Seeking the Justice of the Kingdom – Part 1
Redpoint is excited to announce a quarterly release of articles this year from The Vineyard Anti-Slavery Team (VAST)/Justice Response Task Force. This and next week’s articles are the first edition. We believe that Justice and the issues surrounding it are central to raising up the next generation!
One of the things I love the most about following Jesus is seeing – in the long-term – things come together unexpectedly. As part of the fantastic journey of faith that Jesus has had me on for several years, there have been several themes that have emerged. These themes include discipleship, the justice of the Kingdom, and a relational-orientation. Today, I’d like to move along a trajectory to the intersection of these three, and then sum it all up with some suggested resources for pursuing the Kingdom in my next article.
Getting Back to Our Roots for Discipleship
I have been so psyched to be able to facilitate a Justice Intensive for the Heroic Leadership Institute, training our young leaders and Kingdom catalysts to seek the Justice of the Kingdom. In the last Justice Intensive, we made a big deal out of ‘doin’ the stuff’ as John Wimber used to say. You see, I think in our day and age, we’ve perhaps lost something significant: How discipleship actually happens and the interconnectivity of discipleship, justice and mercy, and the relational-orientation of all of it.
Let me unpack that for a minute: Most traditional, emergent, mega- and (insert any adjective) -churches run “discipleship” courses/classes, which teach a lot and talk a lot about being a disciple. This “discipleship” is basically modeled after how we have engaged to teach High School and University students: through classroom lecturing. What I love about the things that have begun to re-emerge in the Vineyard, like Robby Dawkins calling us to our roots, is that people are beginning to recognize that is actually putting the cart before the horse. We need to have discipleship modeled on how Jesus did it. Jesus took people out on Mission with Him, and then after teaching and learning in the streets, they came back for meals or went away for a retreat and framed what they had been doing into a more sit-down teaching-kind-of-thing. This is what South African theologian David Bosch or British theologian Lesslie Newbigin are saying when they say that Mission (that is the Missio Dei) should be the organizing principle of the Church. It causes us to organize ourselves (in core issues such as discipleship) to get on the Father’s Agenda. What I’m seeing and sensing lately is that we’ve re-discovered that disciples are made on Mission—just like we read about in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament. Dwight Friesen, in his article Living Incarnationally, describes what we aspire to as we foster and cultivate young leaders in the Vineyard movement:
“When Christ is incarnated through you and me, we will be looking for ways to empty ourselves in the service of the Father by serving others as the Holy Spirit guides us. We become active participants in a divine dance through which all of creation is being reconciled to Christ. This is a dynamic faith process that will always find unique expression through each follower of Christ and each cluster of Christ-followers.”
Thus our dream (perhaps not so unique, but the discovery and expression if it will be unique in your context) is that of hitting the ‘sweetspot’ where (1) the Father is already at work, (2) the World might be missing it, and (3) young leaders in the Church are out there doing their best CSI-imitation—living and seeking to discover God at work in the world and surprisingly connect the two.
Mission Born Out of Relationship
All this happens in actual, abiding relationship, just as branches abide in the Vine, right? The goal of our doctrine, the goal of our theology, our prime directive is knowing God, not just knowing about Him. We can lose sight of this simple fact at times, but in order to abide in relationship we have to restore this relationship, because God’s objective is restored relationship. But restoring broken relationships can be difficult to bridge, as Archbishop Tutu can certainly witness. Jesus advocates the audacious relational approach to God by modeling for us how to address our Father in heaven. He says: “Abba”, which is basically “Dada.” “Poppa.” These are beautiful, relational terms that a child uses to identify and seek their loving Father. It speaks to the depths of an intimate knowing and a simple trusting.
I also think this relational-orientation inaugurates Kingdom breakthrough, where we see amazing things happen when we are out seeking to reconcile and restore relationships. For those of us in the Vineyard movement, this is deeply significant. We see Jesus doing signs and wonders that restore relationship and telling stories about this over and over again. Many of Jesus’ most famous stories—in facte all the “Lost” parables: Lost sheep, Lost coin, Lost Son—end with throwing a party. That’s a relational gathering, or perhaps even a gathering that fosters and cultivates relationships!! We need to be relational, party people.
A while ago, I had this really great conversation at dinner one evening while I was attending the Society of Vineyard Scholars conference. I ended up sitting next to my new friend Andy Kaminski. End’s up, Andy was presenting a paper the next day on, you guessed it, the relational understanding that undergirds scripture. The key criteria in scripture regarding how we live our lives and what we do with them isn’t “have we acted rational” but “whether we have acted rightly in our relationships.” Scripture is also clear that (warning: loaded term) “salvation” isn’t merely about God rescuing us from the awful world, but the rescue of the world itself through the restoration of relationship with God. All of which happens through His People connecting more and more people to Him. But it doesn’t stop there, right? This connects them to “us” as well, in a life lived together as the Church.
When we abidingly seek to be in relationship with God, we tend to get on His Agenda…and when we do that, it changes things…significantly, the gospel causes soul-quakes at a deeper, plate-tectonic-level, in which the gospel goes forth and justice and mercy kiss on the streets.