The Church vs. the Kingdom

Too many followers of Jesus put the work of God into a box called the church with its services and programs.

Today, I’m launching a series of posts titled, Out of the Box and into the Kingdom.  My goal is to stimulate Kingdom vision for church leaders that enables them to dream, think, and lead their people beyond the church-box paradigm.


There’s an old myth that claims that a goldfish will only grow to the size of its tank.  What may not apply to goldfish definitely applies to people.  People will only grow to the size of the vision that frames their lives.

Church leaders: God has called you to cast a macroscopic-panoramic-Biblical vision for your people that grows them into Kingdom people, not just church people.  Which begs the question, “what’s the difference between church and Kingdom?”



Jesus was the first Person to utter the word, “church.”  Yet, He framed His ministry in terms of God’s Kingdom breaking into our world, not into a church building.  Just look at how Jesus introduced His ministry:

Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 ESV

Jesus framed His ministry in terms of the Kingdom of God, not the church. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not downing, dissing, or dismissing the church.  The church is the Bride of Jesus (and we should love herEph 5:25), the church is the Body of Christ (and we should build it upEph 4:11-12).  Yet, it was Jesus who framed the gospel as good news about a new reality (God’s Kingdom) through the presence of a new King (Jesus).



Though the church and its activities can fit into the Kingdom, you cannot squeeze the Kingdom into the Church.  When we try to fit the Kingdom into our church-box, we create church people, instead of Kingdom people!  And there is a huge difference between the two:

  • Church people – have reduced ministry vision and can’t see past church-bound categories for ministry (i.e., usher, greeter, children’s worker, inviter-of-lost-friends, etc.).
  • Kingdom people – have Kingdom vision to think/dream/act outside the box (read church here).  They want to heal the wounds in their neighborhood, workplace, and community (fatherlessness, addictions, marriages).
  • Church people – see the gospel in terms of good news about the afterlife (it’s how you can be sure you’re going to heaven after you die).
  • Kingdom people – see the gospel in terms of good news about Kingdom life (it’s about life in God and with God, both now and forever).
  • Church people – understand discipleship as primarily about enjoying a closer relationship with God that grows me to spiritual maturity.
  • Kingdom people – understand discipleship as the call to lose their life for Christ’s sake so they can participate in His family for His mission.

The Kingdom is not a means to a bigger church; the church is a means to demonstrating the Kingdom!

Over the next several weeks, I’ll post on the following topics: Jesus as King, Jesus and the Kingdom, the already-and-not-yet of the Kingdom, Kingdom Life, Kingdom Leadership, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Intersection of Kingdom/Church/Mission.


Until next time, chew on this quote from NT Wright:

“It is clear that Jesus as Kingdom Bringer has been screened out of the church’s dogmatic tradition.  Again and again, from the 3rd or 4th century onwards, the church managed to talk about Jesus while forgetting the thing that the Gospels kept on saying, the He was inaugurating God’s Kingdom.” – Wheaton Theology Conference – 2010.

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Jim Botts is a Missional Leader with extensive pastoral leadership experience in church planting, multi-site, and large church environments. His passion is to reproduce leaders through local churches who are missionally engaged in reaching communities. Jim and his wife Rose have three boys Stephen, Josiah and Daniel.