How to avoid being a church-minded church.

Too much light burns the eyes. Too much salt burns the tongue. When Christians make church the focal point of their lives and ministry, they burn each other like an oversalted dish and blind one another like a room full of spotlights. Salt and light aren't meant for themselves. We aren't called the salt of the church but the salt of the earth. We aren't called the light of the church but the light of the world (see Matt. 5:13-14). And we aren't called to be church-minded; rather, first and foremost, we're called to seek God's kingdom.

When a church neglects the Great Commission and becomes self-absorbed, it falls into several predictable traps:

  • Infighting. When a church loses focus, people get busy fighting among themselves. A church that has an outward-looking kingdom focus simply has no bored people. Everybody is busy in the proper direction. Nobody has time for internal squabbles or unimportant questions.
  • Egocentric leadership. Having met with billionaires and famous people, I've found it's actually easier to approach many of them than it is to approach some pastors. God help us!
  • Size focus. It's OK to talk numbers and to rejoice in God's blessing of numerical growth, but it's childish to revel in it and compare ourselves with others. If a church grows in numbers, the point is to glorify Christ.
  • Egocentric followers. Egocentric leaders produce egocentric followers. When a pastor uses a church to meet his own needs, this trickles down to people in the pews, who begin to see the church as existing to meet their personal needs. A culture of self-gratification grips the church.
  • Teaching fragments of the truth. Unless a church continually pursues a total kingdom agenda, it's easy to fall into teaching partial truth. But the kingdom and its gospel is a totality.

    So how do we create a church culture that's not insulated and self-absorbed? It begins by understanding that to be kingdom-minded is to reject the world's way of thinking and live by superior principles from a superior place. Our hearts and minds are consumed with better things, yet we are to thrust ourselves into the world because that is where we set people free. We don't run from problems; we run to them. We have the answer for every problem in the world. That is our Great Commission calling—through active application of kingdom principles. Here are two of those principles that can help any church become a kingdom-minded, problem-solving powerhouse:

    1. Repentance. You can only transform something if you aren't conformed to it (see Rom. 12:2). The problem for many people is they don't fully reject the principles of this world. They try to mix kingdoms. They use principles of the kingdom of darkness to establish their rule.

    Many preachers don't preach repentance, but Jesus did (see Mark 1:15). To repent means to change your mind and your belief system as often as needed. It's the process we go through to become kingdom-minded. We repent because the kingdom of heaven is here. It is about rejecting the old and embracing the new. There is no life apart from the kingdom.

    2. Love. If I could sum up kingdom-mindedness in one word, it would be love. As we shift away from church-mindedness, we need to realize that without being identified with God and being kingdom-minded, we'll simply go back to our natural ways and won't change anything in our world. Love people! Love them no matter who they are or what they do. Love people regardless of their faults. Love them unconditionally.

    Many ministers can teach, but fewer can love. That's why many churches remain so small and irrelevant. People don't come to church to be taught. They're seeking love, and that's our first commission. Let's be kingdom-minded and embody the nature and culture of our King, which starts with love.

    Sunday Adelaja is founder and senior pastor of one of Europe's largest churches, the Embassy of God in Kiev, Ukraine. He is also author of more than 60 books, including his latest, ChurchShift.
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