As one of the leaders in the Body of Christ that promotes the Kingdom of God and the church’s call to transform contemporary culture, I have had to navigate through many theological and psychological pitfalls that could have derailed me, causing me to fall short of fulfilling my purpose in Christ. The following are some of these challenges.
First, it is easy to fall into the trap of taking an all-or-nothing approach, in which nothing we do for God really matters or satisfies us if it doesn’t ultimately result in seeing society changed. With this mindset we forget that people have to live for eternity, that this present world is temporary, and that the angels in heaven rejoice when one person repents (Luke 15:10). Even though God’s ultimate goal for the gospel is for heaven and earth to be united under Christ (Ephesians 1:9-11), heaven also values the salvation of converted individuals. True systemic change must first prioritize reconciling individuals back to God.
Second, our goal to influence top-tier cultural leaders can tempt us to become elitists who only value spending time with people with great power and influence. Jesus never stopped little (powerless) children from coming to Him. Plus, He always made time for folks with little societal influence like women of ill repute, lepers, blind people and widows.
Third, we can fall into the deception of valuing mere political, economic and quality of life progress in communities more than building strong local churches, which Paul alone identifies as the ground and pillar of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). We can only build strong communities in the world if we first build strong churches that model how the city of God should function. Leaders who come out of dysfunctional churches and families will never know how to build functional systems in their surrounding communities.
Fourth, pastors and leaders who attempt to change their surrounding culture before they have successfully built a New Testament church will have unnecessary stress because they have unattainable goals. This would be like putting the cart before the horse! Culture is changed out of the overflow of the life of the Spirit that takes place in the context of powerful local churches that build strong character and encourage creativity amongst their members.
Fifth, we can be tempted to equate political victories with the Kingdom of God being established on earth. Jesus called us to disciple whole nations in Matthew 28:19, which means we should have great influence politically. But, at the same time, the Bible also teaches us that Christ is already reigning over the universe from heaven, whether humankind recognizes that reign and submits to it or not! Mere humans cannot crown Jesus as King; He is already King of Kings. He is already seated at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:17-23; 2:4-6) as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16).
For example, after the Roman Empire fell, Jesus was still reigning through the church which converted all the Barbarian tribes, civilized them, and built what became the modern European states. Furthermore, if the USA ever ceases to exist as a great world power, the church of the living God will continue to exert its influence, and, as representatives of the only true King of the universe, the church will disciple the next great world power that arises. God’s Kingdom is not determined by the political vicissitudes of elections and destinies of nations. The church is the only nation (1 Peter 2:9) that is guaranteed to survive (Matthew 16:18) until the consummation at the end of the age when Jesus comes back to judge the world in righteousness.
Sixth, we experience undue stress when we think we are ultimately responsible for building the Kingdom instead of Christ. This can cause us to go out of our lane or specific assignment from God when we become involved in feverish activity, since we have placed the world on our shoulders thinking we can build the kingdom. But the same Jesus who said that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18) is the one who gives the increase to the fruit of our labor in the kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:7), and is the same one who has the government of the kingdom on His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6-7). Jesus said to come to Him so our burden would be light and we would find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-29).
Seventh, some marketplace leaders think they can replace their connection to a local congregation with the ekklesia (ruling body) which they attempt to set up in their realm of influence (in business, politics, education, etc.). With the renewed emphasis on reaching all of the mountains of society, and with the correct teaching that recognizes marketplace leaders as ministers of the kingdom (not just church leaders as ministers), marketplace leaders can easily forget that, biblically speaking, the primary responsibility for preparing marketplace leaders to transform and lead culture is upon the fivef-old ministries in the context of the local church environment (Ephesians 4:11-12). Thus, marketplace leaders who are detached from the local church will not have the proper support system they and their families need to endure through the grid of life. My experience is, marketplace leaders not operating out of a strong local church usually fall short of experiencing lifelong success in their vocational calling.
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