Although Jeff Christopherson’s first church plant birthed two more new churches, he knew something wasn’t right. Somehow, his focus had become building the church instead of building God’s Kingdom.
“I had strayed a long way from what I had first learned. God, in His providence, gave me an opportunity to repent,” Christopherson said. “This time I remembered the things my spiritual fathers taught me.”
This time, when Christopherson planted a church in Toronto, Ontario, he set out to make the name of Jesus great and not the name of the church.
“Somehow, we as modern-day evangelicals have put the emphasis on the wrong thing. We put the emphasis on the local church,” he said.
BR photo by Shawn Hendricks
Jeff Christopherson, North American Mission Board regional vice president for Canada and the Northeast, talks with participants of the Great Commission Partnerships breakfast Nov. 13.
“When we do that, we make decisions to preserve the church because it is the highest goal. The church is the vehicle to engage the goal; it’s not the highest goal itself.”
Christopherson shared during the Great Commission Partnerships missions breakfast, held in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s recent annual meeting in Greensboro, that the highest goal is God’s Kingdom.
Christopherson is the North American Mission Board regional vice president for Canada and the Northeast.
Also participating in the missions breakfast was Boto Joseph, pastor of House of Worship Church in New York City, and Mark Harrison, missions pastor at Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.
The need for churches to regain a passion and commitment to pursuing God’s Kingdom so burdened Christopherson that he wrote Kingdom Matrix, a book devoted to helping churches understand Kingdom principles.
Kingdom Matrix deconstructs several myths of Christianity, such as the myth of the third Kingdom. Believers are either helping expand God’s Kingdom or the dominion of darkness; there is no middle ground.
“At any given moment we are either building the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness. Every decision is inspired by one of these two sources. Everything we do has spiritual implications,” Christopherson said. “When we’re not expanding the Kingdom we have one other idea: expanding our own kingdom.”
God’s Kingdom is about everyone having an opportunity to hear the gospel and less about church growth.
Too often the local church seeks to gather and then control the most resources instead of seeking to serve others by giving themselves away to the cause of Christ.
In Kingdom Matrix, Christopherson writes that, “Our efforts of consolidation have reduced us from a counterculture movement of Little Christs to a religion preoccupied with how many we sit in our bleachers.”
Christopherson suggests four quadrants or aspects of the Kingdom Matrix: self-seekers, brand expanders, Kingdom seekers and Kingdom expanders. Self-seekers love self and are motivated by whatever proves to be in their best interest.
Brand expanders get caught up in ensuring that their brand is the most competitive and has the greatest market share. Although Kingdom seekers value morals, ideals and helping a good cause – even Kingdom causes – they do not know the King.
Only the Kingdom expanders are truly engaged in the Kingdom of God, for they live with the “unshakable conviction that the improbable ways of God are the only paths to accomplish the eternal purposes of God.”
Commitment to God’s Kingdom requires believers to be aware of influencers that will drive them to or away from biblical truth. For example, the influence of change. Change is often necessary in churches in order for the church to fulfill God’s purposes. Yet, leaders cannot manipulate change and they cannot make decisions based on the will of the majority without regard to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
“In leadership when you want change, unity of the Spirit is important; unity of man is not,” Christopherson said.
Another critical influencer in the lives of believers is authority. Self-seekers believe they are their own authority, whereas brand-expanders want to build a corporate identity that becomes the authority. Kingdom-expanders recognize God as the highest authority and seek His purposes and plans.
In order to make much of God’s Kingdom believers must make much less of self.
“Our whole purpose is to be salt and light and to have a transforming presence,” Christopherson said. “The Kingdom of God has a king. Our only job on earth is to be obedient to the King.”