Communities of the Kingdom of God
For many believers, the Kingdom of God is synonymous with “The Church”, and the only valid expression of a Kingdom Community would be churches. For a long time I held this view. But as I have studied the Scriptures in light of the experience of walking with Jesus in many communities over decades, I have come to the conclusion that there are probably many different expressions of Communities of the Kingdom of God.
Early on in my walk with the Lord I ran into writers like Watchman Nee who talked about “the church” and “the work”, the latter being “the work of church planting” or what the New Testament expressed as “apostolic work”. For “the work”, God called into existence a different kind of community—the apostolic team.
As I studied the Word and was exposed to others’ thinking, like Ralph Winter’s “modality” and “sodality” model, I became persuaded that there were at least two types of communities that God uses to expand His Kingdom throughout the world.
Jesus talked a lot about the Kingdom of God, but actually very little about “the church”. He is only recorded as using the term “church” three times in all the Gospel accounts. But He uses the word “Kingdom” nearly 200 times. If you expand his use to Kingdom concepts (like King, Christ, and related words) that number of references to the Kingdom of God expands to several hundreds.
Jesus Himself did not plant a church, but he did start an apostolic community whose charge was to produce local Kingdom communities throughout the earth. The apostles clearly picked up on the principle of apostolic team as the original 12 spawned itinerant teams (“sodalities” a la Ralph Winter) which planted local churches which reproduced and filled the earth (the sodality moving on after planting the local church)!
So we see in the New Testament at least 2 types of Kingdom communities—local churches (modalities in Winter’s terms) and apostolic teams (sodalities).
Different types of Communities are required to make strong Kingdoms…
…we will continue the discussion on the varieties of communities within the Kingdom of God in our next several blog posts. Please come back next week!