Luke on My Mind #2

I have been teaching for several years—and it is illustrated in my book Come to the Table—that the ministry of Jesus is the model for practicing the kingdom of God in the context of the church. The ministry of Jesus is the ministry of the church.

Historically that has been questioned in the Stone-Campbell Movement. Our dispensational hermeneutic drew a sharp line that created an insuperable gulf that no one can cross between Acts 1 and Acts 2. Our ecclesiology was severed from the ministry of Jesus. The “patterns” of the church are regulated by Acts and the Epistles. And this had the tendency to reduce ecclesiology to discussions of forms and a constriction of purposes to “spiritual” values rather than to social, economic and other values.

But there is something quite odd about saying that the ministry of Jesus cannot be the pattern or model for the ministry of the church. This disconnect between Jesus and the church is the very thing to which many would object. After all we don’t want a disjunction between Jesus and the church. Indeed, Jesus and the church have a shared identity; the church derives it’s identity from Jesus himself. We are the body of Christ.

But if we take seriously this connection between the ministry of Jesus and the ministry of the church – between the mission of Jesus and the mission of the church—then we will have to expand our traditional understanding of the ministry of the church. It will have to include economic, social, peace and justice issues. We can no longer hide the church in the bastion of “salvation” (that is, the forgiveness of sins and our escape from hell to heaven), but rather must understand salvation as the reversal of the curse, the renewal of heaven and hearth in terms of cosmic and social liberation.

The ministry of Jesus was not only a word about forgiveness, but also the deeds and acts of social and cosmic redemption. The ministry of the church must model the “good news and good works” (to use Ron Sider’s title for his book on the “whole gospel”) trajectory of Jesus’ own ministry.

Hermeneutically, then, we need to recover how the Gospels shape the ministry and mission of the church so that we embody Jesus in our world today. Acts and the Epistles are examples and guides for the implementation of the Gospels through the life of the church. We need both and both should guide us.



13 Responses to “Luke on My Mind #2”

  1.   TCS Says:

    John Mark,
    Thank you for this post. You have very susinctly worded what I and many others are struggling with. And let me tell you that dispensational hermeneutic (which is a new combination term for me)is alive and well. In the college age class I teach its effects were showing just this past Sunday as we tried to discuss predudice and systems of oppression. There is little to no vision of Luke 4 coming into play as to what the church should be.

    Even though I have written about the problems I see with those dispensations I didn’t realize the connection here. Good stuff.

    Oh, and Phil Oldham told me to tell you hello next time I ran across you in blog land.

  2.   R Debenport Says:

    Mark,
    Thanks for telling the truth here. We just finished a two-month study of God’s kingdom and I am continually challenged and shocked by its implications. I have seen this chasm between Acts 1 and 2 playing out in the church in such subtle ways. Interestingly, I believe younger Christians (20s and below) see Jesus as being our “ethical norm” on a personal level and are demanding He be our norm on a corporate level as well. I beleive dispensationalism is breaking down because it is hard to convince and teach to younger generations in our cultural climate. They don’t buy it.
    -Russ

  3.   majuzo Says:

    John Mark,
    the last two entries have inspired me to teach a kingdom ethics class for our small group. We are standing in this very trap of a comfortable church life that lacks a lot of the discipleship life Jesus intended for us to love. I have reread Luke and you are right. We neglect the redeeming lifestyle of Jesus while wanting to share a redemption story with people in which we are not fully participating in ourselves.
    Hey, I am gonna stick around this blog for a while.

  4.   Royce Ogle Says:

    Professor, I think some of your readers have slightly missed the intent of your post. Tell me if I’m wrong, but the dispensational disconnect you refer to is broader than the social implications of “fleshing out” Chirst in our society.

    Restorationists have largely missed the fact that Jesus did not change His mission of redemption and reconcilation after His death, burial, and resurrection. God has always and forever extended His grace and mercy to those who believed what He said.

    Jesus declared sinners whole, seeing their faith, and the Stone-Campbell model is “Hit these 5 bases and you are in the kingdom”. These are worlds apart.

    The Restoration theory of ministry has been largely “corrective” rather than redemptive. Our main business has often been to correct the theology and practice of others rather than present the living Lord Jesus Christ who alone can give life to the dead.

    Things only changed from Acts 1 to Acts 2 in that after the Holy Spirit came to empower the witness of the believers they could now preach the good news with resurrection power upon their message. Not a new dispensation but a new dynamic.

    Thanks for your post.

  5.   preacherman Says:

    John Mark,

    I enjoyed reading your blog.
    Excellent thoughts.
    I bought your book “Kingdom Come” from ACU and am looking to reading it next week.

    God bless your ministry.
    Again thank your for your thoughts on Luke very insightful.

  6.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    There are, of course, many implications to the point I am making, and it can be applied in several directions. So, I think you are all correct! :-)

  7.   R Debenport Says:

    Dear Majuzo,
    If you’re interested in a challenging book on the topic of Kingdom ethics, try “Mere Discipleship” by Lee Camp. It could be a valuable resource for a small group. Many of the stories used, however, are from an American standpoint (and I think you are living in Germany) so some adaptation would be in order. Blessings to you.
    -Russ

  8.   Tom Lancaster IV Says:

    John Mark,

    enjoyed your class the other night.

    I have a question for you.

    I am fascinated by your definition of The Kingdom, but I find none of the descriptions of The Kingdom are very kingdomlike at all. Meaning, it resembles little to nothing of any kingdom i’ve ever studied, structurally, or from the perspective of the subjects and their relation to the king. I mean, why use that particular metaphor?

    So… the question… If the Isrealites hadn’t badgered God into giving them a king, do you think we’d have a different metaphor in Luke?

    Specifically, could the arrangement we see in Judges (of which I know nearly nothing) be a better model for the ‘good news’?

    I guess I’m assuming comparisons to kingdoms were not actually part of the original plan/pattern, and that there’s something a little spiffier that we’ve missed. i.e. the Israeli gov’t post-Judges might more closely resemble our relationships with Jesus and the saints.

    warm regards,

  9.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Kingdom language is something that actually is envisioned in the beginning–we are co-rulers with God in his creation. He reigns over his creation.

    The point, I think, is that when we think about “kingdom” we should not think in terms of territory, structure or institution, but rather we should think in terms of the reign of God in the world. It is a reign that fills the earth with shalom, righteousness, joy, etc. It is the reign of God in people’s lives and the reign of God in the cosmos where shalom has been restored.

    The kingdom metaphor is our metaphor, I suppose, because “kingdoms” are part of fallen human culture. But the use of that metaphor is turned on its head as the benevolent ruler (God) calls us to rule with him in benevolent, peaceful, righteous ways.

  10.   pilgrimdan Says:

    “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;” – Acts 17:6

    The kingdom of heaven that Jesus preached in the Gospel accounts does appear in Acts to ‘turn the world upside down…’

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, John Mark, connecting the kingdom and the gospel…

  11.   Wade Tannehill Says:

    John Mark,

    The extremity of this disconnect between Jesus and the church really hit home with me last Sunday when I preached on the two greatest commandments. A lady actually approached me, insisting that the command to love your neighbor as yourself has been superceded, since that was the “old law.”

  12.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Wade,

    That is truly amazing! However, we are saved but it is also appears in the “new law” as Paul and James both state it. :-)

    May God have mercy!

  13.   James Wood Says:

    I think God is trying to make this point to me. I pulled up your blog to read and there it stayed for a few weeks – unread. Then I was required to come up with a prospectus for a paper in NT Theology and I chose the topic of Jesus’ view of the church (since I’m a church planter in training the topic is dear to my heart). Now I’ve gotten back to reading your blog and found that God has already been working (as usual). Thanks for being a part of God’s work.

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