One of the big themes of the Vineyard Missional Leaders’ Meeting 2016 was slow kingdom coming. Phil Strout addressed the group on this topic, partly based on a book by the same title by Kent Annan: Slow Kingdom Coming.
Phil’s message is really important for us when we are in the process of multiplying churches—there is so much work to be done right now, and often there is a sense of urgency with it, both for making a kingdom impact in the cities where we are planting, as well as for more practical reasons, like paying the bills.
But Phil points to the long-term. What will it take for you to still be in ministry in 10, 20, even 50 years? Having faithful persistence in the assignments we are given. Building habits now to invest in the future later—healthy habits for spiritual growth, discipleship, and fruitful longevity.
And I personally love the reminder that some fruit takes time to develop. Some dishes are best prepared in a slow-cooker. It’s so easy to get anxious or discouraged or distracted by what’s happening now. But what I take from Phil’s talk is the reminder to lift up my eyes from that stuff, and to refocus on what will last. On our tasks that never change—Evangelism, Discipleship, Leadership Development, and consistently aiming at the Diversity of the cities in which we live.
For the rest of the talk, Phil fleshes out how to do this. Here are some of the highlights:
Hold on to the Kingdom tension—the already and the not yet.
Remember that the Kingdom is coming gradually. When we experience danger, strife, persecution, remember that we are living in that tension. God’s kingdom is here, but we’re still experiencing the other kingdom, too. Don’t be discouraged—God’s kingdom is still coming, and it will ultimately prevail!
Shoot for fruitfulness and longevity—both/and.
We don’t want to be people who see a lot of results initially, but then watch them quickly dry up and wither away. On the other hand, we don’t want to be people in the kingdom who are simply hanging onto life, year in and year out, with no discernible growth from what we are doing.
Instead, we want to faithfully pursue fruitfulness for the long haul. As we continue to evangelize, disciple, and raise up leaders, much of the effort we put in might not show any results right away, just like an apple orchard doesn’t produce apples the first year after it’s planted. Which is why we need to stay faithful with the simple things.
God hasn’t called us to the scene to be the flashiest, most innovative, most entertaining, or charismatic. He’s called us to faithfully continue the ministry of Jesus, day in, day out. The outworking of the kingdom has nothing to do with personality. We take part, not out of talent, but out of faithful surrender to Jesus.
Be in for the long haul.
Therefore, when you are thinking church planting or multiplication, think about your 10-15 year investment. Ministry is not an event. It’s a process. So don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Don’t focus on anyone else’s ministry or calling. Instead, take time to invest in your community. Listen to the people around you, and learn from them. As you get to understand them, ask Jesus, “what are you up to here for the next 5, 10, or 15 years, and how can I be a part of it?”
There’s so much more that we just don’t have space for here, so I encourage you to check out Phil’s whole talk. What he says is applicable to the whole Vineyard, but it is a particularly good reminder for pastors and church planters. We want to build churches and lives that will stand the test of time, and that will bear much fruit over many years.