The Kingdom Ethic contains some peculiar matters:
— Many who are first will be last, and the last first (Matt 19:30).
— Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; everyone who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11)
— Jesus came as a suffering Messiah.
— We are to be living sacrifices.
What appears to be contradictory to us, is actually a major component to the Kingdom economy. Our Lord accomplishes His purposes in ways that are beyond our thoughts (Isa 55:8-9), even doing more than we can imagine (Eph 3:20).
He takes our limitations and uses them for His glory in gospel advancement. He is able to take our mites and multiply their value. Our few pieces of bread and fish have exponential reach in His hands.
Over the past several years, I have observed this one peculiarity in gospel advancement that has received scant attention:
Less is oftentimes more.
While having less does not guarantee that the Lord will do great things with a person or group (He does accomplish great things with those who have an abundance.), we do observe great advancements in missions among some Kingdom citizens who have very little when it comes to the resources of this world.
For historic examples, beyond the first three centuries, we can turn to the early Moravians, and the Baptists and the Methodists on the American frontier. Today, we can observe similar work of the Spirit in many churches in Asia, Africa, and the Latin world.
But before we start to think that great advancements are directly related to few resources, we need to look beneath the surface. As I have observed contemporary groups and studied others in history, a common thread generally included the following:
1) They had a theological identity firmly rooted in the Word of God. They did not deny the truth of the Scriptures and understood who they were in Christ.
2) They had a driving zeal–coming from their theological identity–believing that people without Jesus were separated from God, and only the gospel could transform lives, homes, and societies.
3) They had an apostolic focus. They understood that they were not commanded to make converts or plant churches. Rather, they were to make disciples of all nations, which involved intentional evangelism that resulted in churches being planted.
4) They had a biblical simplicity. Their resources, structures, traditions, and organizations did not get in the way of the mission. Such things were necessary and important, but they were not so complex that gospel advancement was sacrificed for the maintenance of a system.
We must remember that the Lord can use whatever he has put into our hands, be it great resources or mites and breadcrumbs.
Some questions worth considering:
- Have we become caught up in our blessings that we have lost our theological identity?
- Have we moved from our original missional focus (assuming we had one in the beginning)?
- Have we “grown” out of our apostolic zeal, believing we are more sophisticated now?
- Have we moved so far away from biblical simplicity that we are now engrossed in having to spend most of our time, efforts, energy, and resources addressing issues and supporting structures that hinder the advancement of the gospel?
- Are we working hard to manage the good at the expense of maintaining the best?
If we find ourselves in an unhealthy situation, repentance is the beginning on the road to recovery. But while some changes are simple and quick, others will be painful and difficult. Our Father is gracious and is still on mission, empowering us to preach the gospel to all nations–across the world and across the street.
(image credit: Microsoft Office)