Recently, Al McCarn and I have been having a really good running conversation discussing some changing thoughts on the nature of the Millennial Kingdom. As we continue to study and grow, we continue to re-evaluate the traditions we inherited from our fathers and try to bring them more into line with Scripture. I will reserve the Millennial discussion for another day because it will be quite long and I have more to sort out. Suffice it to say that I am experiencing another paradigm shift…
In our most recent exchange, Al said something very profound that immediately brought clarity to that portion of our conversation. He said,
All this time we [Christendom] have focused entirely on getting to the Kingdom. If this is so, then our focus should be on how to BE the Kingdom. It’s the greatest paradigm shift of all.
(brackets and emphasis mine)
Wow! That is a mouthful and enough of a thought to make one’s head explode. I think back over decades of living in Christendom and the last six years as a Torah-keeping believer in Yeshua and I can tell you, the statement rings true!!
In general there has always been a focus on head knowledge and pursuit of whatever pet doctrine(s) the given denomination defines itself by. From seminary and my pastoral background, I recall countless hours debating ivory tower topics like baptism: sprinkle or dunk. My love of eschatology (the study of end times) led me to scouring news and digging in Scripture to assemble pieces of the picture as I understood it; largely an academic pursuit. Denominationalism, by definition, fits this model. Ultimately, it is about promoting/selling a particular academic mindset that builds name brand instead of intentionally breaking down the walls of division between denominations. Messianic teachers still operate mostly in this paradigm. (I know Messianic teachers and fellowships that honestly teach/believe that they have the whole truth and anyone outside of their little circle is at risk! Seriously!!??)
Moving away from that perspective, one of ‘how to get TO the Kingdom,’ is exceedingly difficult, but it is a requirement to fulfill Scripture and walk in obedience. Consider:
BEING the Kingdom is more, much, much more, than a scattered bunch of fellowships and teachers squabbling about the sighting of the moon, shades of tekhelet, and pronunciation of the Name. As I read the Torah, I find that while it is profoundly deep with intellectual treasures, at its most literal reading it is primarily a document for governing a nation! It has rules for property ownership, business interaction, and agricultural pursuits. It has guidelines for national holy days, the criteria for selecting judges and kings, etc. It is NOT primarily a ‘religious’ document. It is a Constitution, or civic/governmental document. It outlines how to BE the Kingdom!! Hello!!
Recently, being irritated with the misuse of the work ‘congregation,’ I went back to Scripture. The word is never used in the denominational sense in the Tanak (old testament). In the Tanak, nearly every use refers to the whole assembly, not myriad little divisions. The few aberrations are when the word (qahal) refers to a specif assembly of men/soldiers/advisors, etc. Even Yeshua’s use of the word ekklesia, generally translated as ‘church,’ refers not to local bodies situated on opposing street corners, but to the whole of Israel. Revelation is the one place we see the word ekklesia used to define particular groups, but even then the use has the implication of being part of a larger whole. Revelation 2-4 speak to the ekklesia of ______, whether Ephesus, Smyrna or Pergamum, referring to a specific group within the whole.
The point is, we are not called to be a bunch of little cliques or personal kingdoms.
Friend, Akpene Torku, recently shared a conversation she had with trusted and insightful spiritual mentors. In the conversation concerning matters that touched on this topic, the mentors said,
We must stop thinking and acting as congregations and begin to think and act as communities.
Exactly!! Communities will perform the civic functions of Torah and are easily knit into a nation. Communities will share resources and personnel in pursuits that benefit the larger community. Communities will do more than simply study Torah on Shabbat and part ways until the next academically oriented Shabbat. Communities will pursue businesses together and maybe even eventually co-locate.
This is the paradigm shift that ceases to try to just get to the Kingdom and instead begins to BE the Kingdom!
I challenge us to cease to be disparate scattered congregations and start to be unified cohesive communities. Only then can we truly begin to walk Torah and to function as a people.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.