What if the sacred/secular divide was not the most accurate way of understanding the way things are and the way things should be?
With stinging clarity, Jeff Christopherson points out that the kingdom of darkness is thriving in what most people would consider to be the sacred sphere. He trains his guns on what he calls “brand expanders” — the church is to be a vehicle for the expansion of the kingdom of God but instead it has become a competing pool of individual “brands” fighting for available Christian resources, power, and influence. This “kingdom turf” is what Christian leaders battle for. The success of individual churches becomes the end game. Leaders, develop consumer-based strategies for filling rooms with Christian people so they can secure their portion of the Christian pie — Good preaching good music good parking. Whatever it takes. Church planting is a good idea theoretically but not if it requires resources that will drain the sending church. Protect, consolidate and above all promote the brand is what matters. The church is suffering down the street? that’s too bad. We will “pray” for them and with giddy anticipation contact all the disenfranchised Christians in order to assimilate them into the brand.
Christopherson laments that for too long Christians have been content to view themselves as objects of grace instead of agents of grace. The life of faith corporately is not about protecting assets and capturing market share, it’s about sacrifice and surrender to a greater kingdom than our own. As Churches come to give themselves away for the sake of God’s kingdom, the kingdom seekers of this world who have not yet met their king will be drawn in. Kingdom seekers are not fooled by the “brand expanders” of religion they are sickened by it. A churches calling is to imbed itself relationally in a neighborhood and then ask itself the question of its kingdom seeking friends “how would our group of kingdom seekers most likely find their way into the kingdom of God?” — then build the outreach strategy around those answers. Ultimately because we as humans constantly feel the need to measure success how do churches do it, if it’s not “noses and nickels”? Jeff says success should only be measured by new believers, new disciple-makers, new communities of faith, and a transforming effect those communities are having on their neighborhoods.
This book had an open jaw effect on me at times. I would read a paragraph, and my mouth would drop open, and I would say things like, “wow, can he say that?” or “oh my goodness, I can’t believe he just said that.” It was powerful, in my estimation, because I suspect he is saying what a lot of Christians have been thinking or have experienced. The strength of this book is his critique of the church, It’s fair, perhaps oversimplified in some spots, and a little too “spicy” in others, but it’s fair. In addition, his matrix for helping us visualize the human landscape as brand expanders, self-seekers, kingdom seekers, and kingdom expanders is very helpful.