Allen Mitsuo Wakabayashi is an area director in northern Illinois for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. He has written an exciting and encouraging book on a topic that has not received the emphasis it deserves. After all, as he points out, the kingdom of God is the very focus that Jesus talked about during his earthly ministry. He came preaching the kingdom.
One thing I find is that most Christians do not have a good solid view of the kingdom of God. If they think about it at all, they usually equate it with the church. While the church is the nucleus of the kingdom, the kingdom itself is much broader. While the church focuses on carrying out the great commission of Jesus in making disciples and thus preparing people to live in the kingdom, the kingdom’s focus touches all areas of life. As Christians are discipled with a kingdom view, they will see the challenge and opportunity to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They will take part in fostering a transformation of life-the culture and society around them.
Wakabayashi gives personal testimony regarding the centrality of the Kingdom of God theme and its influence upon the Christian life. Jesus said, “Seek you first the kingdom of God…” If those are Jesus’ words regarding a Christian’s first priority, then it behooves us to pay attention. The author said, “…the kingdom of God has become the foundation for my whole philosophy of ministry and understanding of the Christian life.”
Wakabayashi raises this situation, if seeking first the kingdom of God is the priority of the Christian life, then how can that be done without understanding what the kingdom is all about? He wrote this book to help bridge the gap between what Jesus said and where Christians are in their understanding.
We have also observed, as this book underscores, the church is either silent in speaking God’s word to the whole of life, or the church moves beyond its role and begins to do kingdom tasks not appropriate to the church. The church’s role in disciple making is to help its people develop a biblical world and life view. A kingdom perspective will enable them not only to learn “all things whatsoever Jesus has commanded,” but also to apply those truths to all of life with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The author underscores some ideas that correlate with our research, observations, and conclusion. He writes, “I believe that our Western individualism has caused us to misperceive and misunderstand the gospel in a way that blunts the gospel’s world-transforming force. Furthermore, the tradition of the Western church, steeped in this individualism, has stamped its approval on narrow conceptions of the gospel that leave us living in ways that do little to change the society around us” (page 17). He further states, “Where the gospel is supposed to explode into our world with transforming power, it has been co-opted by aspects of our culture so that it blinds us into a quiet cultural conformity” (ibid).
If we understand what it means to be a citizen of God’s kingdom and to seek first his kingdom, then we will be empowered to serve as God’s agents of change in the world. God does not call us to be cultural transformers but as we live as kingdom people, we will definitely impact our culture and society. Not only that, while we pray “your kingdom come, your will be done,” we will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the petition we so often say. As the church trains its people to live with a focus on God’s kingdom, non-believers will see the difference between God’s way and the world’s way.
The book has six parts containing fifteen chapters. Each chapter offers good instruction and ideas for application of the Christian life within the kingdom context. Our desire is to encourage Christians to seek and develop a kingdom perspective regarding the Christian life that will keep them from withdrawing their influence. It will equip them, as they are going into the world, to apply God’s truth to every aspect of their lives. As we state over and over, the kingdom mindset reminds us “it is not about us, it is about God.”
Read this book now, and when our book, Making Kingdom Disciples is available you will have a better foundation to understand why that theme is the focus of CEP in its five-year strategic faith plan.