I’m back! Back from a four-day trip to Kentucky where I spoke at my alma mater—Georgetown College—and preached at the church where I was licensed to the ministry—Faith Baptist. It was great to see old friends and stir up old memories but it was also great to roll into Richmond at 10:30 last night and think:
On Thursday night of last week I got to hear Tony Campolo preach. I’ve heard Tony many times before. I’ve probably heard most of what he has to say but he always seems to say it in a way that makes me want to say “Amen!”
This time he talked about growing up Baptist. He said he heard a lot of preaching from the Epistles of Paul in those days and a lot of talk about the doctrine of salvation. It was all about whether or not you knew for a fact that when you died you would go to heaven. But these days, he said, he’s feeling a shift in preaching away from the Epistles and toward the Gospels, less talk about salvation and more talk about the Kingdom of God (and if you read the Gospels even casually you can’t miss Jesus’ emphasis on the Kingdom. He makes reference to it 120 times. It was obviously the main thing on his mind).
“Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s Kingdom would come where?” Tony asked, and a few of us mumbled, “On earth.” He sighed with disgust and said, “I thought this was a Baptist gathering!” And then he asked again: “Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s Kingdom would come where?!” And this time we thundered back, ‘ON EARTH!”
I have to say, it was wonderfully confirming to hear it. For nearly five years now I’ve been talking to the members of First Baptist Church about bringing heaven to earth. Since September 9 we’ve been on a year-long, every-member mission trip to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia. Most days I feel like we are doing exactly what Jesus would want us to do.
But every once in a while someone will tell me that what the church is really supposed to be doing is saving souls—getting people ready so that if they died tonight they would go to heaven.
Listen: I want to be ready. And if I die tonight I want to go to heaven. But from now until then I want to work to bring heaven to earth because I believe that’s what Jesus would want me to do.
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth,” he prayed.
Could it be any clearer?