The Church is closely related to the Kingdom and to the Mission of God (Missio Dei), but there are potential misunderstandings. This article is an article for clarification of terms that could be potentially confusing.
Relationship Between Church and Kingdom
The Church is NOT the same thing as the Kingdom of God. I grew up being taught that the Church was the Kingdom. In my denomination (Churches of Christ) some even instruct others to remove the line “Your kingdom come…” from the Lord’s Prayer because they believe the Kingdom already came in the founding of the Church on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. How dare we remove a line from the prayer our Lord taught us to pray to fit our own ideological assumptions!
The Church and the Kingdom of God are never equated in the New Testament. The earliest missionaries and preachers did not proclaim the Church, but the Kingdom. For example, Phillip proclaimed the good news of “the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). Paul proclaimed the Kingdom of God as the subject of his preaching (Acts 19:8; 28:23).
So what is the relationship between the Kingdom and the Church?
- The Kingdom creates the Church. The parable of the net (Matt. 13:47-50) shows that the Kingdom draws a community of people together from all sorts of different backgrounds.
- The Church witnesses to the Kingdom. The Church proclaims and demonstrates the values of the Kingdom (Matt. 5-7).
- The Church is the instrument of the Kingdom. Through the Holy Spirit, the Church is used to bring about the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:10). Indeed, “the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21 NIV 1984).
- The Church functions as a protector and a gatekeeper for the kingdom (Matt. 16:19).
The Church is a gathering of people who are submitted to the reign of God and who enjoy the blessings that come from that submission while they await the coming day of Lord when the Kingdom will be established on earth as it is in heaven.
The Mission of God and the Mission of the Church
The Mission of God or the Missio Dei, to use the Latin term, is God’s mission to redeem and restore a broken world. The Missio Dei is not exactly equivalent to “Missions,” as in the work of full-time missionaries. This does not mean, however, that bringing others to Himself is not a part of God’s mission. It just means that there is more to the Missio Dei than mission work.
The Missio Dei is intrinsically Trinitarian. Just as the Father has sent the Son, so also the Son sends his disciples to do the same work in the power of the Holy Spirit (John 20:21). Upon being exalted to the right hand of the father, Jesus commands His followers to go and make disciples of all nations “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).
The important distinction here is that the Church does not technically work for God. The Church works with God. The Church participates in what God is already doing. The mission of the church is to join the mission of God.
- See my blog post about the Kingdom of God. It contains a section (the exact same as above) about the relationship between the Church and the Kingdom of God. Read here.
- A blog post about the relationship of the Kingdom and the Church on a different blog. See here.
- Here is an article called “Missio Dei and the Mission of the Church.”