Have you ever wondered what a “State of the Kingdom” speech would look like? Who would make it? Who would come? Where would it take place?
I suspect a well-known church leader or Christian author would make the speech. The room, a large church auditorium, would be filled with representatives from various church movements. The male leaders with shaved heads and goatees would sit on one side of the room and those with big hair and jewelry on the other. Women leaders would sit randomly throughout the crowd to keep things classy.
What would the speaker say? “The state of the Kingdom is strong!” The entire auditorium would erupt with applause as a portion of the group would raise their hands and shout “Hallelujah” while the rest would hold their arms calmly to their side and whisper, “Amen.”
But does saying it make it so?
No. In fact, the real issue is how we define “strong.”
There is no question the church in the fourth century was strong, from a financial and political perspective. In 313 AD Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, giving Christians the freedom to practice their faith without persecution. The same Emperor gave land to the church, financed church buildings, and gave preferential treatment to the clergy.
However, some argue the favor the church received from Constantine signaled a season of weakening. Ministry positions became lucrative and the servant-minded hearts that typified service to the Kingdom lost ground to big egos and greed. Eventually, these developments corrupted the church,
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. His statements exposed false doctrines and troublesome practices of the Roman church, spurring on the Reformation. This was a period of great dissention. Reformers and their adherents were oppressed and sometimes tortured and killed for their convictions. Reformers also committed heinous acts directed at the Roman church. Believer on believer violence is certainly not a sign of spiritual strength. But the Reformation brought new life to the mission of the church. So in many ways state of the Kingdom was strong.
And so it has been even to our present day. Success in the church breeds corruption and corruption stirs the hearts of believers to redeem the mission of Christ. This is not an indictment against success or a validation for reform. Instead it proves, when it comes to the church, the state of the Kingdom is difficult to measure in human terms.
Perhaps we shouldn’t try. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13). No biblical writer ever suggested Kingdom strength is a result of human endeavor. We didn’t write the plan of redemption woven through scripture. We didn’t orchestrate Jesus’ payment for our sins or His triumph over death. And the birth of the church wasn’t our doing. The Apostles gathered with other believers to wait on God, and He moved.
Perhaps we should say, “The state of the Kingdom has always been strong.” That is, the strength of God has always been apparent in His church when His people have put His will above their own.
This brings us to the one question we might be qualified to answer. “How strong is the Kingdom within us?” How much of our hearts have we yielded to God’s will? Is the church a vehicle for our purposes or are we a vessel for Christ?
We don’t need a platform or a well-written speech to proclaim the state of the Kingdom in us. Our life is our testimony and our impact on others is our dissertation.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel particularly strong or influential. Instead, “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)