This is an article from the May-June 2011 issue: Jesus Movements

Can the Kingdom of God Break out of Christendom?

Can the Kingdom of God Break out of Christendom?

In Hawaii we visited a volcano famous for its red-hot streams of flowing lava. As soon as the hot lava hits the air, it cools rapidly, forming black crusts so hard it can be walked on while molten rock flows inside. But the heat and pressure builds relentlessly until the powerful sizzling red lava breaks unexpectedly out of its casing here or there, forcing its way to the ocean.

When I saw it, I was reminded of the history of God’s Kingdom on earth. When Jesus announced the coming of God’s Kingdom, He revealed the coming of a powerful movement of God that has worked its way relentlessly around the world ever since.

First it burst the bounds of Judaism, shocking the disciples who expected the Messiah’s Kingdom to overthrow the Romans and re-establish the rule of their people. Instead, it burst out of the hardened strictures of Mosaic Law, bringing its transforming power into the Greco-Roman world—toppling no governments, except those ruling people’s hearts.

Paul called this amazing move of God into the Gentile world “the mystery of the Gospel,” hidden in prophetic writings but revealed in his day. Peter exclaimed, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right!” (Acts 10:34).

In the first century, the Kingdom of God broke out in unexpected places, from Rome to Ethiopia to Persia to India. As each expression of the Kingdom of God took form and hardened into casings created by mankind, the movement would slowly grind to a halt.

But, as Jesus predicted, the power of God is not so easily tamed and contained. While the Roman believers co-opted their empire’s government structure and cultural strengths to organize and try to manage this phenomenon, God was establishing His Kingdom in Celtic Ireland, far from their control—through a former slave boy! Meanwhile, the blacklisted Nestorian believers carried the message of the coming of God’s Kingdom as far as China.

Far from being a history of God establishing His Kingdom through man-made ecclesiastical structures, we find the living power of Jesus has not ever been effectively contained by the best efforts of His followers. The invention of the printing press ripped the Bible itself from their control, producing a red-hot reformation complete with the radical reaffirmation that through Jesus all believers are priests with direct access to God. Do we still believe this?

Modern transportation and Internet communication has broken down the last barriers isolating people groups from this amazingly Good News. And we are finding that once again God’s Kingdom is refusing to be limited to “Christianity-as-we-know-it”!

It is our turn to be shocked, like Peter, that God would bestow His Spirit on those outside of our acceptable religion. It was inconceivable to him that pagan households, like Cornelius’, could receive God’s Holy Spirit (even while uncircumcised and as yet unbaptized!). Likewise, we cannot fathom that God would have “no favorites” today and bestow His Spirit on Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and, in fact, all who through meeting a living Jesus “fear Him and do what is right.” But His Kingdom is breaking out of the boxes we try to keep it in, again, and He seems to be inviting the least-expected people to His banquet, without our permission.

Indeed, once again God is doing the scarily unexpected. But will we perceive it?

Jesus is alive and building His own kingdom in the hearts of people in many religious contexts. Just like in the New Testament, He does not seem to be concerned that religious structures or forms be established in His name. Once again He has bypassed the competition between religions to go straight to the hearts of all people everywhere who are seeking to truly know God.


Nothing good, whatsoever, can come out of Christendom, a.k.a., “proud obstacle raised against the knowledge of God” in Christ’s self-revelation at his perfect and diacritical death on the cross superseding hangovers of substitutional sacrifices from the Levitical rites and rituals (Heb. 10).

As an organized religion (distinct from faith according to the teaching of Christ), Christendom cannot accept and obey the change in paradigm (John 4: 21-26; Matt. 13:16).

Two comments:

First, Becky refers to history here and in her other article in this issue. We can learn a lot from history, but it is hard because the “man made ecclesiastical structures” are the major contributors to the presence, writing and maintenance of that history. In other words that picture is much bigger than the picture of St. Patrick in the historic panorama, and thus, though maybe subconsciously, we attribute less value to what might be considered historical anomalies. Or they seem to be anomalies because we know so little about what actually occurred as opposed to the “ecclesiastical structure” history. And the history outside these structures carries less of a force of authority with it. Frustrating actually because I think these are significant.

Second, I agree fiercely with the idea that the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers has been all but lost in our experience today. It was a pillar of the reformation. Where did it go? Are there any good studies on it and the implications? I do an exercise with contextual believers to get them engaged in their community. First we study verses on the priesthood, then look at NT sacrifices of a priest (i.e. Rom 12:1,2) then I ask them if you are a priest lets define your parish. Their parish, for which they have priestly responsibility before God, is their first birth community. They are the mediator between God and man for that community.

Hi George,

Fancy meeting you here.

Good analogy on the priesthood of believers.  Another George used to talk about “evangellyfish”, thought it was a good laugh back then.  But then it’s so true to just float around with the tide, never taking responsibility with the “Treasure” that God has placed in us “earthern vessels.”

Often we try to get a handle on things and put some structure to which an infinite God cannot be contained.

Nateheng, two comments:

1) “Just float around with the tide, never taking responsibility with the “Treasure” that God has placed in us “earthern vessels” runs the risk of contradicting the terms of God’s self-revelation in the “new covenant”, viz.: “None of them will have to teach his fellow-countryman to know the LORD, because all will know me from the least to the greatest” (Jer. 31:34).

On the other hand, our job descriptions would be clearly defined if we fully acknowledged the divine means, a.k.a., Christ’s death on the cross, which we have “robbed of its power”!   

2) “Trying to get a handle on things and put some structure to which an infinite God cannot be contained” agrees with the LORD’s warning against pouring “new wine” into “used wineskins” (Matt. 9:17).


Thanks for your thoughts.  2 Cor 4:7 “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”  Yes, it is God’s Power that works in us.  The New Covenant which
Jesus instituted in Luke 22:20.  2 Cor 4:8-10 continues with us bearing the cross that Christ or literally “the dying of the Lord Jesus” that Jesus might be made manifest in our flesh.

Teaching our new believers the awesome responsibility that they have to allow the Power of God to work in us is something many shy away because they don’t know, don’t understand or perhaps don’t want to.  It’s easier to call the pastor or let someone else handle it.  i.e. just float around

In other words, Mat 28:20 “Teaching them to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you”


Can you (or anyone else) help me with information regarding possibly documented cases on the following?

1) Christ’s perpetual self-revelation in his death on the cross, and
2) Christ’s baptism in the Holy Spirit of new disciples and their teaching personally.

Many thanks!

Dear woldeyesus,

As a child, I was fascinated by the story of Sadhu Sundar Singh.  Perhaps you could begin there, it was great to revisit his story again.  Maybe you are already aware of his life story.

Another one is the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones. I am enjoying that again right at the moment There are some great thoughts here and all set in his practical experience in India. For example on page 27, “A Hindu puts the matter thus: ‘We have been unwilling to receive Christ into our hearts, but we alone are not responsible for this. Christian missionaries have held up a Christ completely covered up by their Christianity.’”


Page 34 “We will give them Christ. and urge them to interpret him through their own genius and life. Then the interpretation will be first hand and vital.”

Problem is in our imperialistic, praternal arrogance we do not really believe they have any “genius” of their own especially if their interpretation is unagreeable to our genius. So we set up all kinds of structures to train them in our genius and wonder why they lack vitality.

Dear Nateheng & George,

Thank you both very much!

I am looking for contemporary evidence on the promised SEQUEL TO THE CHRIST OF THE GOSPELS, based on his characteristic death on the cross and sustainable self-revelation therein for “all future generations”, in turn, patterned on the “self-sufficient fire” for Moses and completely independent of theology and the Christian religion. (John 16: 25-28; 21:25; Rev. 5; Ex. 3: 1-15)

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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