Winning Christian leaders, those seeing much fruit, practice Kingdom thinking. This is a less escapist, more biblical, and thoroughly missional approach toward the gospel than commonly seen in the past century or so. Kingdom thinkers know that being personally “saved” is not enough. Leaving earth for heaven is not the main focus; bringing heaven to earth is. A fresh appraisal of biblical promises is overcoming spiritual individualism and restoring to the church a sense of social, missional responsibility.
There are new and rising ambitions to go out and reach the farthest “existential peripheries” of humanity with the joy of the gospel, to see cities and nations restored, to see fresh winds of Spirit renewal reach through individuals into influence realms like politics and business and education and art.
This is post-culture wars, meta-political thinking that seeks to influence the public square and society in more subversive ways than "power." Jesus resisted offers of earthly kingship and did not go to Rome to depose Caesar and occupy his throne. Instead, his bias was toward the local and the personal. His Kingdom would build a new world via a new humanity, one person at a time. The human heart was his field of conquest, the seat of all true influence.
Pope Francis has said as much. “We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces.” Such processes start with humble, Spirit-filled disciples, positioned for Kingdom influence, releasing God’s promises of blessing for human flourishing in every social and cultural sphere.
In one parable, Jesus speaks of the Kingdom in terms of a field in which people are the seeds (Mt 13:24)... people pregnant with Kingdom power are planted by God in the field of the world, with fruit-bearing capacity to grow as branches on the Christ-vine of justice, peace and joy amidst society, resulting in choice wines of gladness and a banquet of love for the refreshment of all peoples.
Kingdom thinking is biblical, hopeful, socially conscious, and missional. This is in contrast with other styles of Christian thinking which are primarily philosophical, pessimistic, individualistic, and self-referential.
Kingdom thinking presses into God’s promises, expectant and eager to see the King’s new leadership flourish. It eagerly promotes and participates in the King’s core values and mission:
The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor,
liberty to the captives,
recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
A superb example of Kingdom thinking is N.T. Wright’s book on the resurrection, “Surprised by Hope,” where he says things like,
The Catholic Church, for its part, promotes a veritable treasury of Kingdom thinking in its social doctrine. The disparity between what I read in these teachings and the thought categories of most Catholics I encounter is too profound to even be adequately put into words. This is a serious problem in need of remedy.
The Catholic social teachings insist on a salvation that is not just for the next world, but this one; not just for individuals, but for social structures and temporal realities:
Salvation is achieved in the new life that awaits us after death, but it also permeates this world in the realities of economy and labor, of technology and communications, of society and politics. (Compendium of Social Doctrine, #1)*
Kingdom thinking is helping us to enlarge our view of salvation and church. It is advancing hopes for the possibility of serious redemptive change on the individual and societal level. It’s helping us to see our disciple role as advancing a movement, rather than defending an institution. To play offense, not just defense. Kingdom thinking is helping the church re-define what winning looks like, in accord with biblical revelation.
Kingdom-thinking churches and leaders are the ones bearing fruit and leaving sizeable Kingdom footprints today. Exploring and applying the consequences of Kingdom thinking for strategic Christian leadership and evangelizing is a chief PQ goal, and will be the focus of many future posts.
Who are the Kingdom thinkers in your life?
How can we grow our Kingdom thinking?
*Pope Francis “heartily recommends” the use and study of this document, referring to it several times in Evangelii Gaudium, and calling it “a most suitable tool” for reflecting on social themes (#184)