Most movements grow by force of one kind or another. It may be a dictator using military force to grow his control. It may be a company that uses money to bully others. It may be a tactical smear campaign aimed at discrediting an idea. It may be a grassroots campaign–force in numbers that cannot be overlooked. Or it might be a well planned boycott. So many things grow through force that it’s tempting for Christians to adopt a similar model. I mean, if it works…
Thankfully, there’s another model, set by one who is supremely perfect–Jesus Christ. Christians are followers of Jesus, so it makes sense that we will seek to build the kingdom of God the way Jesus built his kingdom. What’s astonishing with Jesus is how little force he used. Think about it. He didn’t use divine power–the same power that spoke the world into existence–to blast his opponents out of existence. He didn’t use ‘show’ force, the ‘look what I can do’ effect to grow his kingdom. Most of his miracles are followed with, “don’t go around telling everyone what I just did.” Didn’t anyone tell Jesus he was missing out on a marketing opportunity? He didn’t use crowd power. He passed on the ‘look how big our group is and reckon with us’ approach. I’m think about the feeding of the 5,000 here. Jesus had a massive group gathering around him and he looks them straight in the eye and says things that make almost all of them walk away (John 6:53, 66). A blown opportunity? Jesus didn’t even call for strategic boycotts. Not once did Jesus or any of his apostles teach, “Boycott that meat market because their supply comes from idolatry,” or “avoid everything Roman!”
So how did Jesus’ grow his kingdom? Humble service. Take a few minutes and read Phillipians 2:5 – 11. That passage ends with, “God has highly exalted him…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.” That’s a statement of victory, Jesus is at the top. But how did he get there? What was his approach? Paul says that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.” There it is! That’s how God grows his kingdom. Not through show of force (and lets be honest, God could flash just a bit of force and everyone would bow and crumble in fear), but through humble, loving service. And don’t go all social gospel on me. Jesus didn’t grow his kingdom by eating with sinners, he used eating with sinners as an opportunity to proclaim his gospel and grow his kingdom. Humility that led to real, painful, life-giving gospel conversations.
That’s what Christians are called to do. Let God, through the power of the Spirit, grow his kingdom through our humble, loving service that leads to genuine gospel conversations. And that’s encouraging. God’s not asking all of you to start the christian equivalent of a fortune 500 company. He’s not asking you to start a movement (although he does ask you to join the one started by Jesus!). Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9 – 12 and be blown away by the simplicity God calls us to. What God is asking us to do is love Jesus and love people–in gospel word and deed–with deep humility. I know, it sounds so strange compared to what we’re used to seeing. But that’s how God works. When the kingdom grows through humble simplicity no one but God gets the glory.