Close Your Church for Good. Chap. 3, Part 4. We’re in a chapter called “The Church Must Die.” In it, I have written so far about how most churches tried to spread their message through Public Relations Campaigns which include flyers and advertising. Now we begin to look at a different way to spread the message of the Gospel.
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The message of the Gospel must guide the methods that are used to spread the Gospel. If we haven’t got our message clear, the methods we adopt will always lead us astray. And what is the message? It’s not about politics or power. It’s not about the economy or ecology. It is not about fame and glory. It is not even about how sinful the world is or how a person can get eternal life and go to heaven when they die.
The message of the church is the same as the message of Jesus: that God wants to be involved in their life. This is what Jesus was announcing when He talked so often about the Kingdom of God. He was telling the people that God wanted to set up His rule and reign right in their midst. That God wanted to dwell with them, and among them, to guide, provide, and protect them. This was the message of Jesus.
And the method of Jesus to spread this message is revealing. Though Jesus did teach about it, that method was at best, secondary to His primary method of actually showing through his actions what a life lived under the rule of God looks like. What was the message of Jesus? That the Kingdom of God has come. What was the method Jesus used to spread this message? He lived out the Kingdom of God in His own life.
All this may still be too academic. Let’s bring it down to earth even further. If one wants to characterize God, they could do no better than the way God described Himself to Moses: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abounding in goodness and truth” (Exod 34:6). This is what God says about Himself and who He is. It would follow then, that if a person is under the reign of God, that is, a part of the Kingdom of God, then their life will resemble these very same characteristics of mercy, grace, patience, goodness, and truth.
And how else could we describe Jesus? He was the embodiment of such traits, which is not surprising, since He was, in fact, God in the flesh. Theologians, with their fascination for big words, call this the “incarnation,” meaning “to be in the flesh.” It may not be the best way of describing Jesus, since Scripturally, the “flesh” if often identified with the “sinful side” of humanity, and Jesus had no sin. Nevertheless, the idea is sound, that God, who is rich in mercy and love, became human in Jesus Christ.
Why? Again, not just to preach or give us doctrine. He could have sent an angel to do that, or dropped a book out of heaven with the thunder booming in the clouds, “Read this book!” But He didn’t. He wanted to tangibly reveal to us what He is like by living among us, touching our pain, healing our heartache, being present in our loneliness, and delivering us from our chains.
Ultimately, of course, He died. This too, was a central part of the Kingdom message. Yet even here, we misunderstand what God was doing in Jesus. We tend to think that His death was only to provide forgiveness as the once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the world. That certainly is part of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and cannot be undermined. But it is by no means all that Jesus accomplished. His death on the cross is once again, a way of revealing the message of the Kingdom. And what is the message of Jesus on the cross? That the Kingdom of God is not about power and prominence, greatness and glory. It is about humility, suffering, pain, rejection, and ultimately, death.
Jesus came to show mankind what it looks like to live life under the rule of God. And in so doing, as the pinnacle of this expression, Jesus died. The suffering and rejection of Jesus on the cross is not a catastrophe, but a gateway to the ultimate manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth. One of the core features of the Kingdom of God is the concept of self-sacrifice in the service of others. This is what Jesus embodied in the Incarnation.