I have just finished reading The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. This has been a very good book. I expect that I will be re-visiting and using it as a reference and source of encouragement for a long time.
From the heart and out of their missional church planting experiences, Hugh and Matt bring insight and encouragement to all Christ-followers and communities of faith who want to make “God’s Kingdom more tangible” (p.xxi) in a world, in their communities, where there is such great “cultural distance” between people and society and the Gospel (p.72).
The chapter titled Paradigm was particularly helpful to me. The authors state that the problem in our contemporary church “is that our present evangelical ‘Come to us’ paradigm of church has not been an appropriate missological response to the paradigms that exist in our world.” They then proceed to discuss three dominant paradigms that “people live in and think from”: the Western, Eastern and Postmodern. They discuss how each paradigm addresses the questions of why we believe, how we view relationships, what we value, how we influence, and how we measure success. Halter and Smay then present and discuss the Gospel’s appropriate response to each of these questions. An excellent and very helpful presentation.
I was also helped by the book’s discussion of two processes in a missional person’s life that “bring missional people and Sojourners together” – “living out” and “inviting in”.
When discussing “living out” Halter and Smay speak of four practices that should naturally and intentionally characterize a missional person’s life:
- “leaving” – “replacing personal or Christian activities with time spent building relationships with people in the surrounding culture” – To move outside of the comfort zones of “church” and “do” ministry “out there.”
- “listening” – “watching and sensitively responding to the unspoken and spoken needs of Sojourners in ways that demonstrate sincere interest” – Have genuine interest in and take time to know people.
- “living among” – “participating in the natural activities of the culture around you, with whimsical holiness” – Do not be so “holy” that we do not engage people and culture.
- “loving without strings” – Enough said.
The second process is “inviting (Sojourners) in” to the three essential aspects of incarnational life: 1) community – “everything related to how God works His redemptive ways among people,” 2) communion – “those things related to our intimate connection with God through spiritual formation, worship, and prayer,” and 3) mission – “God’s invitation to every Christ follower to participate in His work to bring redemption to the whole world.”
Hugh and Matt believe that as Sojourners are invited into the life and rhythms of an authentic faith community, and are exposed to, involved in and impacted by the tangible outworking of the Kingdom of God, they will be drawn to faith in Christ and citizenship in the Kingdom of God.
In what could be called a summary statement to The Tangible Kingdom, Hugh Halter and Matt Smay say:
What we’re learning is that God’s church can be natural, and it will emerge anywhere an incarnational community exists. People will always be drawn to people who look, smell, and behave like Jesus, and if you’re committed to caring for people who move toward Christ through you, church will become a labor of love for you, as well. Fresh faces, new stories, and a web of relationships will witness the tangible world Jesus called His Kingdom.” (p.178)
May we all, as Christ-followers, commit ourselves, our families and churches to making the Kingdom of God a tangible reality in the lives of people we have contact and relationship with as well as in our communities.