Are You Preaching the Kingdom?
The very first thing Jesus said about the gospel was, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). This was not only the first, but also the last topic he taught. In Acts 1:3, after his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days with his disciples teaching them exclusively about the kingdom of God! The Gospels record that Jesus referenced God’s kingdom more than one hundred times during his public ministry. It was his favorite topic. There’s just no question that the kingdom of God was central not only to Jesus’ ministry, but also to his gospel.
You may be asking: if Jesus spoke of his gospel as “the kingdom gospel,” why are we referring to it as “the discipleship gospel”? After all, Jesus didn’t call his gospel “the discipleship gospel” even one time. Not once. So why have we? It’s because faith in Jesus as the Christ necessitates obedience, and obedience demands discipleship.
This is an excerpt from The Discipleship Gospel (available in eBook and paperback). Get a discount by using code ‘TBP’ at checkout when you order here.
Consider the links between discipleship and the kingdom:
Non-discipleship gospels almost always exclude God’s kingdom as an essential element.
Discipleship is essential to every element of Jesus’ kingdom gospel.
Believing in Jesus’ kingdom gospel leads to a life of discipleship.
Discipling people until the kingdom gospel is fully formed in them is the key to making disciples of all nations, which is ultimately about the evangelization of the world.
These four factors reveal again why we’re calling Jesus’ gospel “the discipleship gospel.” We hope to recast the gospel’s kingdom emphasis in terms of discipleship so that we can clearly see the intricate link between the two!
While God’s kingdom punctuated much of Christ’s preaching, it has been conspicuously absent from preaching in twenty-first century American churches. Instead of telling the gospel story of God’s kingdom coming through Jesus Christ, we’ve reduced salvation to hearing a truncated gospel with a short, one-time prayer tacked on the end. The gospel we often hear today goes something like this: You have sinned, and sin separates you from God. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. If you believe in Jesus, God will forgive your sins and you will go to heaven when you die. Would you like to believe in Jesus? Great, let’s pray the sinner’s prayer and you’ll be saved. Boom! Done. Gospel presented. But really? Is that it?
This might be what we’ve heard the gospel to be, but that doesn’t mean it is the gospel. From our preliminary list of Jesus’ seven essential elements of the gospel, we can immediately discern that this is an incomplete gospel. For starters, there’s no mention of God’s kingdom, Christ’s resurrection, or repentance. Not only this, but there is not even a hint of following Jesus, which means it’s also a non-discipleship gospel. The question becomes, then, is it a distorted gospel like what the Apostle Paul curses in Galatians 1:8? More on this later, but for now, let’s go into more detail about God’s kingdom and the gospel.
The gospel that Jesus preached was punctuated by God’s kingdom. The different “gospels” being preached today are not. A gospel without God’s kingdom isn’t Jesus’ gospel. In other words, we cannot think we’re sharing the gospel if we don’t say a word about God’s kingdom. As we rebuild our understanding of Jesus’ gospel, we must start with the foundational concept of God’s kingdom.
What happened during the 1974 Lausanne Conference of World Evangelization is instructive for understanding our great need to work God’s kingdom back into the gospel we preach. The great Billy Graham and John Stott were at this conference, and Michael Green, the former head of evangelism and apologetics at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University, was also present. Green stood up before them all and asked, “How much have you heard here about the kingdom of God?”
No one answered, so he answered his own question, “Not much. It’s not our language. But it was Jesus’ prime concern.” More than forty years later, Michael Green’s question still calls out for an answer in churches throughout America. Without God’s kingdom, we’re not preaching the gospel.
1. A.F. Buzzard, The Coming Kingdom of the Messiah (Wyoming: Ministry School Publications, 1988) 14-16.