After believing in Jesus, life can become a little confusing as to what exactly we are called to be and to do. What are we doing here? More importantly, what is God doing?
You may have heard the saying, “Jesus came preaching the kingdom and what arrived was the church.” This statement gets at the dilemma many people feel. Isn’t everything supposed to change now that we know Jesus? Where is the kingdom? What does the church have to do with Christ’s rule?
The Kingdom of God and the Church
We often hear this idea that the church is not a building. It's people. But this isn't the complete picture. The kingdom of God is what Christ preached and ushered in, and the present form it takes is the church. This people and place, now called the church, is where the kingdom of heaven is seen. It is a place where certain things happen and also a people who do certain things, as outlined in Acts 2:42. The Great Commission of Christ's kingdom is inseparable from his church:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18–20).
The church, therefore, is a place where the people are gathered to receive God’s divine gifts, and it is a people who are formed and scattered during the week. The church, then, goes out into neighborhoods and communities to serve others in their various callings. This is our mission. This is where we give Christ’s love through our callings. We are the church when we serve the poor, change our children’s diapers, and share the gospel.
Nevertheless, these callings cannot be done without the gospel ministry and God’s gift giving through the Great Commission. While we can make a distinction between the church as place and the church as people, the two callings should not be separated. The church is God’s kingdom and mission into the world through all of these multifaceted callings.
The church as an institution is the new center of gravity. Here is the place where God’s gifts of salvation come down from Jesus to us (Eph. 4:1–16). Here is where we get our marching orders so God might employ us in our lives to bring his goodness and truth to those in need, for body and soul.
The Holy Spirit’s work can be seen where sacrificial love and hospitality abound. The tools the Lord uses are the preaching of his Word and the right use of the Sacraments (Acts 2:42). The Word of his kingdom is being scattered like a seed in the field of the world that begins to bear fruit even now (Matt. 13) through the mission of the church.
God's Work In and Through His Church
Although the ascended Christ is not physically present, he has sent his Spirit at Pentecost, restoring communion not only between the Creator and his creatures but also communion between men and women of different social classes, ethnicities, and backgrounds (Eph. 4:3).
This is the field in which God is reforming humans into his image and binding them to each other in faithfulness and love, giving us a new identity and a new family. As Paul declares to us, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). This people and place could only be so because the blood of Christ has brought us near. And now we are called to bring that love of Christ to those around us as God's people.
In this way, the Word of Christ continues to reverberate from the pulpit, the baptismal font, and the table out to the pew and into the homes and lives of Christians, their workplaces, and schools. The church is constantly being gathered on Sunday and scattered during the week to serve our neighbors with love and thanksgiving for all God has given to us by his Word and Spirit.
Christ, by his Spirit, governs every facet of our existence. This is what we do, and yet it is also God at work in us for his glory and our good (Eph. 4:17–6:9). This people and place are where God's kingdom is seen today.