We have all been given, by God Himself, the gift of one short hour on the earth. Deep in our bones, we know that people need to experience the overwhelming, transforming love of God. We also know that we have the opportunity to participate with God in bringing His Good News to every last person who breathes air in our generation!

So what takes us off track from joining God in His all-important work of loving people to Himself? If we use the metaphor of a sailing ship, we can first understand what forces pull us off course in order to better understand the practices that keep us on course.

Keeping On Course With The Kingdom

The Kingdom of God is Jesus’ favorite topic – he talks about it over 100 times in the Bible. The Kingdom is not a geographical place. Rather, the Kingdom of God is the realm where God’s good, perfect, kind, and generous will takes place.

[bctt tweet=”Where the Kingdom of God is expressed, sins are forgiven, sicknesses are healed, outsiders become insiders, and injustice is overturned into justice. #EDLDdoitagain” username=”@vineyardusa”] The Kingdom of God was here long before we were – and will be here after we pass on.

The Church, however, is different than the Kingdom. The Church is the community of people who follow Jesus. The purpose of the Church is to extend God’s Kingdom into the world. Local expressions of the Church are not perfect places. They are made up of flawed people doing an imperfect (but usually well-intentioned) job of being the people that God wants them to be.

Theologian George Ladd wrote, “The Church therefore is not the Kingdom of God; God’s Kingdom creates the Church and works in the world through the Church” (Ladd, Gospel Of The Kingdom, p. 117).

The Church exists to extend God’s Kingdom – not the other way around. Putting the Church, or our local church, in front of the Kingdom – is putting a cart in front of a horse.

The Difference Between The Kingdom & The Church

The Kingdom is God’s work; the Church is people trying to get in on God’s work! The Kingdom is where God’s will is fully expressed; the Church is the people of God trying to do God’s will. The Kingdom can never fail, but the Church often will. Therefore, one of the most important mandates on the Church is that we put the Kingdom first – in all of our teaching and practices.

This in no way undermines the value of the Church. The Church is the people of God, the dwelling place of the Spirit, the community formed and ruled by Jesus. The Church is the primary means by which Jesus extends his reign on earth. In the book of Ephesians, Paul says that “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10 NLT). It is the Church that demonstrates God’s rule and reign in the world.

How We Get Off Course

Church life gets off course when a church starts existing for its own sake, rather than existing to demonstrate God’s love to the world. Few of us would say our church is off course, but we may have some blind spots that are slowly pulling us away from God’s great priorities.

How can church congregations make sure that the Kingdom comes first, week in and week out? How can we keep ourselves from becoming self-centered communities? How can we do our best to see that God’s love for the world comes first, and that the Church takes its rightful place as the community expressing God’s heart of love for men, women, and children?

EDLD – Do It Again

A few constant practices can keep us on course as individuals and churches. As the earliest disciples experienced, doing what Jesus invited us to do with him can keep us on course with God’s heart for the world. And what essential practices did Jesus do, and teach us to do?

We can summarize the essential practices of Kingdom people with these four words:

[bctt tweet=”Evangelism. Discipleship. Leadership. Diversity. #EDLDdoitagain” username=”@vineyardusa”]
Or as we’ve taken to saying it:

“EDLD – Do It Again.”

Keeping these four essential practices in front of us as local churches, and as the Vineyard, will keep us from maintaining the institutions of the Church while accidentally losing sight of Kingdom ministry.

These activities are the non-negotiables of life with Jesus. He has never stopped doing the work of evangelism, discipling individuals, nurturing them as leaders, and reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost of every tribe, age, and language.

We will never outgrow the need for these essential practices to rise again and again to the top of our list of priorities. Not only will the Kingdom expand, but what we do as we “EDLD” others will keep us on track – and change our hearts in the process.

Let’s explore the heart behind each of these practices, one by one.