“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2, Matt 4:17, Mk 1:15). The Kingdom of God is perhaps the biggest theme in all of Scripture. Stretching from Genesis to Revelation God’s Kingdom seems to be almost in every idea, thought, and page. It seems God wants to establish and create an everlasting Kingdom where He would reign forever (Ps 2; 45:6; 89: 29, 36-37; Heb 1:8; Rev 11:15) with and over His people in perfect unity (Ps 8; 2 Tim 2:12) free from sin, Satan, and death (Rev 21:4). That all sounds lovely doesn’t it? It is a great hope and a great promise for God’s people to be looking forward to. However, just because there is a future hope it doesn’t mean there isn’t a present hope, a present kingdom, where God rules and gives us a taste of His goodness well before we see Him face to face.
So where do we find this taste of the good life, this taste of goodness that only comes from God? In His Church. Theologically speaking the Church is made up of two parts, the Church universal and invisible, and the Church local and visible. I make this argument elsewhere in another essay but 1. the Church (universal and invisible) is God’s Kingdom (redemptive rule) expanding throughout the earth and 2. the local church is a primary visible and tangible expression of God’s redemptive rule and mission. Think of it like this, the local church acts as an embassy for its nation (God’s Kingdom) so that those who would want to take asylum would find shelter, protection, and even eventually citizenship are able. This is the predominant function of the Church, to bring about God’s Kingdom, God’s Redemptive rule to every facet of creation. The thing is though unless a local church is functioning as God intends it to, then it can’t be a place of God’s goodness, it can’t but a place where God’s Kingdom is redeeming people and His creation, it can’t be that embassy that people can run to in their time of need. So then what does a healthy church look like?
In order for a local church to be considered healthy according to the Scriptures, it must consist of 1. God’s people gathering together regularly (Heb 10:25) as members of the body (1 Cor 12:13) united to Christ (Gal 3:27) 2. There must be a healthy leadership that guides and instructs the sheep that is made up of a plurality of elders and deacons and qualifies for said roles according to Scripture (1 Tim 3; Tit 1). 3. There must be the preaching of Scripture every gathering in order that the sheep would be sanctified, feed and fully equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). The administration of the sacraments (the preaching of Scripture, baptism and the Lord’s Supper). 4. Church discipline (Matt 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:1-13). 5. It must be missional (Matt 28:16-20).
At the end of the day God’s Kingdom will come, His will, will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. However, God’s means for doing this is through biblical local churches (with Christ as the head) which there needs to be more of. Discipling, baptising, teaching, evangelising, bringing about the Kingdom (God’s redemptive rule) is done through the Gospel and healthy, Spirit-filled churches obedient to their King and Saviour Jesus Christ.