The church’s role: public servants

Jesus’ kingship defines our role.

Christology shapes ecclesiology. How we understand Jesus and his mission defines how we understand ourselves and our role in his world.

Many churches today present Jesus as a personal Saviour for the sinner. The church built on this message becomes a rehab centre for sinners. We put on events to attract sinners to attend. We play energizing music, songs that promise a breakthrough. We preach a message to help people feel better, something to help them in their rehab. And the meeting builds towards a decision moment, getting new people to admit they’re sinners and seek help.

Is that our calling? Does the great commission say, “Go and tell every person, ‘You are a sinner’ so they seek personal forgiveness. Baptize them into the church, so they keep coming to rehab.”

An inadequate view of Jesus produces an inadequate church life. The great commission announces Jesus not as personal saviour for the sinner but as ruler of the planet. Our message is the divinely appointed ruler of earth, the king who is uniting all nations in obedience to his kingship. The task of the church is to announce and enact his kingship. And the king says he is present among his people. The church is where the world sees its king.

How does this vision of Jesus reshape the church? What’s different if our primary understanding of our mission changed from a hospital-for-sinners model to a kingdom-agents model — public servants of the king?

The kingdom paradigm turns the church inside out. Sunday meetings are not the main game; they’re just the coaching sessions. The main game would be Jesus’ care for the communities where we live during the week.

When the Eagles win a game, we love hearing them sing their song, but I doubt they’ll win an Aria. You can tell their coaching sessions spent more time on the game plan than singing.

So, what would our church meetings look like if we understood ourselves as agents of Jesus’ government? We might spend more time on anecdotes — sharing stories of what worked and what didn’t work during the week. We’d honour our king for how he reigns, and approach the throne with needs that overwhelm us. We’d listen to the king’s instructions, both the long-term narrative of the king restoring his reign (revealed in the Bible) and his immediate direction for us now (his prophetic direction). As we hear what the king intends, we’d scramble to see who’s in the best position to implement what he intends.

Lights-on moment! Maybe that’s what Scripture means by calling the church the body of Christ. We’re kingdom agents — the physical corporate presence (body) of God’s anointed ruler (Christ). Each part of this body exists to implement what the head wants — literally what the king wants his body to do as the expression of his regal governance of his earthly realm. Sounds overwhelming? It’s only possible because his body is animated with his Spirit who empowers us to implement the reign of the head, his just and caring governance for the world.

I feel like a beginner at this. Can you help us find the language to describe the church as the willing public servants of Jesus’ reign on earth?

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Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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