Assuming You Are Relevant Can Be Dangerous – Have We Gotten Lazy?

In Dallas Willard’s Book Renovation of the Heart he talks about the confused state of the world and how that confusion (about life, spirituality, purpose, etc) that surrounds us can so easily influence our own thinking that spiritual transformation becomes difficult. He goes on to say that the church has not adequately addressed people’s confusion. Here is what he wrote,

“Frankly, our visible Christian world is not too far from helter-skelter (confusion) with reference to its understanding of the makeup of the person and therefore of the spiritual life and spiritual formation. We need to access the fullness of biblical teachings on these matters. We suffer far too much from the influence of a surrounding culture that thrives on confusion…This may seem like a harsh thing to say about our ‘Christian world,’ and I am sorry to say it; but the issues here are too important to mince words.

Accordingly, much of what we do in Christian circles with very good intention–hoping, we say, to see steady, significant growth in Christlikeness–simply makes no sense and leads nowhere so far as substantive spiritual formation is concerned. What a brutal thing to say! But we need to recognize this, or show why it is not the case.”, 44

In a couple of sentences Willard has summed up one of my greatest frustrations with modern Christianity. We have grown to assume a comfortable position of relevance in a world that views us as increasingly irrelevant. Now in some ways it is to be expected that the world hold the church at arm’s length. It did it to Jesus and Jesus said the world will hate us because of Him. But what I fear is not so much that we are relevant in developing the souls of those around us but the world doesn’t get it. I fear that we actually have lost much of our relevance and the outcome is a decreased impact on the world and community all around us. Our salt is losing its saltiness and our light is growing dimmer and dimmer.

There are several reasons I think this is true. We aren’t reaching people like we used to. If there was ever a kingdom that shouldn’t be in decline it is the church. We have the answers to life! And yet the Western church is steadily declining. What is more people have stopped investing their time in ways that advance the kingdom and give more and more of their time to distractions. For instance, we aren’t studying one-on-one with people like we used to. Instead we have gotten passive. How many hours do we spend watching TV compared to how many hours we spend nurturing the souls of our children and others in our lives (please realize, I am speaking to myself as much as anyone else here)? How do our actions show our priorities and are the priorities we find godly? Have we gotten lazy?

I think there is a dangerous assumption that floats around that as long as the doors are open we are relevant. Can we prove it? I think the church today has some parallels to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3. Do we have a reputation for being alive? Is that reputation founded on the truth or like the church in Sardis is it a reputation that is not based on the fact. Christ told them that they had a reputation of being alive but the spiritual reality was they were actually dead (Rev 3:1). Maybe we need to hear Christ’s call to the church in Sardis again today, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Rev 3:2-3).

There is hope. I believe more and more people are realizing this and are moving to action. Jesus told the church in Sardis there was still hope for them, “Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev 3:4-6). Jesus tells them that all is not lost. There is still hope. There are still those who keep the light burning, keep the salt salty and are still strong in the faith. The call remains to the rest, “Wake up!” and obey what Christ commands of us. I think we need to hear those words today just as much as those in Sardis needed to hear it then.

I have so much hope for the future of Christianity but I think we run a great danger when we assume relevance rather than demonstrate it. We can’t assume any of our ministries are relevant just because they exist, have an official title and are run by a deacon, elder or minister. It is important that we demonstrate our own effectiveness and relevance to the broader mission of the church.

So what do you think? Am I just paranoid or have you had similar thoughts? If this is accurate what do you believe the church can do to regain and maintain its relevance in the transforming work of Christ on the world?

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

16 Responses to Assuming You Are Relevant Can Be Dangerous – Have We Gotten Lazy?

  1. Matt,
    Circumstances have caused me to evaluate this very question deeply over the past couple of months. Unfortunately, I have more questions than answers. I recognize that I come from a different generation, and that the methods we employed are not necessarily relevant today. At the same time, I see a lot of different methods being employed which keep us busy, but I am not certain are really affecting spiritual growth. Whether it is Bible classes or service projects, simply being busy isn’t necessarily the answer. I would love for you to give your take on how we can encourage real spiritual growth that helps develop true faith in Christ, a commitment to live a life of spiritual integrity, and a desire to serve others. I am still struggling with this.

    • mattdabbs says:

      I think there are old ideas that still work and new ideas that work. There are also old ideas that are passed their prime and new ideas that we hope don’t stick around long enough to have a “prime.” So it is not a question of old vs. new but of effective and biblical vs. ineffective or unbiblical. I have some thoughts I would like to share addressing this concern that I will do when I have more time.

  2. I think you are making good observations (not merely paranoia). However, I also think the answer lies in taking a different perspective. The church cannot find relevance in being “the kingdom” simply because it is not “the kingdom” and never was supposed to be. As an analogy, a scouting force cannot find relevance in being a conquering army because that is outside of its role. If the scouting force tries to do “build the kingdom” it will fail miserably.

    I think that I might be able to demonstrate this from something you said above:

    We aren’t reaching people like we used to. If there was ever a kingdom that shouldn’t be in decline it is the church. We have the answers to life! And yet the Western church is steadily declining. What is more people have stopped investing their time in ways that advance the kingdom and give more and more of their time to distractions.

    Let’s consider the implications of your observation with these two passages:

    Isa 9:6-7 KJV
    (6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
    (7) Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

    Dan 2:35-36, 44-45 KJV
    (35) Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
    (36) This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
    (44) And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
    (45) Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

    The two points of emphasis here are:

    * The kingdom cannot steadily decline because “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”
    * The kingdom is such that it will “fill the whole earth” and “break in pieces and consumed” all these other kingdoms

    Coupling your observation that the Western church is in decline with the “certain and sure” passages from Daniel and Isaiah, it logically follows that the Western church is not the kingdom. Therefore, the Western church cannot find relevance in trying to be the kingdom, and any attempts to do so are predestined to meet with disappointment.

    There is a more dangerous aspect to this as well. Any group or groups that do attempt to set themselves up to establish a kingdom here on earth may not welcome the return of the King. Those other kingdoms will be broken in pieces and consumed when the Rock returns, and considering this it might be a good idea to make sure that we are not investing our efforts in trying to shore up those feet of mixed iron and miry clay. I cannot remember any New Testament writer (Paul, Peter, John, James) telling us that we should be “building the kingdom” on earth.

    If we have the right perspective, we might be able to focus our efforts productively and find proper relevance within our intended role.

    * We are to pray “thy Kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10, Luke 11:2).
    * We are to take our pounds and “occupy until I come” until he returns from the far country having received the kingdom (Luke 19:13-15).
    Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world” or “else would his servants fight” (John 18:36).
    * The kingdom is delivered up to God after Christ returns and raises those that are his at his coming (1 Corinthians 15:21-26).
    * The former passage from Daniel is fulfilled when Christ returns as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” with the sword (Revelation 19:11-20).

    As such, our role is not to be the kingdom, but to declare the coming of this kingdom, and if we keep this perspective I think it is easier to find relevance. We are an small advance force likened to sheep amidst wolves (Matthew 10:16) not the occupying army.

    Mat 24:14 KJV
    (14) And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

    Our relevance is found in announcing the coming of this kingdom. There are various methods we can use to increase our effectiveness and this is often left to our creative discretion. Some of the church programs that you are referencing might serve positively in this direction, but let’s consider, that if we tell people that this is the kingdom and they take a good solid look at the world around them, what have you just said about the kingdom of God?

    2Co 4:3-4 KJV
    (3) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
    (4) In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

    Let’s not confuse people by indicating that the kingdoms of the god of this world is anything like the kingdom of God. Otherwise can we blame people for saying “If that’s what it is, I don’t want it?” We cannot proclaim the gospel of the kingdom if we have set up our own version of the kingdom, and at worst we risk confusing the kingdom of God with the kingdom of the devil.

    So what do you think? Am I just paranoid or have you had similar thoughts? If this is accurate what do you believe the church can do to regain and maintain its relevance in the transforming work of Christ on the world?

    I think that the church would do much better thinking of itself as a vanguard rather than an administration, if we are looking further ahead seeing the promises afar off, confessing that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, for we that say such things plainly declare that we seek a better country (Hebrews 11:13) which is the true kingdom. If we desire relevance, then I think that is the necessary perspective we must keep in focus.

    • mattdabbs says:

      I think most would see the kingdom as an already (the church) and not yet (life with God in the new heavens and new earth). That is why Jesus told his disciples that some would not die before they saw the kingdom come with power (Mark 9:1). So I am not sure the kingdom is only a not yet. Am I reading you right in saying that is your take?

      Also, I appreciate your perspective that God sees so much more than we do. Maybe we are like Elijah thinking things are in decline when the reality is God has more in store that we just don’t see. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  3. Actually, you are reading me right: I was saying that the kingdom of God is not here yet… it’s a coming kingdom. Kingdom theology has a tendency to use a “we are the kingdom” rationale to justify a rule over others (compare with Matthew 20:25-26) but it can also harm someone’s faith if they start to believe that what they see really is the kingdom of God. It is not hard to find actual examples where people explain why they will not accept a Christian kingdom because of the examples they have seen.

    May we compare the Mark 9:1 passage in the original context?

    Mar 9:1 KJV
    (1) And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

    Jesus actually said that there be some standing there which shall not taste of death till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. It is a fact that the kingdom of God has not come with power, and other nations do exist that are in defiance of God.

    I realize that this passage sometimes gives people some trouble because many people read it very loosely without paying attention to the specific words. But Jesus did not say, “There be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till the kingdom of God come with power…” or did he? He actually spoke of the seeing, not the occurring.

    It is important to read these statements with precision, as demonstrated by a similar statement which was misunderstood by many as recorded in John 21:23. The kingdom of God has not come, and it has not come with power, but we know for a certain that there was one standing among them that did see the kingdom of God come with power, and he was even specifically commanded to write it in a book so that we would all know what he saw.

    Rev 1:10-11 KJV
    (10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
    (11) Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

    The entire book is a description of the Lord’s Day (the coming day of the LORD) which is the establishment of the kingdom of heaven. John would have been standing there when Jesus promised that at least one person would see the kingdom of God in power before he died, so Jesus made good on his word, didn’t he? (compare Mark 9:1 with John 21:23…)

    The Mark 9:1 passage is also repeated in parallel in Matthew and Luke, which reinforces that the kingdom of God is something that arrives in power, not something that sneaks in and allies itself with the nations of the world, and not something which would have happened so quietly that no one could prove it afterwards.

    Mat 16:27-28 KJV
    (27) For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
    (28) Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

    Luk 9:26-27 KJV
    (26) For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.
    (27) But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.

    The same statement echoed by Matthew and Luke emphasize that Jesus is speaking of the second coming when he returns in glory with angels and rewards every man according to his works. That’s the context of the “kingdom of God” and as such I think I can safely say that the kingdom of God is not here yet.

    What can I say about the kingdom of God? It would be hard for me to give a description without using the book of Revelation. The kingdom of God has no more pain, death, tears, or sorrow, because the former things are passed away (not kept in jail cells or asylums.) Revelation is the natural choice, because this is the vision (visions are seen) where John saw the kingdom of God come in power.

    Also, I appreciate your perspective that God sees so much more than we do. Maybe we are like Elijah thinking things are in decline when the reality is God has more in store that we just don’t see. Thanks for reminding me of that.

    I think that I would be pretty miserable if I thought that this present day was the kingdom of God.

    • mattdabbs says:

      I thought Jesus saying in Mark 9:1 that “come” means more than just seeing. Not only that see it come with power. What does that mean if it doesn’t actually come but they just see it coming and never arrive? What are they seeing? They are seeing the manifestation of God’s kingdom right before their eyes. Many point to Pentecost and the beginning of the church as the fulfillment of what Jesus said. I can’t say that I really agree with your interpretation of Mark 9:1 but I still agree with a few of your other points.

      I don’t think Jesus was referring to John’s visions in Revelation as the fulfillment of the promise in Mark 9:1 but let me think on that one some more because I had never considered that. The point about the second coming to me plays back into the already and not yet. God’s kingdom has broken into this world but not yet in all the ways that it will. For example, consider the kingdom parables of Jesus. Jesus told these parables about the kingdom of God in the present. The application of those parables was not after Jesus second coming but before. To me that is one more point to make in saying that the kingdom of God is here, otherwise even these parables don’t make any sense. Just my two cents. Thanks for sharing and putting so much thought into your responses.

  4. With a brief answer and a quick question,

    What does that mean if it doesn’t actually come but they just see it coming and never arrive?

    The gospel message according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that the rest that were standing there that died will see the kingdom of God in power in their very next instant, because they are going to rise to meet Christ even by a mere twinkling before those who were left alive.

    For example, consider the kingdom parables of Jesus. Jesus told these parables about the kingdom of God in the present. The application of those parables was not after Jesus second coming but before. To me that is one more point to make in saying that the kingdom of God is here, otherwise even these parables don’t make any sense. Just my two cents.

    If these parables are “for example” then can you provide some specific examples? I am not able to guess what parables you are thinking of that would describe the kingdom of God as existing in the present (thus I should ask, right?)

    • mattdabbs says:

      The events in 1 Cor 15 are those when Christ returns and death is defeated forever. That is not what Jesus was telling them in Mark 9:1 because he said they wouldn’t taste death before they saw the kingdom coming with power. Notice also in Mark 9:1 he says, “the kingdom has come with power.” Not will come, but they will see that it has come. Your take is that they see it will come. That doesn’t fit in my opinion.

      In regard to the kingdom of heaven/kingdom of God parables of Jesus that have direct application to today (the here and now) I would include:
      – Parable of the weeds, yeast, mustard seed, and the net (all in Matthew 13). Those all have direct implications for our lives here and now and have components that are happening now and later (already/not yet component of the kingdom of God that I am emphasizing here).
      – Parable of the unmerciful servant in Matt 18
      – The Workers in the Vineyard (Matt 20) – Probably the easiest of them to see the present day implications.

      The bottom line is there is all kinds of kingdom talk in the Bible. Some is on this side of Jesus’ return and other parts are after his return. That is why we say already and not yet when it comes to eschatology. God has already revealed and unleashed some things but not yet everything that will be done.

      Thanks for your patience.

      • 1) I think I may have misunderstood what you meant in your first question, specifically what you meant by the word “see.” This is what I thought you were asking:

        “What does it mean if it doesn’t actually come but they just see [anticipate] it coming but it never arrives [in their lifetime?]”

        Maybe that helps to explain my answer. As a side effect, this also demonstrates the versatility of the word “see” which can mean “to see in color”, “to visualize”, and “to have knowledge or comprehension.” For the purposes of this passage, I think we are both using the first meaning of “to see in color.”

        2) You asked me to notice that Mark 9:1 says “the kingdom has come with power” but that is not what our quotation reads above. I was using the King James.

        Mar 9:1 KJV
        (1) And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

        So if we are paying attention to the specific wording, the emphasis still seems to be on the seeing, which could mean literal sight. Considering that John would have been the last living apostle at that time, Jesus might have specifically sent that vision to John and told him to write it in a book specifically because of Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27.

        It would seem strange if Jesus really meant “I am going to send the Holy Spirit after my resurrection” … because that seems to be stretched for the purpose of countering the “Wandering Jew” interpretation. Jesus doesn’t seem like he is referencing the majority (all but Judas) with that type of statement.

        On the other hand, I can very well imaging Jesus saying something that was literally true that might confuse someone if they jumped to a conclusion without asking for clarification.

        Joh 21:22-23 KJV
        (22) Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
        (23) Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?

        John did not tarry until Christ’s return, so the important part was the “if” and we can also notice that Jesus did not particular mind if his disciples thought that he would be returning sooner rather than later, yet his statement was technically correct. I do not think that it is unreasonable to interpret Mark 9:1 in a similar manner as John 21:22. This is the same person speaking, after all.

        3) Looking at the parable examples you cited:

        Mathew chapter 13 has a lot of comparisons, but don’t they all point towards the return of Christ? Matthew 13:19 talks about spreading the word of the kingdom, which implies that the field is not the kingdom itself. The parable of the tares is about the time of harvest which is defined as the end of the world when Christ will return with his angels.

        Continuing Matthew 13, leaven and mustard seeds have insignificant beginnings, but the seedling is not the tree, and the leavened dough is not leavened bread. The pearl of great price would be the kingdom of God obtained at the end of the world, and the things that we have would be what we have in this life.

        Matthew 18 has the parable of the unfaithful servant but the focus of this parable is on the nature of judgment, and the judgment is in that last day at Christ’s return. The pattern thus far is that everything about the kingdom of heaven is focused on Christ’s return. Matthew 20 (the parable of the workers in the field) continues with this emphasis as the reason for the parable is the day of reward, which is, again, the day of Christ’s return.

        In this present day we are supposed to prepare for Christ’s return. If we have Christ’s kingdom on our mind we will want to prepare, but that if the kingdom is already here, then what are we preparing for? Is this the “kingdom of God come in power?” There is a saying that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25) … so if “this” is “the kingdom” what does that imply?

        If one of the theories is that “the kingdom came in power” with Peter’s speech in Acts, I think it might be helpful to see how the kingdom of God is spoken of after Peter’s speech in Acts. Just looking at occurrences of “kingdom” and “God” in combination we have a few statements that seem to be relevant:

        1Co 6:9 KJV
        (9) Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

        1Co 15:50-51 KJV
        (50) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
        (51) Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

        2Ti 4:1 KJV
        (1) I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

        To listen to Paul speak, the kingdom of God seems to be a future event, something that is inherited, not by flesh and blood, but requiring a change at the return of Christ, at his appearing and his kingdom when he shall judge the quick and the dead. I cannot think of any New Testament writer that referred to this present day as the kingdom of God.

        Seeing that we are all still flesh and blood and that Christ has not yet appeared to judge the quick and the dead, I am left to logically conclude that this is not the kingdom of God. The church is described as a “little flock” and as “a woman in the wilderness” but not a “kingdom.” How could the church be a kingdom when it is persecuted and slain?

        It seems to me that the first practical reason to call the Christian church the “kingdom of God” would be when people started using the religion as a means of prestige and power, such as when the Roman government annexed the church for its own ends.

        The nature of a kingdom is to rule and have dominion. But is that supposed to be the role of the church before Christ’s return? That’s not what I read in the New Testament and Revelation. That’s why this question bears upon the role of relevance, and how we answer this question might have an impact in how we shape our entire lives.

        Revelation does seem to describe a church that does rule and have dominion at the return of Christ, but it is not pictured in a good light. Any church structure with that type of power would have to have a “kingdom theology” to justify its existence.

        At the root of this, I propose that there cannot be “two” kingdoms of heaven. There cannot be a “kingdom of heaven” ruled by men, and a second “kingdom of heaven” ruled by the King of Kings upon his return. We cannot serve two kingdoms, for we will either love one and hate the other, or despise the one and love the other.

        So when I see the kingdoms of today, I know which kingdom I am looking for.

  5. mattdabbs says:

    Mark 9:1 the verb is in the perfect in Greek. The NIV is a better translation on this than the KJV. So if you are basing your interpretation on the English in the KJV just realize that it falls short in this instance. The perfect tense in Greek has to do with something being completed due to a past action. So the word “come” is more along the lines of “has come” like the NIV translates it, not will come or anticipate it to come. The perfect tense speaks of a completed action. Does that information change the way you read Mark 9:1?

    On parables, yes the point to the return of Christ. But that is not all they talk about present reality of the kingdom as well. The mustard seed results in a vast invasive plant that overtakes everything around it. Does that only begin after Jesus returns? I think it has already begun. Is it all that it will be? No. There is more to come. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who finds a field with a treasure in it. He sells all he has to go buy that field. That has present day implications for us today. The story is about our response when we find God. This is not only about what happens after Jesus returns but about what people will do here and now as they come to know Christ and understand the value of his kingdom. I could go on and on but I don’t need to. The parables speak for themselves. The point is, these parables are about the kingdom of God and the realities they have now and in the future.

    I kind of think you have missed the point in some places because of the filters you are reading these texts through. You are really caught up in the thinking any kingdom that involves people cannot have much to do with the kingdom of God. Am I reading you right there? The deal is, God redeems us to be a part of his kingdom. Do we mess things up? Sure. Is it all that it will be? No. But God has already started breaking into this world in some very real ways, the most significant of which was Jesus Christ. I am not trying to sound critical. Just trying to help.

    • Matt, (for the moment) assuming that these two versions say something different in this particular passage, would you please explain what you think that difference is?

      Mark 9:1 (KJV) And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

      Mark 9:1 (NIV) And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

      If one is going to make a point about specific wording it is usually a good idea to quote the verse or at least say which version has wording in question. I should not have to guess guess why a reference to the specific words differed from our current quote. I have even seen people quote “specific wording” that could not be found in any existing translation (even basing doctrines upon this imaginary wording.)

      Although there may be important translation differences between these translations in other areas, at in this case at least I do not seen how this alternative wording of Mark 9:1 contains any meaningful difference, nor do I see how either one could be faulted as being “incorrect.” The NIV reading seems a bit clunky perhaps, but not necessarily wrong.

      This is the context provided by Matthew 16:27 and Luke 9:26 for both translations,

      From the King James Version,
      – “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels…”
      – “…when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.”

      From the New International Version,
      – “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels…”
      – …”when he comes in his glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

      What is the supposed difference? Is anyone proposing that someone standing there will not see the kingdom actually come but will suddenly realize in surprise that the kingdom already came without them noticing? John describes the return of the king and the continuance of his kingdom without end as a package deal. You don’t get one without the other.

      Given the context from our other two parallel gospels where Christ is describing the “coming in power” as “in the glory of his Father” and “of the holy angels” this would seem like a rather strange interpretation. Unless you are saying that they will see the effects of the coming without seeing the coming, I do not understand your objection.

      Concerning your question of Greek grammar:

      [SYNTAX OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, James A. Brooks, Carlton L. Winbery, University Press of America, Lanham, Md., 1988, pp. 104-5]:

      “The perfect tense expresses perfective action. Perfective action involves a present state which has resulted from a past action. The present state is a continuing state; the past action is a completed action.

      With regards to whether the “coming” is a continuing state produced by a past action, would you please explain the perceived problem with the King James translation of Mark 9:1?

      Mark 9:1 (KJV) And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

      You had said:

      The perfect tense speaks of a completed action. Does that information change the way you read Mark 9:1?

      Agreeing with my cited Greek grammar authority, I am understanding that the perfect tense speaks of a continuing state produced by a past action, but regardless, that does not change the way I read Mark 9:1 either way. The second coming is a dramatic action in itself, and its continuing state is called the kingdom of God.

      So considering this consideration of the perfect tense that you suggested, how could the “kingdom of God” be a continuing state without the aforementioned completed action that Jesus described as coming in the his own glory of his Father with his holy angels and rewarding every man according to his works?

      1. The completed action is coming in His glory with his holy angels.
      2. The continuing state is the kingdom of God.
      3. Today we even refer to this completed action and continuing state with the simple phrase of “Kingdom Come”

      Whether the coming kingdom of God has an effect on our lives is beside the specific point. A husband and wife may make preparations for a child before that child is even conceived and these preparations will have a real effect on their lives, but that does not mean that the child has arrived already just because the preparations are effecting their lives in the present.

      Reviewing your last paragraph,

      I kind of think you have missed the point in some places because of the filters you are reading these texts through. You are really caught up in the thinking any kingdom that involves people cannot have much to do with the kingdom of God. Am I reading you right there?

      This time you have not read me right, but you are giving me an opportunity to clarify. In its simplest terms, like a game of chess, there can be no kingdom without the king. Christ is the king, and he is coming to establish his kingdom, and in the meantime we are to announce the coming of that kingdom. The saints will have a part in that kingdom, but this is not that kingdom.

      People do have much to do with the kingdom of God.

      1 They should announce the coming of the kingdom of God.
      2. They should prepare for the coming of the kingdom of God.
      3. They may call themselves children of the kingdom of God.
      4. But, they should never presume to call their organization the kingdom of God.

      The real kingdom of God will have to deal with the confusion caused by imposters, fighting against them with the sword of his mouth (Revelation 2:16).

      Joh 18:36 KJV
      (36) Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

      The primary “Kingdom Theology” religions like Roman Catholicism, Islam, and Calvinism are all about taking up arms and killing the heretics. They do believe that their kingdom is of this world so they are being consistent.

      However, the parables of the kingdom speak differently. The tares will be allowed to grow up alongside the wheat, but they are gathered at the harvest and burned. The field cannot be the kingdom itself because otherwise the tares have an inheritance in the kingdom at least for a time, but we are told that “no unclean person… hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5) and that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…. but we shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 5:5-6).

      The faithful martyrs plainly declared that they sought another country and believed in another kingdom. Were the martyrs mistaken? Should they have fought for their lives because the kingdom of God was of this world (in this time and place?)

      Continuing your last comment,

      The deal is, God redeems us to be a part of his kingdom. Do we mess things up? Sure. Is it all that it will be? No. But God has already started breaking into this world in some very real ways, the most significant of which was Jesus Christ. I am not trying to sound critical. Just trying to help.

      There is good scriptural precedent for taking our pounds and our talents and striving for increase, but the pounds and the talents were not the kingdom either. A pound is not city, and ten pounds are not ten cities. Let’s not confuse talents and cities.

      If I may make one final point, using “the kingdom of God” in the literal sense for the church or the world today wrongly proclaims the real meaning of the kingdom of God and could be considered very presumptuous. If we do have faith in Christ then we should be willing to wait until he comes. Telling people that the flawed human institutions we see today is the kingdom of God is taking the name of that kingdom in vain, even proclaiming a false kingdom, and could cause many stumble. Common observation tells us that it already has.

      If we properly understand our intended role, we can be relevant as Christ intended us to be. We are the children of the kingdom that await our king, not ruling regents before he takes the throne. Can (or should) the church be relevant? Yes, it can (and it should be) but perhaps not in the way that some people are thinking. We need a proper perspective.

      • mattdabbs says:

        Andrew,

        I keep starting a reply to your points and I keep deleting it. I have said and asked what I have needed to say and ask in regard to the kingdom. It is not the central point I was talking about in the original post so I am done with that in the comments. We will have to agree on some things and agree to disagree on a few others. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for your study. Thanks for your zeal. I also appreciate the respect you have for the kingdom of God. It is very obvious to see. Keep it up.

  6. Barry Fergus Jones says:

    Thanks for your earnest, honest and caring examination, Matt.

    I’ll confine my own observations to the fellowship in which you and I have grown up. It’s my take that after a surge in worldwide evangelism during and after WW II, the majority of our fellowship settled into camp on the truth (as we understood it) and to debate with all of the ‘denominations’. Many of our brothers are still shelling trenches that have been unoccupied for decades in a war on ‘denominational error’. And when that was not engaging enough, many started shelling those within our own fellowship for ‘error’, fragmenting into more and more pieces. Last I heard (some 30 years) ago, there were over 95 distinguishable strains of our own ‘brotherhood’. Contending for the faith displaced living out the faith, individually and corporately.

    Besides this morass, many of our congregations became content with living out the life of the body of Christ within 4 walls, rather than engaging the community around them. Some even fled their community when the demographics shifted decidedly away from their own. Further, most in my experience, confused their own cultural preferences in dress, speech, customs, music, TV, movies and books with doctrine, which guaranteed increasing irrelevance to the culture around them with each passing year.

    And with each passing year, more congregations permanently close the doors to their buildings.

    After my last experience with working for 3 years as a change agent in Christ to help turn around one such congregation afflicted with these maladies, and more, I’m done with being a part of such a church.

    I sought the Lord for a body that emphasized first and foremost taking the community for Him over ‘keeping the faith’ in a building, offense in the spiritual war over defense, and action over orthodoxy. I’ve given the last 36 years of my life attempting to helping transform churches in the ‘brotherhood’ that have become country clubs or retirement homes which defer to disciples who have decided to retire in their discipleship and want only to be congratulated for what they’ve done and not be challenged by what needs to be done.

    I don’t know where all the LORD is leading me right now, but I am thankful that He has provided me a church-family that is dedicated to radically serving Him in this town and to taking this city for Him. It is dedicated to reaching out to the unchurched and the dechurched.

    Thank you again, Matt, for this article. May He who began the good work in us, bring it to full completion in our Lord and Savior Jesus, as we seek to be salt, light and leaven in this world as long as we draw breath in it.

    Yours, respectfully and lovingly in Jesus,
    Barry

    • mattdabbs says:

      Barry,

      Thank you for sharing your perspective. I think you are really on to something. You know you are always welcome at Northwest. We are starting to move more in the missional direction and have some momentum. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  7. hank says:

    An excellent article, Matt and I believe it would be healthy for every person in the church to ask the same questions. To ourselves, our families, and to each other. I also agree with much of what Barry had to say.

    To me, it seems almost as if every member of every church ought to get together and ask ourselves “what are we actually trying to do”? What is “church”, what does God expect of/from his church, and are we kidding ourselves. I feel pretty irrelevant my own self pretty often and know I need to make some changes and reevaluations (if that’s even a word).

    Look forward to whatever else you have to say.

    • mattdabbs says:

      More on the way…great questions. We assume we have answers to these questions and that the answers are adequate but is that really the case? What if we don’t have answers, don’t have good answers or just don’t even care if the question is asked in the first place? What does that say? I am so glad people are starting to ask these questions and really start looking for answers to them.

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