On his plenary session "Faithful Kingdom Life" at the Chinese Mission Convention held on Dec 28, 2021, Dr. Reggie McNeal, City Coach at Good Cities, challenged God’s people to shift from a church-centric to a Kingdom-centric ministry agenda.
Dr. Reggie McNeal is a City Coach for Good Cities of Minneapolis MN, working with community leaders around the USA to “build cross-domain collaborative efforts that can move the needle on big societal issues”. Having come from a pastor family and served in local church leadership for over twenty years, Dr. McNeal is now dedicated to coaching and consultation for individuals and teams in becoming more missionally-focused and Kingdom-based in their ministry approaches.
Dr. McNeal spoke on the second day of the Chinese Mission Convention themed “Faithful and Fruitful”, a ministry established in 1983 dedicated to the vision of “multiplying healthy churches locally and globally” by mobilizing Chinese and non-Chinese Christians to live as ambassadors for Christ and to reach the unreached people groups. Other speakers at this year's two-day event included David Platt, Brian Fikkert, Rick Warren, and David Doong, general secretary of CCCOWE.
Dr. McNeal stated that a faithful life is a Kingdom life. “That means if we’re faithful Kingdom people, then we’re living our entire life from the perspective of the Kingdom. It means we look at our life as a mission trip, and we see ourselves as viral kingdom agents,” he said.
Growing up in the church, Dr. McNeal knew very well how different this was from the Western notion of the Christian life - being a good church member or supporting the church as an institution.
“Over 90 times in the Gospels, Jesus talked about the Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God. He mentioned church once”, he reminded. Compared to bringing people from earth to heaven, Jesus talked more about bringing his Kingdom to earth.
Dr. McNeal characterized Kingdom as “life as God intends”. “The point of the Kingdom is life. It’s not to rule or control. Those are earthly ideas.” He pointed out that human beings are created in God’s very own image and each life has been built to last in a way that no institution, country or company does.
“When the Kingdom is showing, the evidence is life”, said the City Coach. “We’re supposed to be people of hope, people of peace. It’s about the whole of life, not just our spiritual being, but our relational components, mental health, physical health, and economic opportunity. If you have those qualities, then other people will be drawn to you, because that’s how the Kingdom works.”
As for the church, Dr. McNeal believes that the church has an important role to play, that is to point people to the Kingdom. He defined that church in a biblical sense as “the people of God partnering with him in his redemptive mission in the world”.
To illustrate the required culture shift in the church to be Kingdom-centred, Dr. McNeal broke down this statement into four parts: “people of God”, “partnering with God”, “God’s redemptive mission” and “in the world”.
“Now people think the Church is a thing, a thing outside of us, a vendor of religious goods and services. This is not what Christians in the first century think - they saw it as a relationship.” Dr. McNeal traced back to Genesis 12 where God called Abraham out and created his people. “God chose and blessed Abraham and Abraham’s job is to turn around and bless the whole world, that is, everybody that’s not in your tribe”. Christians are a people blessed by God to be a blessing, said Dr. McNeal.
He used marriage as an analogy to describe the relationship between Christians and God. In the same way that a person is influenced by their spouse 24/7, Jesus informs through every conversation a Christian makes. Dr. McNeal believed that God takes joy in seeing Christians partnering in the Kingdom mission, though God does not need human partnership in the redemptive mission.
He gave an exciting description for the redemptive mission: “taking back everything the hell has stolen”. He explained, “We are an invading force, rather than a citadel as from a Christendom point of view”. Some churches were satisfied with a two-chapter Gospel of “fall - salvation”, yet Dr. McNeal reminded that the Gospel has four chapters: “creation, the fall, redemption, and restoration”. “We are saved to do good works”, he added.
Lastly, Dr. McNeal stressed that “our role as Kingdom agents is to be played out primarily in the world because that’s where we have been assigned to bring people to God and God to people and to perform the vital role of getting people infected with the notion of their life as God intends.” He argued against the church-centric notion that God was only to be seen, met, or served in church, regarding church-related service as the highest of Christian expression. “Our job is to look after the welfare of the community where we are”, he urged.
“We are created for one reason only: to point people to the Kingdom, not to point people to the church. We should view our lives as an assignment. Faithful Kingdom life is not only a challenge but our opportunity, a chance to partner with God in what he’s up to in the world today. I can’t imagine a better way of living,” he concluded.