and a mission that get it right. Praise to the Lord of hosts, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

http://www.johnharmstrong.com

 
Response from : Selase  

November 4, 2013 10:06 AM
 

Fantastic Michael, i can't help but admire how he Lord is ordering your steps season by season. The results of your obedience brings a great deal of direction me. I had never really considered the economic in the manner in which you describe it. I pray in Jesus name that he will grant you great success and show himself strong through your involvement in the programme. I am very excited for you.


 
Response from : Linda Howard  

November 5, 2013 10:59 AM
 

Dear Michael,
I am very familiar with HIS Bridgebuilders and the incredible impact they have on the community. I look forward to hearing more about your involvement with them.


 

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