Posted: 01/08/2009 at 7:37pm
By Ron McGatlin
Words and concepts can mean different things to us now in kingdom reality than they did in the traditional church age. At the head of a list of words that might now need to be redefined in our minds is the word church. In the past, we went to church. In the kingdom, we are the church. Upon hearing the word church, a building, organization, or Sunday service might come to mind. However, in light of kingdom understanding, the original New Testament meaning of the word church as either a called-out gathering of believers of any size in any place or the entire called-out worldwide Body of Christ comes to mind.
Our understanding of the word gospel is changing as the gospel of the kingdom that Jesus originally preached has come back into focus. The gospel of salvation in the light of the kingdom is seen to be a primary part but not the whole of the gospel of the kingdom. The words pastor and elder are among the many important words that hold a different meaning for the kingdom disciple than they did for the church age disciples.
Another term that needs adjustment is “fulltime minister” which previously meant a member of the clergy class of Christians as opposed to the laity. In the kingdom it is becoming fully recognized that every believer is to be in fulltime ministry. In the kingdom there is no clergy laity distinction. There are those who have no financial income other than ministry contributions; but no matter how God chooses to fund His work, all are to be in fulltime service in the kingdom.
Discipleship is another word or concept that is significantly changing from the past traditional-church understanding to a greater and deeper kingdom meaning.
In order to grasp what kingdom discipleship, kingdom church, and the gospel of the kingdom really are, we need to answer the question, what really is the kingdom of God?
What Is The Kingdom of God?
The phrases "kingdom of God" and "kingdom of heaven" mean exactly the same thing and are used interchangeably in Scripture. People have different thoughts about the term kingdom of God. Many see it as a generic term for anything relating to God and His work. Much the same as one might say “the animal kingdom" when referring to everything about animals. Others relate kingdom to heaven someday or the reign of Christ after His bodily return. Some think of the kingdom negatively as a human attempt to impose religious rule over other people. Others think of it as a means for men to gain personal wealth and self-gratification. Some think of cults or false extremist sects when they hear the words “kingdom of God.” The enemy desires that doubts and confusion would enter our minds when we hear the words “kingdom of God,” because he greatly fears the kingdom coming forth in God’s people. The enemy knows that, when the kingdom matures in God's people his inordinate rule on earth is completely over.
So what really is the kingdom that Jesus taught so much about? The Greek word “basileia” is translated “kingdom” in English. Jesus spoke of the kingdom (basileia) over one hundred times in the Gospels.
A natural kingdom is a form of government ruled by a sovereign. Perhaps it will help us to think of the kingdom of God as “the government of God.”
Most of Jesus’ teachings were aimed at explaining the kingdom (government) of God, how it works, and how to enter it. The thread or general theme of the kingdom of God runs through all the teachings of Jesus and much of the rest of the Bible. But the Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul in Romans 14:17, gives us perhaps the most clear, concise, spiritual definition of the kingdom of God.
Romans 14-17: ... for the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
The word translated “kingdom” in the New Testament is the Greek word “basileia” which comes from the root word “basis”. “Basileia” means “foundation of power, realm, rule, or royalty.” “Basis” means to walk, to pace, or foot.
king/dom - “King” means “ruler or sovereign.” “Dom” is the root from which we get words like “dominion, dominant, domain and dome.” Thus, the kingdom of God means the“sovereign ruler/dominion of God walk”, the “ruler/dom” of God.
The kingdom of God on earth that Jesus taught about is a realm or walk. It is a lifestyle, ruled by the basic foundational sovereign power of God through which God’s kingdom (ruler/dominion) is established on earth.
The kingdom walk or lifestyle is produced by the appearing or manifesting of Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit within God’s people. It is the domain of Christ the King.
When the character and nature of Christ is fully developed in the hearts of God’s people, they becomethe purified Bride of Christ. God’s love and power flowing in and through His Bride produces full obedience to God, and His righteousness prevails on earth. Righteousness always leads to peace and joy. The bride or wife of Christ carries out her part as pictured in Proverbs 31:10-31, and the ruler/dominion (kingdom) of God is functioning in the world.
(For more on understanding the kingdom of God see Kingdom Growth Guide #004)
Kingdom Discipleship is a process that produces the kingdom walk or lifestyle of Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit in God’s people.
Christ Jesus is the teacher, and His disciples becomes as He is. Christ through the Holy Spirit flowing through spiritually mature (elder) believers is the discipler of the disciple. The mature disciple will become as his discipler both in understanding and in character. God’s elders who disciple must have the character of Christ and flow the life of Christ by the Spirit of God to the disciple. Christ Jesus is the one by Whom all kingdom disciples are trained and from Whom life is imparted.
Luke 6:40: "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
Sadly much teaching and discipleship training in the past religious church was often intellectual theological teaching without the real discipleship of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Much knowledge and human methods of ministry were taught with little or no impartation of the reality of the life and character of Christ by the Spirit. Also, in the institutional church age, the gospel of the kingdom and real kingdom of God discipleship teaching was not available for the most part.
Jesus always trains His disciples through demonstration and personal relationship imparting practical experiences of His love, power, and wisdom with His words of grace that build the gospel of the kingdom into the hearts and lives of His disciples.
Perhaps the greatest need and opportunity of this current season is for multitudes of gifted kingdom elders to train multiple multitudes of kingdom disciples. The teaching systems of the past church age cannot do this job. They can only produce after their own kind and will produce church disciples and not kingdom disciples. A Spirit-led and empowered organic daily living practice of impartation of Christ through every spiritually maturing man and women in whom Christ dwells can fill this need. Every person who is a kingdom disciple should become a kingdom discipler.
Traditional churches train people in theology and institutional church ministry practices including emphasis on church growth. A kingdom disciple is trained to know God and walk intimately with Him in the Spirit. The kingdom disciple has a kingdom worldview, and is trained to follow God in all areas of life, including finding and fulfilling his/her role in the organic church.
The whole of life will be involved in kingdom discipleship. The kingdom discipler will teach and model the kingdom of God lifestyle. Kingdom family life relations and kingdom work place activity are major training areas. Church teaching of the past primarily remained compartmentalized and separated from the rest of life. Kingdom training will take place in all areas of life. Elders (all spiritually mature believers) who disciple live among their disciples. They may or may not be gifted as shepherd / teachers. However, all the grace gifts will be employed by the Spirit as needed in maturing kingdom disciples of Jesus.
Discipling Kingdom Disciplers
When Jesus first came to earth to restore the kingdom that Adam had lost, there was not one other known kingdom person on earth. There was a lot of religion and a lot of intense Bible study (Old Testament) but no reality of the kingdom and no one was continuously filled with and walking in the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit had not yet come to indwell God’s people. The gospel of the kingdom that Jesus began to teach and preach was completely foreign to the people of earth including the Pharisees who were very devout in their religious attempt to please God.
Jesus went about the cities preaching, teaching, and demonstrating the kingdom of God. He chose twelve men to disciple so they could become disciplers of others who would in turn disciple others in the ways of the kingdom of God. He was not discipling them in the ways of the religion of the Pharisees, which was the religious system of that day. Much of the kingdom ways Jesus taught to His disciples were the opposite of the traditional teachings of the Pharisees. The twelve disciples matured and became the first group of Kingdom apostles spreading the powerful gospel of the kingdom of God across the known world. Many others were discipled and empowered by the Holy Spirit and multiplied the kingdom message and the number of kingdom disciples tremendously.
The gospel of the kingdom was lost again when men established religious systems and replaced the gospel of the kingdom with other messages and traditions. The Holy Spirit pulled away and religion built a monstrosity of “Christian religion” void of the Spirit and the gospel of the kingdom. Around 14 to 15 hundred years later men continued to seek, and God began to return pieces of revelation building toward the return of the gospel of the kingdom. It was not until the 20th century that the Holy Spirit began to be restored on a broad scale in a new Pentecostal type experience. In the last half of the 20th century the revelation of the gospel of the kingdom of God began to be brought forth by Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit in a few men around the world.
These men faced a similar situation in the restoring of the kingdom message as Christ and the early apostles faced. When they began there was almost no one on the earth who had understanding of the kingdom. There were multitudes of religious church people who embraced the gospel of salvation but not the gospel of the kingdom. Even today many have not yet received the gospel of the kingdom. Today, in the early portion of the 21st century, God is choosing to pour the gospel of the kingdom into a relatively small number of men and women for them to become disciplers of others who will in turn become disciplers of others and multiply the kingdom of God again across the earth.
These beginning kingdom foundation men function similarly to the first century disciples. There was no one to teach them. Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit has poured Himself and His gospel of the kingdom into them, and they are taking it to others. The multiplication process of the gospel of the kingdom is again spreading like yeast in dough across the world. The foundations are being laid, and the kingdom will come up over the world like grass in a field. Grass comes up at ground level and is all of the same stature covering the entire field and is not just a few tall trees here and there.
Some would call these kingdom foundation men apostles because they are laying foundations now of the future multiplication of kingdom disciples. Actually, the same foundations laid by Christ Jesus and the first century apostles are being re-laid in this season. Obviously, the building of living stones built upon the foundations will reflect the maturation of the Body and not reproduce an exact replica of the past.
The training and refining of the kingdom foundation builders is a work of God by Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. There were no teachers available to train them. As in the first century, so it is now in the restoration of the kingdom that began back then. In the first century Christ Jesus personally intervened and trained apostles in fresh truth from heaven that was foreign to the religious leaders of the day. The existing church systems of today can no more train kingdom disciplers than the Pharisees could in their day.
Today and over the past few decades, the kingdom foundation layers are those who have been with Jesus and experienced the cross of rejection, persecution, and the death of their “old man.” But even that is not enough to prepare the true kingdom foundation layers who disciple the kingdom disciplers. They must experience the reality of the resurrection life of Christ with all of its spiritual abundance and grace. The power, love, and wisdom are in the resurrection life obtained by relationship of oneness with Christ.
These are mostly seen as nobodies by the church systems and are coming forth from the wilderness. They are scattered across the world as seeds to grow the kingdom in their area in the time of their arising. Disciplers of kingdom disciplers are NOT superstars and will never attract the accolades of the world, but they will speak boldly with authority the truth of Christ Jesus and faithfully plant the foundations of the kingdom age reality in the earth.
One of the many scattered and mostly unknown disciplers arising to disciple kingdom disciplers has written the following article. Like all of us in this season Don Atkin is a work in process. But unlike many he is in the mature stages of kingdom discipling. If you are ready to be further trained in the realm of becoming and making kingdom disciples you may get some help from Don’s work “Discipling The Nations - One Person At A Time.”
Also to gain a greater understanding of what the kingdom of God is and to experience the gospel of the kingdom I heartily recommend the “Kingdom Growth Guides,” “Overcoming Life On A Small Planet,” and “The Seventh Millennium.” All of these available on the archive.openheaven.com website for free download in PDF files. Go Here:
Edited by Ron McGatlin on 06/02/2010 at 6:17pm