Your Kingdom Come… whatever that means

From science we recognize that there are capacities and limitations to our own perceptions.

From the early 20th century two guys named Donald Broadbent and Thomas Kuhn did separate studies and discovered we have filtering processes that both allow and prevent information from coming in to our minds. Broadbent’s research was all about selective sensory perception (SSP). We all have this amazing ability to filter out meaningless information.

And because you have this ability, this selective sensory perception, you can block out the person next to you who is sneezing, or the one scratching their nose, or the person in front of you who’s moving around and fidgeting.

You can block out lights and sounds. Wouldn’t it be horrible if all the information or stimuli of your immediate area came flooding into your brain without any kind of filter? You would go crazy. In fact you would have an attention deficit disorder because so much information would be storming your brain you could not possibly stand it.

There’s an old story about the cosmonauts and astronauts first space journey. The cosmonauts, when they stepped outside the earth’s gravitational pull, said, ˜We have explored the universe and there is no proof of God’s existence:. And the astronauts stepped out beyond the gravitational pull of the earth and said, ˜We have stepped out into the universe and there is evidence of God everywhere”.

Selective Sensory Perception may be vital to help you function in a rational manner, but it does have it limitations. It causes you to see what you want to see, and not see what you do not want to see.

That makes me pause. What filtering am I doing in my journey to extend God’s kingdom?

All of us have this filtering process going on. Some of it is governed by our past experiences, circumstances and paradigms. What’s that, you ask?

Well if SSP is a way of filtering information, paradigms are our way of distorting information. Around the same time as Broadbent and his discovery of SSP, another scientist released findings in a book called Revolution of Scientific Discoveries with his thesis being we operate with unique paradigms.

Paradigms are not only our way of filtering information so we see what we want to see and block what we don’t want to see, they go even further and distort the information which has made it through our SSP.

Kuhn’s theory of paradigms said scientists had a natural inclination to reinforce their already set beliefs so new scientific discoveries were already rejected not because they weren’t discoverable, not because there wasn’t enough empirical evidence to prove them but because the scientists paradigms actually blocked out the information that would change their minds.

And so they kept seeing the world as flat, not because all the evidence said the world was flat, but because all the evidence that proved the world was round was flattened by their paradigms.

Have you ever had someone on your leadership team who just seems to be on another planet to you? Who thinks differently to you?

It’s not a bad thing (although it can be painfully frustrating). It can be very beneficial as those type of people make it easier for you to see your own filtering process and paradigms.

Unfortunately, some Christian leaders tend to get so caught up with the experience of the western Church their SSP slowly begins to change.

We begin to lose our first call, our passion. In fact, sometimes we even begin to walk another paradigm to that in which we want and ought to be traveling.

I once attended a formal function at a Church I knew nothing about. As soon as I entered the building I noticed a mission statement hanging on the wall (maybe you know a Church with a similar one). It started, ˜To teach God’s people”. A worthy priority, I’m sure…

The minister was a gifted teacher. But in the back of my mind I was thinking, `What a waste’. It was an uneasy feeling. The clanger for me came when I heard him say, ˜Christ died for the Church”.

Yes, true, but not complete.

I began to see a pattern an emphasis on teaching God’s people. He was a gifted teacher who sadly did not give a single voice in his message to evangelism, and presented a theology which viewed Christ as dying only for the Church.

Perhaps I should have asked this man about his views on the Kingdom of God? I should have asked how did he participate in bringing about God’s Kingdom or was that even his role?

Clearly, this pastor’s filtering process differed to mine. Although we may walk towards the same goal we were walking in totally different paradigms!

One of the most profound learning experiences I’ve had happened very early on in my Christian walk. I was asked by a man who I had great respect for, ˜What do you say is the Kingdom of heaven?”.

I babbled on talking about one thing then the next, but all I could do was describe it… I couldn’t define it. Finally he told me to be silent and said, ˜The kingdom of heaven is the glorious reign of God through the Messiah Jesus Christ”.

I knew from that moment my life was going to be devoted to that purpose, ˜To see the glorious reign of God through the Messiah Jesus Christ”.

My paradigm was set! My filter process changed that day. My number one priority in life became to advance the Kingdom of God.

Think about that for a moment. The glorious reign of God through the Messiah Jesus Christ.

How can a pastor be so occupied with equipping the saints that he/she fails to be a co-worker in the harvest, reaping the crop for the reign of Christ? When we see the Kingdom of God as the WHOLE ENTIRE reign of God through the Messiah, we cannot, we dare not, neglect one single aspect.

So today can I ask some questions of you and the Churches you serve? Hopefully these questions will help us address any shortcomings we have through an inadequate view of the Kingdom of God.

More than likely most Churches have a pastoral care system in place, and perhaps most of the congregation will be aware of the pastoral care process.

However, does your Church have a clear process for evangelism? If so, is your congregation aware of it?

Do you and/or your Church see evangelism as an event or process or perhaps both?

What is your purpose in equipping the saints? Is it so your Church will live in harmony? Or is it to advance the Kingdom of God?

Would you say the majority of your time in Church leadership is consumed with matters of maintaining the ‘status quo’ or on ‘bold steps of faith in future evangelistic plans’?

Would your leadership team be mainly ‘managers’ or ‘leaders’? Do you even understand the difference?

What is the priority of your day? Where are you spending most of your time? If evangelism is not a priority for you, time-wise, how do you expect your congregation to believe you when you say it is to be a priority?
Have a look at your preaching roster, what topics have you covered in the past six months? How does your roster reflect the Kingdom of God? Is it more concerned with the Kingdom of God just for the Christians?

What percentage of your Church’s budget is spent directly on evangelism?

It is not enough to fill Churches… we must transform the world!

Ok with all that said, I will let you in on a little secret, my aim thus far has been to help you discover your own paradigms.

Some of you started the ministry journey with the expansion of God’s Kingdom as your priority, but circumstances and pressures changed your path. How can you go about realigning your filter process? How can you go about walking the paradigm you long for?

The short answer is… I don’t know.

But I do know that it will require a conscious effort on your behalf. I do know it will mean you’ll have to do some serious soul searching. I do know you will cop a beating from some people because of it. And I do know the road you want to travel will cause you to be viewed by some as an eccentric.

If you’ve gone off-course somewhere along the line, you may now find yourself overwhelmingly consumed with maintaining the status quo.

You’re governed by the voice of the sheep who are bleating, ‘Feed me, feed me’, rather than looking out into the harvest saying, ‘Send me, send me’.

If you really want to return to a Kingdom perspective, I have a few suggestions, but I’m certain some of you aren’t going to like them (perhaps its because my paradigm is unbalanced, that is for you to decide).

Here’s a couple of ideas;

1. Quit the pastorate! Now that got your attention didn’t it? But in all honesty, if ministry is getting in the way of the ministry God is calling you to, GET OUT, and go with God.

2. Surround yourself with people who are different. Now I know most of us like to think we are innovators or at the very least ‘early adopters’. But in reality most Church leaders are far from that. Most of us are stable, slow adopters at best.

Why is that? Churches tend to vote for safety first. You may have been voted in because you feed the Church folk, and because you are safe.

If, however, you are surrounded by people who will risk everything for an ideal, you will soon come to understand you’re not a person who is as willing to simply go with God as you thought you were.

3. If your existing Church leadership is not interested, just go and do something on your own. See if it flies or falls. Even if it fails, you are not a failure, it is just you doing what He asked of you, nothing more, nothing less!

The Kingdom of God is much bigger than you or me.

When we understand that, our safe ministries won’t seem important, our false views of ourselves will be challenged, and the risks we take will be worth it regardless of the physical outcome because He is the one who leads us!

Our SSP will be one that helps us be the type of people God calls us to be. Our paradigms will not be self-centred, not consumed by the bleating of the saved, but will be governed by the heart beat of God for the lost!

~ Dean Thomas

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