I write this article as one who has been active socially and politically; additionally, I have preached and written on the Kingdom for many years. I have seen many extremes for the cause of Christ, and I want to attempt to bring clarity regarding the role of the church in culture. Anyone who has read my material understands that I believe the church should serve as the light of the world and influence in every realm of society.
However, I have seen a major shift away from the local church from many Christian leaders in regards to their view of transformation. Some have even given up on the local church altogether and are focusing their teaching in universities and in the marketplace. Other Christian leaders (including pastors) are so focused on politics that they have inadvertently lost their focus on the gospel and the state of the church. Some leaders even act as though the Kingdom of God and the USA are one entity; hence, when the USA declines morally, they believe they have failed and lose their sense of purpose. They do not seem to understand that the Kingdom of God will never fail even as the kingdoms of the world come and go!
We have seen a progression in history like this:
In the beginning, we had one universal Catholic (not Roman) church; around the first Millennial we had two churches (Divided between the Eastern Orthodox Church and Western focused Roman Catholic Church). In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation was born which resulted in thousands of denominations and independent churches. If that splinter wasn’t enough, now many in the transformation movement have radically individualized (because they are fed up with the passivity of the local church in regards to culture) and are now forming loose coalitions detached from any affiliation with a local church body and or entity of churches.
While I believe that the church is not the Kingdom, since His kingdom rules over all (psalm 22:28), the church is the main agent of the Kingdom serving as His representative in the world. Paul says the house of God (local church in this context in 1 Timothy 3:15) is the ground and pillar of the truth. To attempt to bring long lasting transformation without the proper framework of the local church is foolishness and a waste of time in my opinion.
Historically, the church has always functioned as a “modality” with all of its missions in the world connected to it as a functioning “sodality”. (The Roman Catholic church has been a great example of this modality with their main community parish, city church, national church and global church body and its concomitant extensions via universities, hospitals, monasteries, and fraternities and or orders like the Jesuits, Franciscans serving as it’s sodal expression.) In the Apostolic movement, our networks and various community outreaches serve as our sodality to the local church modality. Individual believers can also create micro extensions of the church (a sodality) in the workplace by making disciples in their sphere of marketplace influence. To attempt to have a sodality without a modality connected to it is to hang it in the air without a biblical foundation. (When we attempt to have a missiology without a proper ecclesiology we will fail!)
That being said, I have concluded that the church, as the corporate son (as equal heirs to Christ as found in Romans 8:17), is to function as a holy nation (1 Peter 2:8,9) with each believer serving as kings and priests (Romans 5:17, Revelation 1:6). Hence, the church is the visible body that expresses the Kingdom of God among the nations of the earth. Consequently, the church corporately is to function as a nation within the nations of the earth and as the true Kingdom of God among the kingdoms of men (who are under the control of the satanic matrix as we see in 1 John 5:19).
As a holy nation, we eventually need to develop biblical ways of doing economics, politics, family, music, art, philosophy, and health care before we can model the Kingdom of God and disciple nations. We have to band together, create social communities within our ranks, and create public policies based on biblical ethics. We need to function as a shadow government so that when the surrounding nations either collapse or experience a great awakening, we can come in to demonstrate how to build godly civilizations.
In light of all this, we cannot neglect the local church but we need to restore it to the way of Jesus and the apostles. Only as we truly function as a holy nation can we adequately disciple the nations of the world according to Matthew 28:19,20. We can preach messages on the Kingdom and the seven-mountain mandate until the cows come home, but if we have dysfunctional local churches, then the people we send out to change culture will only replicate our dysfunction in secular society. Strong local churches should apostolically minister to their respective communities and even form councils that network all of the committed Christian professionals in a region, so they can demonstrate the Kingdom of God while the kingdoms of this world continues to disintegrate and fall apart.
To neglect the local church to focus most of our energy on political engagement is to attempt to Christianize the world with the use of a fallen worldly political system. God doesn’t want to merely redeem these corrupt systems but to replace its ungodly construct with godly kingdom systems. The best we can do right now is function as salt and light within these systems as the prophet Daniel did in Babylon and Persia, (even his influence ended when he passed on because the structures were pagan in nature) while at the same time work to further restore the apostolic nature and function of the church. Only when the church has the correct structure (or wineskin) will we be able to sustain long-term global transformation. While the majority of believers have to be equipped by the church to reflect the Kingdom in the marketplace, we also have to work hard at building the holy nation or else we will have no model in which to disciple secular nations.
To subscribe for a weekly teaching click here.