Wade's Weekly Word

The term narcissism originated more than 2,000 years ago, when Ovid wrote the legend of Narcissus. He tells the story of a beautiful Greek hunter who, one day, happens to see his reflection in a pool of water and falls in love with it. He becomes obsessed with its beauty and is unable to leave his reflected image until he starves to death. After his death, the flower narcissus grew where he lay.

Although most of us have heard of narcissistic personalities, few have heard of narcissistic churches. And when you do, it is usually about the attitude and action of pastoral leadership.

But I think there is a more detrimental version of narcissism that is found in the majority of the conservative, evangelical churches in America, including pastors and people. (Don’t misunderstand what I am saying about the church – I love her and have spent 53 years of my life in the service of the local church.) The version I am referencing concerns the very nature of the gospel and the church. Is the purpose of the gospel primarily to save souls for Heaven when they die? Is the local church a “lifeboat” to carry believers out of the danger of this sinking “Titanic” called the world?

We have more Christians, churches, and Christian organizations than ever before, but less impact than ever on shaping and transforming culture. Our societies are terribly broken, and we are rapidly damaging our earthly home. When God’s people disconnect the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 from the Great Cultural Commission in Genesis 1:28, they abbreviate the task to evangelism, personal spiritual discipleship, and church planting for the sake of saving souls. These are essential but not sufficient for the fulfillment of either commission.

For many years I viewed Christ’s directive as one-dimensional: “Go into all the world, preach the gospel, and save souls for heaven.” Then several godly men and authors began to challenge me to rethink the gospel in terms of the gospel of the kingdom of God or of heaven. It was then that I realized that the Great Commission does not begin in Matthew 28. I came to understand that God’s creative acts in the first chapter of Genesis, which constituted the first or original commission, set a pattern that we were to continue to follow. King Jesus' first coming brought the original commission out of the shadows and types of the Old Covenant and into the victorious completion and cosmic dimensions of the Great Commission as mandated by him five times in the first five books of the New Testament.

When we are regenerated, the life we receive is that of King Jesus coming to live within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. His kingdom enters the inside of us, but it flows from the inside to the outside. An individual, a family, or a church that makes itself, the reason for life, that gives too much time and too much focus to itself or to “getting off this old world” and doesn't live for the kingdom of God will become “narcissistic”!

“When we separate the good news of Christ from His kingdom, we wind up with an individualistic mindset in the church that can easily lead to narcissism and self-focus. This is because a kingdom implies a king’s domain, which includes the systems of the created order such as economics, politics, education, business, family, science, history, psychology, the arts, and all the spheres and/or cultural mountains. Detaching the gospel from these systems of the kingdom leaves the church without an earthly purpose of stewarding the earth, leaving it only to strive for an individual focus of redemption and hope. Conversely, when the church lifts whole cities and nations with the gospel of the kingdom (Isaiah 61:3-4), we will have more souls go to heaven anyway!” - Joseph Mattera

“Kingdom culture is a manifestation of the kingdom of God. Jesus calls his disciples to have the kingdom of heaven impact the kingdom of earth. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) recognizes the interplay of the two kingdoms: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s kingdom is any realm where “thy will be done,” and where people “obey all that I have commanded.” God’s kingdom is to come to earth as it is in heaven. The substance of the kingdom is the same in the present and in the future, on the earth and in heaven. The difference is not the substance, but the degree of fulfillment.

“Kingdom culture calls each people and nation “further up and further in” to the reign of Jesus. It calls forth the development of the earth, the cultivation of the soil and the soul, as an act of worship of the living God. The church, as an act of worship, is to create culture that manifests the nature and character of the living God to a watching world. This means that we are to bring truth (the biblical metaphysic), justice (the biblical ethic), and beauty (the biblical aesthetic) into all of life.” - Darrow Miller.

Embracing the Great Cultural Mandate, while being empowered by the Great Commandment will produce a Great Commission people that will see a radical spiritual awakening and reformation of His kingdom coming more fully and His will being done more freely – on earth as it is in Heaven!

Acts 1:8 "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

“As the co-rulers with God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.” - D. James Kennedy

God wants to redeem the fractured history of culture-making, through you the New Community, the former broken ones who have been called out of the mess and into the adventure of restoration. Imagine a world filled with redeemed artists, God-honoring scientists, principled lawyers, God-fearing construction workers, politicians who really serve the public, educators that explore God’s creative work, parents who love. It all starts in the New Community. The Adamic human race perverted and twisted the cosmos; the Christian human race restores and renews it! The people of God are to be co-partners with God in His kingdom, invading the brokenness and suffering of fallen creation, and calling people out to restoration.

Great cultures have risen and disintegrated, nations have come and gone, all awaiting God's intervention with the glorious gospel of Christ to bring them life.

Exercising the dominion mandate presses a person closer to God and makes them aware of their inadequacies apart from God. It develops character that is admired and authority that is respected (even if it simultaneously produces persecution). It provides a person with the means to share God’s abundance with others and to influence many to seek the key and author of this abundant life. From this fruitful obedience to the dominion mandate flows the Christian’s privilege of exercising the "great commission."

O Lord, raise up a generation of followers of King Jesus who get in alignment with your assignment as gospel of the kingdom men and women and see "the earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14)

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