Thinking About... Volume 1, Issue 1 - January 2010
The teaching faculty of Ministry, Theology, and Culture at Tabor Adelaide are committed to serving the church by thinking about the gospel. We believe that individuals and the church can be transformed by the renewing of our/ their minds. Too often college lecturers are characterized as “living in an ivory tower” and “of being too theoretical.” This stereotype doesn’t apply at Tabor; we are part of the church, and we want to see it grow in faithfulness to Jesus. This is why we have committed ourselves to producing this themed magazine for free distribution to the churches of South Australia. We trust you will ﬁnd this semi-annual magazine helpful. We will value your feedback and your contributions; please email me at email@example.com. Rev Dr Stephen Spence Head of Ministry, Theology, and Culture
Thinking About... the kingdom of God According to Mark, the ﬁrst public proclamation of Jesus was “The time is fulﬁlled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (1:15). Without a doubt, those who heard Jesus knew he was announcing the fulﬁllment of Israel’s long-held hope - the establishment of God’s reign over all the earth, which would include the vindication of God’s people and the judgment of God’s enemies (e.g., Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-55). Yet when I was growing up in a Baptist church in Melbourne, I thought Jesus was announcing the good news of the forgiveness of my personal sin and the promise of life
with God sometime in the future. D’oh! That’s what happens when we take Jesus and the gospel out of their historical/biblical context and unthinkingly substitute our personal religious/cultural context.
Inside Thinking about the kingdom of God from the perspective of...
However, following Jesus is not about understanding the world of ﬁrst-century Judeans. It is about living out the gospel today in the world that God has placed us in. So we need to do some thinking. How can we translate the results of faithfully reading Scripture into a message that is understandable and applicable to today’s church? How does thinking about the kingdom of God lead me into more faithful discipleship and contribute to my church’s participation in the mission of God?
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The Parables of Jesus
Rev Dr Stephen Spence, Head of Ministry, Theology, and Culture. In 2010, Stephen will teach Trinitarian Theology in Semester 1 and Introduction to the New Testament and Exegesis of Luke’s Gospel in Semester 2.
David Turnbull, Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Studies. In 2010, David will teach Christians in a Multicultural World and Introduction to World Religions in Semester 1 and Evangelism (July 5-9 Intensive) and Global Mission Today in Semester 2
Jesus’ ﬁrst public declaration was “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1).
godly compassion and not religious status identify God’s people (the Neighbourly Samaritan, Luke 10)
The kingdom of God is not an idea that needs to be understood or a doctrine that needs to be believed. The kingdom of God is a description of reality that needs to be lived.
the rich act generously (the Rich Fool, Luke 12)
forgiveness is freely given not just freely received (the Unmerciful Servant, Matt 18)
religious leaders act as God’s stewards rather than substitute gods (the Wicked Tenants, Mark 12)
grace triumphs over “fairness” (Labourers in the Vineyard, Mt 20)
The biblical witness proclaims the good news that, despite appearances, “our God reigns” (Isaiah), “Jesus is Lord” (Paul), and “the king-
And it is “despite appearances”; it does require believing.
dom of God is present” (Jesus).
But not that abstract form of believing when we say we know something to be true but we live as if it’s not. In God’s kingdom the poor and the oppressed are considered blessed (Luke 6), yet in our “real” world they are seen as cursed and so we strive for wealth and glory. That is why we need to repent; the story we live is not the story we believe. Jesus’ parables are opportunities to re-imagine our world. A world in which …
These stories of Jesus continually expose our values and assumptions as belonging to this world and not to God’s kingdom. When the parables of Jesus give us eyes to see the world as God sees it, then we will know what we must repent of and what we must believe if we are to experience the good news of God’s kingdom come. firstname.lastname@example.org
Having a Kingdom Mentality Our culture values competition. Many consider it to be essential to an open society and a successful economy. And from the way that churches and mission agencies act, it seems that many Christian leaders believe that competition is essential to mission and ministry.
church and its ministries.
My conversations with leaders of mission agencies continually highlight this. Often today western churches and mission agencies act as if they alone are called to mission, particularly in the majority world. This has particular negative consequences for indigenous Christian leaders. They are lured by status-seeking and money to align their ministries with western agencies. Western churches gain control, but the local people lose an incarnational ministry.
The kingdom of God is grown by God; it is not transplanted or built by us. This is what I call ‘having a kingdom mentality’ in ministry and mission. And it applies as much to how we work here in Adelaide as it does to how others are working in the majority world.
This is obviously not healthy for the Christian community, whether overseas or in Australia. This is not participation in the mission dei. If we understood the kingdom of God, this would
The reign of God’s authority and sovereignty covers the whole world – including territory beyond the boundaries of our not happen.
Our faith tells us God is already active in the world. Our actions need to reflect this, even amongst people groups where our form of being church is either not present or not dominant.
Having a kingdom mentality means not confusing what we do with what God is doing. It means promoting unity in diversity and developing partnerships with other Christian organisations and denominations. It even means co-operating with what God is doing in and through non-faith based community organisations. Would your church’s ministry look different if it adopted a kingdom mentality? email@example.com
The Kingdom of God The kingdom of God ‘comes.’ It cannot be built, ushered in or extended by us – despite the way that many people talk of the mission and responsibility of the church these days – and despite the many prayers offered on Sunday mornings after the collection: ‘Lord these monies are for the extension of your
any minister who thinks of his or her task as ‘building the kingdom of God’ should resign immediately!
kingdom’. Karl Barth maintained that David McGregor is Senior Lecturer in Theology. In 2010, David will teach Creative Living and Ethics in Semester 1 and Twentieth Century Theology, Biblical Theology, and Creative Living in Semester 2.
Despite popular practice, one should not abstract the word ‘kingdom’ from the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ and use it as an adjective to identify a particular perspective or practice, as in ‘Kingdom Ethics’ or ‘Kingdom Living,’ for example. Have you noticed the subjective genitives and the personal possessive pronouns in the biblical phrases ‘kingdom of God’, ‘Christ’s kingdom’, ‘his kingdom’, ‘my kingdom’ and
‘your kingdom’? This is because the kingdom of God is the kingdom of God. It has reference to God himself and not to anything else. It is about him and his action. Drawing on his study of Jewish literature, the New Testament scholar Bruce Chilton tells us that the phrase is a reference to ‘the dynamic personal presence of God’. The kingdom of God, he says, is ‘God as he manifests himself for his people.’ It is ‘God in strength,’ ‘the sovereign activity of God,’ ‘the saving revelation of God himself.’ Joel Marcus, another New Testament scholar, tells us that it means ‘God’s Kingly power.’ It is for this reason that we must affirm, along with the early church father Origen, that Jesus Christ is the auto basileia – the kingdom of God in person. Jesus Christ is God himself come among us in Kingly power, acting to save us from the powers that enslave us in order to free us to be truly ourselves as we are truly his.
Brian McLaren The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything (Thomans Nelson, 2007) Brian McLaren is well known as an American pastor with a ministry to postmodern, non-Christian young adults. This book (and its title) has its origins in the post-Dan Brown world of interest in whether the church has misinterpreted Jesus’ message. Brian explains (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5udKP9Q4_jw) that Jesus’ particular message about a kingdom of God is not well understood by contemporary culture and so Additional resources and information, including access to a study guide and sermon ideas, are available at http://www. brianmclaren.net/ archives/books/ brians-books/thesecret-mess-1. html#more.
he has tried to find new ways of communicating Jesus’ kingdom message.
Part 2 of the book draws upon good quality New Testament scholarship in order to grapple with the meaning of Jesus’ message. McLaren does an excellent job of setting Jesus’ original proclamation in its historical context. Part 3 of the book includes different metaphors that can contribute to conveying Jesus’ message to your audience: •
the dream of God
the revolution of God
the mission of God
the party of God
the network of God,
the dance of God.
Brian’s attempts to understand Jesus’ message and to proclaim it afresh is bound to stimulate your own thinking and improve your preaching on this central Gospel message.
“Your kingdom come ...” Coming from a liturgical tradition myself (Lutheran), I have been praying the Lord’s Prayer weekly for many years. Sadly, I also often pray it weakly. Just as it is easy to mindlessly rattle off a favourite Scripture or the words of a well-known hymn or song, so “your kingdom come” can escape our lips without much thought or force. Yet
Bruce Hulme is a lecturer in Practical Theology. In 2010, Bruce is responsible for the Spiritual Formation Program, which involves all MTC’s degree students, and for the Supervised Field Education Program.
this is perhaps the most transformational, radical three word prayer we will ever pray, for at least three reasons.
Firstly, it reminds us that it is God’s kingdom, not ours. Often it seems we would much rather pray “my problems be solved”, or “our church survive”! Yet Jesus maintains that he alone is the builder of his church and instead places more emphasis upon a personal and communal spirituality of paying attention to how he is building the reign and rule of his fierce love.
Secondly, this means we are graciously invited to participate. To pray “your kingdom come” includes you and me! If we pray these words, yet are unwilling to share in the Kingdom coming in our own lives and in his world through us, then we have totally missed what discipleship really means. Finally, it appropriately places the coming of the kingdom in the realm of prayer. This means ‘kingdom’ is not a detached, abstract notion, but rather an intensely relational reality which stems from the goodness of God and seeks to orientate and permeate every aspect of our lives. The next time you pray “Your kingdom come,” pray it with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and keep your eyes open to how your Father might be answering your prayer. firstname.lastname@example.org
4 Considering your options for study? Enrolments for 2010 are still open Tabor Adelaide offers fully accredited courses in: • • • • • • •
Teacher Education Social Science - Youth Work Social Science - Counselling Theology, Ministry and Intercultural Studies Humanities: English, Creative Writing, History, Philosophy TESOL Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
181 Goodwood Rd Millswood SA 5034 tel. 08 8373 8777 CRICOS provider No 00946E
The Humanity of the Kingdom The Kingdom of God is not just some future spiritual reality to look forward to, something that takes us outside the world in which we live today. Ultimately, of course, it is that – but it is more. It also has to do with the present reality of Jesus in our midst, and what we do with this Jesus who is deeply involved in the structures and fabric of this world.
Rev Dr Graham Buxton is the Director of PostGraduate Studies. In October 2010, Graham will be offering an intensive on Doing Ministry from a Trinitarian Perspective. He will also be lecturing for Fuller Theological Seminary in the USA.
If Jesus’ teaching in the gospels opens us up to the true nature of the Kingdom of God, then Paul’s letters teach us about how we are to live in the Kingdom. In a nutshell, Kingdom living has to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ. Now what has happened – and the church has a lot to answer for this if we take a broad historical perspective – is that the contours of the Kingdom have been narrowed down to spiritual realities at the expense of a more holistic and more generous understanding.
If pastors in our churches really want to help people become more spiritual, more Kingdom-minded, they need to help them
become more human – not just
more in touch with God, but also more in touch with themselves and more in touch with creation. The Kingdom of God has to do not only with the God of creation, but also with the creation of God. The purpose of life on earth is to give glory to God by living as humanly as possible! We must not be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use! Hans Kung, the well-known Catholic theologian, was once asked why we should embrace Christianity. His reply was: “So that we can be fully human.” To help people to live as full human beings in the Kingdom of God is the ultimate goal of pastoral ministry … and this means living as Jesus lived – in fulfilling relationship with God, with others, and with creation … for each represents what it means to be at home. For the Kingdom is here and now, not just that which is to come. We are created to live fully and joyfully here on earth … not to endure this earthly life until we are released into the ethereal bliss of heaven! email@example.com
TABOR ADELAIDE 2010
Enrich your Ministry with International Scholars Professional Development for Clergy and Church Leaders In 2010, Tabor Adelaide is bringing to Adelaide a number of internationally respected scholars whose research and writings have greatly contributed to the church. These are rare opportunities to hear from people who are helping the church think through its life and mission.
Dr David Wilkinson
Dr Ben Witherington III
The Biblical Doctrine of Creation
NT Theology and Ethics
Dr Colin Harbinson
Dr David Baer
Theology and the Arts
Isaiah and Pastoral Ministry
Professor J Dudley Woodberry
Dr Graham Buxton
Dialogue with Muslims
Do Trinitarians do Ministry Differently?
The Mission of God
Missional Leadership in an Emerging Culture
Dr Chris Wright
Dr Mike McNichols
Register your interest: firstname.lastname@example.org
Having Dominion within the Kingdom
Dr Aaron Chalmers is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies. In 2010, Aaron will teach Introduction to the Old Testament and Biblical Hebrew in Sem 1 and Introduction to Biblical Interpretation and Intermediate Biblical Hebrew in Sem 2.
At first glance, the kingdom of God does not appear to be a prominent theme in the OT. Sure, Isaiah announces that “God reigns” and the psalmist declares “the Lord is king,” but such references are relatively infrequent when one considers the size of the OT as a whole. To focus only on those passages that directly refer to God’s rule, however, is to miss the point. The narrative of the OT as a whole is the story of God’s kingly reign over creation, Israel and the affairs of the nations. In fact, the importance of the rule of God to the story of the OT is established in the very first chapter of Genesis. Here, God is depicted as speaking creation into being, probably along the lines of an ancient Near Eastern monarch who would simply need to speak the word for his will to be done. And it is within the context of God’s reign that we can come to grips with the declaration for human beings to “have dominion”. Here
humanity is set up as God’s under-kings and queens with the calling to image God to the world around them.
The challenge for each of us, therefore, is to consider how we, as individuals and as communities, are earthing God’s rule in the world in which God has placed us. What might this look like in practice? Well, perhaps it might include considering… • how we can be involved in God’s plan to “bless the nations” (Abraham), • how we can be involved in God’s work to bring liberation from all forms of oppression (the Exodus), and • how we can be involved in God’s call to challenge abusive power structures that exploit the poor and vulnerable, while offering words of comfort, hope and good news to those who are discouraged and disillusioned (the prophets). The OT clearly indicates that our God and king has a passionate concern for all of these things. Surely this provides both the basis and impetus for the work of his people in such vital spheres of ministry. email@example.com
6 SEMESTER ONE 2010
Study Opportunities at Tabor Adelaide Introduction to the Old Testament, Content and Context, Th, 10am-1pm Understanding the Biblical Narrative, Gen-Rev, Fri, 9:30am-12:30pm Explore God’s Gospel of Grace in “Creative Living”, Tues, 6-9pm
According to Ben Witherington IIII, we should
“use the English word dominion instead of kingdom because in
Christians in a Multicultural World, Tues, 1-4pm
English we can speak of having
Introduction to World Religions, Th, 6-9pm
dominion over someone, and we
The Story of the Christian Church, Th, 1:30-4:30pm
can speak of the king’s dominion.
Biblical Hebrew for Beginners, Mon, 1-4pm NT Greek for Beginners, Fri, 9:30am-12:30pm
In other words, the term dominion
can be used in both verbal and
Theology - What Can We Know About God? Tues, 6-9pm
nominal senses, like the original
Pastoral Care, Th, 1:30-4:30pm
Aramaic [malkutha’] and the Greek [basileia] terms.
WANT DETAILS? contact Sam
firstname.lastname@example.org or (08) 8373 8777
The Indelible Image, 2009