I’m observing something about the Kingdom of God in the earth
It all began when I read Acts again towards the end of last year – actually I’ve read it at least once a year for a long time, but it was last year I began to notice something which, to me anyway, was significant.
Most of you who are leaders will have read widely enough to have heard of the idea that the earth is full of jurisdictions or spheres of influence. Specifically, a jurisdiction or sphere is a place where authority is vested and exercised. For example, Government is a jurisdiction and so, therefore, are nations. The Church too is a jurisdiction or sphere and there are many examples of the way in which authority is vested and exercised within it mentioned in the Scriptures.
The judiciary is a sphere too (an Ezekiel-like sphere within a sphere) and once again, there are a variety of ways in which authority is vested and exercised therein e.g. solicitors don’t do criminal cases.
What fascinates me is the way the Kingdom advances through the missionary-church by releasing its people to move across from its jurisdiction to another and as they go, to carry the message of the King and His Kingdom and its application to human life in that new sphere.
Actually it is essential this happens in order that the Kingdom should advance throughout human life. This requires an incarnational approach, in that we as the ambassadors of Christ, cross personally into other jurisdictions to announce the King’s agenda. These same ambassadors sometimes stay within that jurisdiction a long time to exercise the King’s authority while others return again to their own sphere or jurisdiction.
Acts is full of this kind of thing. It seems to me this is the way the Kingdom advances into every part of the world. Let me show you what I mean, but please look out for the following pattern.
First there is the work of the Spirit on people within the initial jurisdiction; next, the crossing over itself which may be caused by any number of factors but always according to the purposes of God; then the planting of the Word in the new jurisdiction; followed by the observation that those in the affected jurisdiction are transformed and their sphere also; finally these newly transformed people proceed to repeat the process itself into another jurisdiction.
Look at Acts 2. The disciples are the first jurisdiction of the Kingdom – gathered together and in prayer (Ac.1:13-14). This particular jurisdiction includes people who carry a unique promise – yet unfulfilled – but who still carry within them the promise and command of God (1:4-5,8). As yet they represent the only jurisdiction where this promise applies – the company of disciples.
This first jurisdiction is, at that moment in time, the key Kingdom jurisdiction in the earth – at least in terms of the transformation of human society as a whole. They are not living it yet, but it is their destiny. This does not mean that this jurisdiction was the only Kingdom jurisdiction – a fact which will hopefully become clear soon.
Once the Holy Spirit is poured out (2:1-4) the switch is thrown resulting in those populating this first jurisdiction beginning to cross into other jurisdictions with a very new and challenging message which will carry enormous impact – into Jerusalem.
The next jurisdiction is mentioned in Acts 2:5. They are God-fearing Jews in Jerusalem to faithfully observe the Pentecost – many had been in Jerusalem since before the Passover.
This group of people is a jurisdiction normally untouched by the members of the first Kingdom jurisdiction in the earth for these men were from the fringes of Jewish society. The men and women from the first jurisdiction are neither priests nor trained in the ministry of the Temple nor are they permitted to minister. In the usual course of events, these God-fearing Jews would not be ministered to by such a company of men and women.
Yet, the Spirit anointed that company of disciples to cross into this new jurisdiction (God-fearing Jews) and minister a new message – the message of the Kingdom.
The signs of the Spirit create the moment and Peter advances into the new jurisdiction with a new and amazing message(2:14-36).
The effect was amazing (2:37) and Peter announces the promise of the Spirit to them exactly as it had been promised to himself (2:38-39). I know the words are different, but it is the same Spirit. The promise in this first jurisdiction has now been announced to a second jurisdiction and many of those in that second jurisdiction took up that same offer of the Kingdom (2:41) and formed a significant Messianic community (2:42-47a)
The key here is that the two jurisdictions were parallel. That is, they shared some significant common ground which, when accented by the work of the Spirit, led to the transformation brought by the Kingdom, to leap across normal human divides into a new jurisdiction. It was a kairos moment.
Acts 2:47b needs separate comment. The community which had been drawn from the second jurisdiction and that from the first jurisdiction is now joined by faith. But they are very diverse with some real cultural differences. They form a new jurisdiction (ie the Church of Jesus Christ) which shares an amazing outcome – that of being a community whose aim is to engage other jurisdictions in a worldview challenge on a continuing basis.
And momentum is key.
For me, it’s proof the Kingdom is present. The Kingdom advances both because of intentional and non-intentional human action. Mark 4:26-29 outlines a parable about the Kingdom which I think is resounding here.
But what happens next is in some ways more amazing.
Acts 8:1-3 records a phenomena – a scattering of believers out of Jerusalem which was caused by a persecution of the followers of The Way by the Jewish authorities and their chief protagonist Saul of Tarsus.
Initially, these believers were scattered to Judea and Samaria (8:2). In addition, Acts 8:4-40 tells the story of the remarkable revival led by Philip which itself is an example of jurisdiction transfer in the name of the King and His Kingdom.
I mentioned earlier the initial group of believers carried in them a command and a promise to be witnesses to Christ to the ends of the earth – Luke’s version of this is in Acts 1:8 and Matthew’s is recorded at Matthew 28:19. But this did not happen spontaneously, rather, it was the result of an action.
The first expression of the jurisdiction we now know as the Church (the company of believers hidden between the ascension and Pentecost) did not advance into any new jurisdiction automatically – the action that created this was the pouring out of the Spirit.
Following this, the newly created jurisdiction advanced into the next “parallel” jurisdiction which turned out to be devout Jewish believers in Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover and Pentecost. The effect was amazing. But again, the church as it was now (a group of believers who had known Christ personally, certain priests and members of the Sanhedrin as well as devout Jews from around the known world) did not automatically fulfill the plan and intent of God. Another action was required – this time, a persecution.
This however created a problem and it remains one for us today. The members of that first jurisdiction rightly saw themselves as “guardians” of the deposit left by Christ so they needed to confirm the veracity of what had occurred. The Church was now in a new city (another jurisdiction).
How was this being handled? What proved it was the real thing?
In this case as described in Acts 8:14-17 it was the presence and work of the Holy Spirit that was proving a jurisdictional transfer of the Kingdom had occurred. The Gospel had leapt across into a new jurisdiction through the work of ordinary believers.
Philip’s story also contains the contact with the Ethiopian (8:26-40) which together with the story of Peter and Cornelius (10:1-48) reveal the first major jurisdictional transfer of the Gospel and the Kingdom – that which is from Jew to Gentile.
This would eventually find its fullest expression in the work of the Spirit among the believers at the Antioch Church.
But all this is just an introduction. Let me finish this by trying to explain what it might mean to us now. What is the application for us in the 21st century?
Right now we have several crucial jurisdictional transfers before us. The major one is one that is similar to that involving Peter and Cornelius and it will also take Spirit-led timing and content built on what the Holy Spirit is doing on the other side of the transfer to be successful.
I refer to the transfer from the Church of Jesus Christ into the Muslim world. Leaders like Stuart Robinson represent those who have crossed the jurisdictional barrier between western culture and that of Islam. His book “Mosques and Miracles” illustrates what is involved, what challenges exist and what opportunities abound. There will need to be more people crossing this jurisdiction in order for the Kingdom to move more purposefully into Islam with the good news of Jesus.
Another of these crucial jurisdictions before us is the new age movement. Thousands of Australians are engaged in this movement; buying the books and crystals, seeking the diviners and palm readers and adopting an extremely strong “spiritual” approach to life.
Outside this jurisdiction, inside the Body of Christ, there are people like Lyn Thomas who lives in Brisbane and goes to fairs and new age expos and offers prophetic ministry and dream interpretation. In 2005-2006 she and her team led almost 150 people to Christ. The real challenge for her is finding Churches to which she can send these new converts. So the second transfer is from the Church into the New Age Movement.
A third crucial jurisdiction that needs to be crossed is that across many unreached people groups scattered throughout the earth.
Unlike the previous two I have mentioned, this transfer requires the commitment of a whole life. It requires language and culture skills that take time to develop and the offer of a life given over completely to God in the tradition of Hudson Taylor who went into China. We might call this transfer from the Church into unreached people groups around the world.
Speaking nationally, there is a jurisdiction that is in urgent need of transfer – the indigenous Australian peoples. I have a vision for how The Pines Training Centre will move across this transfer. By preparing and supporting a specific team of Indigenous leaders I have a vision for the development of leaders fit for winning Indigenous people to faith in a culturally relevant way.
There are some wonderful examples of this jurisdictional transfer occurring. There’s an Apostolic Church based in Roeburn in north-west Western Australia. From this church there are Aboriginal believers venturing out across the deserts to Alice Springs. The Church was planted by an Anglo-Saxon who gave his life to this cause as his son did after him. The kingdom is transferred now as all the ministry is done by Aboriginal converts and leaders.
Jeff Christopherson (Kingdom Matrix) speaks of assumptions made about the Kingdom. One is that you can often get a hold of “Church” and miss “Kingdom”; but when you get a hold of “Kingdom” what follows is a clear sense of “Church.”
Another of these assumptions is that there are only two Kingdoms – “at any given moment I am either building the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Darkness.”
And – it is possible to participate in Church expansion and unintentionally be an agent for shrinking the Kingdom of God.
But when I heard him speak in mid-2006 this was the one that impacted me most – it is possible to unknowingly value the Kingdom of God before acknowledging the value of its Source – the King.