Think ‘big kingdom’ not ‘little principality’

Think ‘big kingdom’ not ‘little principality’

Most Christians are busy serving in their own local patch: their local church or maybe a parachurch organisation or mission field. We pour our hearts and souls into it, working to build others up, striving to see God honoured through the ministry we are part of. And that is a great thing! It is undoubtedly a good thing for the work of God’s kingdom in the world for our local church or parachurch organisation to grow and flourish.

This working in our own local patch can, however, mean that we don’t think big enough or strategic enough. We want to see God glorified, but that doesn’t just happen in the ministry we care about and are invested in. We need to think big kingdom, not just little principality.

I serve in a church called All Nations Presbyterian Church in Perth, Western Australia. We are a church dominated by migrants and international students. This is wonderfully exciting as we often have new arrivals from overseas (when our borders are open), but it does mean people migrate away or return home. As anyone who has had to farewell close friends knows, it is very difficult to say goodbye to people you love and have invested heavily in.

This struck me last year as I prepared the roster of people who lead our Sunday worship services. Out of the 11 people who had been trained to do this role in the past six years or so, I had four available to put on my roster. Others were leading services in Houston, Nepal, and elsewhere. This is obviously a good thing for the wider kingdom, but it doesn’t help me fill a roster! I needed to train more leaders, which is good for the church and the wider kingdom.

We need to remember that we are a small part of the larger kingdom of God. If we train people and they serve elsewhere, that’s not a net loss; it’s a gain for the kingdom. If the worldwide church is a little stronger due to the teaching and encouragement our church could give people for a year or two, that has to be seen as a positive, not a negative!

As we focus on our own patch, as we surely need to do, we need to think bigger:

  • Other churches are not our enemy

It is easy to become somewhat tribal in our thinking of church. Our church is obviously the best one, and others are not as good! Well, we may disagree with other churches about a whole range of issues, but if they see Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should never talk down other churches to make ourselves look better. We need to pray publicly for the ministry of other churches in our city. If possible, it would be great to work together with other churches in an area. Some networks exist for pastors to connect with those in other churches that share core convictions, and this has to be a good thing for the wider kingdom.

  • We can do more together with others than by ourselves

I know that denominations might be a strange concept for many, but there is real strength in churches closely working together. I am grateful for my denomination, the Westminster Presbyterian Church. When we were smaller and weaker, we borrowed an elder from a larger church for a time. The denomination lent us money to purchase our first building. Now we have elders serving on critical committees trying to help with training, examination and strategic leadership. Denominations remind us that the kingdom is bigger than our patch.

  • We can be strategic with training and mission

The local church needs to be more wider-kingdom minded. A meaningful way to do this is to support mission work. This has to mean giving a significant amount of money to mission, but also raising awareness of mission work and having genuine relationships with the missionaries that are supported. Regular exposure of a congregation to the work going on in other places is good for the kingdom thinking of your church and a great encouragement to the missionaries you support.

Being strategic also includes considering how your current people might later influence the wider world. Invest in training people who are likely to head overseas for work and study. Come up with a training programme that maximises how much they can learn in the time you have them so they can be useful in other places. God’s work is bigger than just us; we need to consider how to use our gifts and abilities to help with this wider work.