Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to
Every Member on
by Jim Somerville
Since my arrival in Richmond I have been pointing out Jesus’ emphasis on the Kingdom of God, mentioned some 120 times in the
Gospels. In the Lord’s Prayer
he teaches his disciples to pray that God’s Kingdom would come, and God’s
will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
It is my conviction that Jesus wanted his disciples not only to pray
for that, but to work for that.
I have said repeatedly that I believe—as children of the Heavenly Father and
with the help of the Holy Spirit—we are called to “labor alongside the Lord
Jesus in the joyful work of bringing heaven to earth.”
How does that mission align with the Great Commission,
the idea that we are sent to make disciples of every nation?
Perfectly. But let’s be
clear: a disciple is not merely a convert.
A more helpful translation of the word
disciple might be “apprentice.”
In the same way an apprentice learns a trade from a master craftsman,
the disciples learned a trade from Jesus.
What was it? Bringing
heaven to earth. And this is
how he did it: wherever Jesus went he would show and tell people what the
world would be like if God were completely in charge.
And so sick people were healed, hungry people were fed, the eyes of
the blind were open, the poor had good news preached to them.
In Luke 10 Jesus sent his disciples out to say and do
the same things they had heard him saying and seen him doing.
When they came back, they came back
with joy, which suggests that
doing the Lord’s work doesn’t have to be burdensome; in fact we may discover
that it’s what we were born for.
In a similar story in Matthew 10 Jesus calls his
disciples (“apprentices”), gives
them authority over unclean spirits and over every disease and every
sickness, and then sends them out on mission.
From that point on they are called
apostles (“sent ones”).
When, at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, he tells his followers to go
and make disciples of every nation he sends them, as apostles, to make
apprentices who will learn the work of the Kingdom so that they, too, may be
I look at it this way:
apprentices are meant to become
We who are learning the work of the Kingdom are ultimately meant to
go out and do it (or to stay in and do it—there is lots of
“kingdom-bringing” that goes inside the walls of the church building and not
just out there in the world), and to call others to join us in that work,
because this job is too big for any one person or any one church to do
alone. It’s going to take all
of us working together—joyfully laboring alongside the Lord Jesus with the
help of the Holy Spirit—to bring heaven to earth.
I believe that our first responsibility is to this place where God has put
That doesn’t mean we can’t bring heaven to earth in other places; it
only means we ought to focus our efforts here.
In the same way a heavy stone can make a big splash, and the ripples
can travel outward to every part of the pond, I believe we are called to
make a big splash in Richmond,
with the ripples traveling outward to every part of the world.
So, what if—for the year that begins with One Sunday in
2012 and concludes with One Sunday in 2013—we focus our efforts on the
Greater Richmond Metropolitan Region, as if we really had climbed on board a
bus for a mission trip and the bus had stopped here, at the corner of
Monument and the Boulevard, with the mission field spreading outward in
every direction? And what if we
tried to get every member of the church on that bus, so that it’s not just
the 20 percent who usually do most of the work, but 100 percent of us
working together? How would we
step off the bus onto the mission field?
What kind of work would we do to make a difference?
That’s where a process of discernment will be helpful to us in the
next few months, so that when One Sunday rolls around in September we are
ready to get off the bus and go to work.
In the end, according to the
Gospels, Jesus was killed by those who were jealous of his power and
popularity, but God vindicated his life by raising him from the dead
and promising that same gift to all who believed in him.
In a very real sense, his life, death, and resurrection made
possible our “friendship” with God, and the abundant life that flows
out of it. Before he
ascended, Jesus commissioned his disciples to carry on his mission
until his return, when God’s kingdom will come finally and forever.