From time to time I get an update from a new ministry or church plant in Boston or elsewhere, and inevitably the update includes the line, “God continues to bless our work/efforts/plans.” Though I readily acknowledge that God’s promises are true — he blesses those who put their trust in Him &emdash; I’ve always been a little bit uncomfortable with the kind of language that makes humans the primary actors and God’s primary role the blesser of our actions.

In my experience, church planters and missionaries have often fallen into this trap. We rarely enter into a mission field searching for “God at work,” but instead carry the assumption that “God will be at work in this context through a church that looks like _______.” Furthermore, we carry into the mission field a preconception of what a church will look like in that context, and it quickly becomes our main objective to achieve that. It doesn’t matter if we’re looking to see people gather in buildings, houses, parks, under overpasses, or in coffee shops … we are susceptible to making mission about our work instead of God’s. (interesting … my assumption with that last sentence is that our primary intention should be to “gather” people together. not necessarily wrong to do, but could there be other pathways?)

I think the solution to falling into the “our work” trap is always elevating the Kingdom of God. The reign of God. God’s work in the world, wherever that might be. Could God show up in the midst of a rag-tag bunch of teenagers organizing an environmental festival? You bet. He did. Could God be present on a grocery shopping trip with a single mom and her two young kids? Yup. He did. Could God show up in the midst of believers gathering to exalt Him and fellowship together on a Sunday morning or Tuesday night or Friday lunch? Sure can, and again, He does all the time.

God’s work in this world never ends. It’s not like the question about the tree falling in the forest when no one’s around. God’s reign continues to break in around this world — in the most unlikely places and through the most unlikely people — whether or not we recognize or join it.

But it is our joy to join the work of our Creator as he continues to unveil his masterpiece. And it is God’s delight to watch his kingdom break in among His people, people who have put their complete trust in Him.

Here’s the funny thing: we’re learning more about this concept from single moms and rag-tag teenagers than we ever did from books or theology classes or sermons.


9 responses to this post.

  1. really good stuff, Steve–something I needed to hear. i wrestled with the temptation of attempting to clone Disicples Fellowship back in Abilene.

    i’m a big fan of kingdom theology. it’s helped me see a bigger picture and realize I’m not being asked to micromanage an institution, pursue results or create the perfect program.


  2. Posted by Mateo on July 5, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Hey Steve,

    I think I understand the main point of this post and I agree that we should be all about joining God in His work and not inviting Him to join ours. However, I was wondering what you meant by “Could God show up… ?”. In those first two instances would you say that God showed up because you showed up and brought Christ to those situations? Or did God’s presence show up in some other way. In the worship service example, I assume that you mean that God shows up to mold the hearts of those seeking Him more into His image. God showing up in those situations seems like it might be different, so I was hoping you could clarify.

    As to the importance of gathering together, it seems to me that we do aspire to have people gather to seek God so that we will all grow in intimacy with Him. As we become more aware of His love as a community, more people start taking single moms shopping, or fighting to protect God’s creation. These good things aren’t our primary focus, but they do spring out of God’s kingdom growing in the hearts of those who seek Him.


  3. Posted by Steve on July 5, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Mateo –
    “Could God show up…” is sort of a sloppy, informal way of asking, “Does the kingdom of God include &emdash;&emdash;&emdash;&emdash;&emdash;?” The deeper questions I was trying to ask are these: “Could God’s kingdom be much bigger, more transcendent, more versatile, more diverse than we’ve recognized it to be? Have we relegated His activity to projects or programs put on in a church or by a church when He cannot be put in those boxes?”

    My feeling is that for some missionary-types (myself included), activity that does not look like a church being planted or a person being converted doesn’t count. This might be why we run to the predictable / safe / traditional ways of doing things.

    I’m with you 100% on your point about gathering, by the way. But isn’t it God himself who draws people to himself and builds his church? Why do we feel like we need to carry the burden of gathering people?

    just a few thoughts, off the cuff … rebuttals? thoughts?



  4. Posted by Steve on July 5, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    As for differences between assembled believers and other acts of mercy/service (end of first pgph), could you clarify your question? I don’t want to jump to conclusions with my response, so expound on your question a little for me …

    Thanks, brother.


  5. Posted by Mateo on July 5, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    I think I was just pointing out a distinction in “God showing up” as people intentionally seek Him and “God showing up” as people do good works, but not necessarily with Him in mind. I do believe that God leads us with cords of human kindness (Hosea 11:4), but He would much rather have people seek to know him as Lord than to do those good things that are on His heart without regard for Him.


  6. Posted by Steve on July 6, 2007 at 7:42 am

    Mateo – I agree. My thought when writing that was that people in both “services” are seeking God. I assume that the “where two or more are gathered…” principle works when we go in His name to the grocery store with a single mom, or sit down with a neighbor for dinner. It seems to me that the intention of seeing God’s kingdom come in various situations is key.

    But it remains true, I believe, that God as the principle actor in the unfolding drama of creation will continue his work even when humans fail to join him. Missio Dei comes to mind.

    Thanks for the comment. Was my response to your first questions adequate?



  7. Posted by Mateo on July 6, 2007 at 10:22 am

    More than adequate Steve. I agree that we should intend to see God’s kingdom in every situation of our lives. Let’s do it! Thanks for the encouragement.


  8. Posted by Steve on July 6, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Let’s do it. =)


  9. I have presented some thoughts on Kingdom in my most recent blog (07/07/07) at Check it out and let me know your thoughts.


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