Kingdom Come

I have a new friend, Bobby Valentine, who I met earlier this year. When bloggers tell you about a “friend” you have to wonder if they haven’t just read each other’s blogs and now call one another friends, but I really met Bobby the old fashioned way ministers and teachers meet each other: at a conference.

kingdom-come.jpgBobby and I have a mutual writing buddy: John Mark Hicks. Bobby and John Mark wrote a great new book called Kingdom Come.

They both have great blogs that balance theology with life experience told authentically: Stoned-Campbell and Professing Professor
Here’s an excerpt from their very insightful new book:

As a summary of early Christian steadfastness, Acts 2:42 has served as an influential reference point in the believer’s church tradition but it has been especially important to the Stone-Campbell Movement. As early as the 1830s some even regarded it as the biblical “order of worship.” Others continued that perspective into the early twentieth century.[1] Harding, however, believed these “four duties” were listed “in the order of their importance.”[2]

Harding identified the four as (1) reading and studying the Bible, (2) ministering to others (especially the poor) as we share (“fellowship”) our resources, (3) participating in the Lord’s day meeting at the Lord’s table, and (4) habitual prayer. Sometimes Harding identifies all of these activities with the Lord’s day,[3] but generally understands Bible study, ministering to the poor, and prayers as daily spiritual disciplines. Believers should read their Bibles daily, “do good” daily as they have opportunity, and pray every morning, noon, afternoon and evening.

But these are no mere “duties.” Rather, they are “four great means of grace”—they are appointed means by which God dynamically acts among, in and through his people.[4] They are not avenues of human self-reliance but modes of divine transformation through which God graciously sanctifies believers. They are spiritual disciplines by which God conforms his people to the image of Christ.

Harding emphasized that the “life of a successful Christian is a continual growth in purity, a constant changing into a complete likeness to Christ.”[5] To “grow more and more into the likeness of Christ” should be the Christian’s “greatest” desire.[6] In other words, Harding believed discipleship was the central dimension of the kingdom of God. Consequently, one of the dangers of revivalism (“protracted meetings”) was the immediate interest in a large number of conversions where the only concern was “escaping hell and getting into heaven” as opposed to discipling people to lead “lives of absolute consecration to the Lord.” As a result, these “converts are much more anxious to be saved than they are to follow Christ.”[7]

In our small groups at Garnett I’ve emphasized Acts 2:42 as a model of what Christian community ought to consist of in our groups: fellowship, breaking bread, teaching, prayer . . . this excerpt from Hicks and Valentine’s book, however, drives me deeper into the “everyday apocalypse” (to use my friend David Dark’s phrase) of this passage.

[1] F. W. Emmons of Emmaus, Indiana (cf. Alexander Campbell, “Order of Worship,” MH 2ns [June 1838], 247-250) and Alfred Elmore of Covington, Indiana (cf. “title” GA 43 [21 March 1901], 186).

[2] Harding, “The Habits that Save,” The Way 4 (February 5, 1903), 356

[3] Harding, “Questions Concerning the Way to Heaven,” The Way 4 (12 February 1903), 370.

[4] Harding, “Questions and Answers,” The Way 4 (17 July 1902), 123.

[5] Harding, “Scraps,” The Way 5 (23 July 1903), 735.

[6] Harding, “Scraps,” The Way 5 (15 October 1903), 945.

[7] Harding, “About Protracted Meetings,” GA 27 (1887), 588.

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