12 Sep 2006

A Vision of the Church: The Community of the Kingdom

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Church, Kingdom, Ministry, Mission, Personal, Restoration History, Unity

A Vision of the Church: The Community of the Kingdom

In the history of the American Restoration Movement the doctrine of the church has been of central importance. What began primarily as a dream of uniting the church became a quest for the true church. In the years following the founding years of the Stone-Campbell Movement ecclesiology became almost identified with focus on issues of structure but very little thought went into what the “soul” of the church might be.

In this blog I wish to explore some of those soul issues of what it means to be the community of the kingdom of God. I do not dismiss concerns of form outright but recognize that form can be overstressed. Water is water whether it is ice, liquid, or vapor. The “soul” of water is two hydrogen atoms combined with one oxygen atom … the form does not alter that fact. In the same way there is a “soul” of the church.

I believe that every facet of the church is to be focused and grounded on the person of Jesus, his ministry and his death and resurrection. This community founded upon the Man functions as a redemptive community that shares in and continues the ministry of Jesus. Thus the church is to have a good reputation in the community, being aware of the unique spiritual and physical needs of those around her. She will be known for her compassion and concern for the poor, for mercy toward those stained and tortured by sin, and for her openness to all who embrace the Savior.

The community of the kingdom should be known, like Jesus, as a “friend of sinners.” The church is where both saved and unsaved people can find love, hope, purpose in life, and most of all grace. Grace is the ministry of the family of Christ. It is a true community “where everybody knows your name.” While the church never diminishes the demands of the way of cruciform discipleship, and thus calls all to follow the way of holiness, the redeemed community will always point to the Cross of Christ because none of us even come close to meeting those demands.

The community of the kingdom is also a place of joyful worship. My vision of the church sees a vast number of sinners redeemed by the blood of the Lamb gathered in praise in the presence of His Holiness, the Almighty. The church offers only the best she can as a sacrifice to God because he has already done the best in his Son.

The community of the kingdom is where disciples discover gifts for ministry they never dreamed of. Church is where we find meaning in holy relationships with one another, it is the family we never knew we had. The community of the kingdom is where sacrifices are joyfully made for one another so that our Abba’s will may be done one earth as it is in heaven.

The community of the kingdom is a place of prayer. In this community we cry for the fullness of the kingdom of God to come. Church is where God’s children intercede for each other. It is where we come before the throne and experience intimate fellowship the world of this age can never grasp.

The community of the kingdom is a non-judgmental and non-denominational fellowship of redeemed sinners united by faith in Christ and adopted by grace into the divine family. The community of the kingdom recognizes there is only One who sits on the throne while she kneels as the foot of the Cross. She never trust in her own sufficiency but always prays for the empowering Spirit to lead her into further understanding of the profound depths of God’s word.

The church is a community that lives in the shadow of the coming fullness of the kingdom of God. It is a community that embraces its alien status as we wait for the redemption of the cosmos at the end.

This is a brief description of the vision I have of God’s church.

Bobby Valentine

22 Responses to “A Vision of the Church: The Community of the Kingdom”

  1. Benay Blume Says:

    I loved your description and am looking forward to reading the other postings. We are trying, here in Brazil, to really make the church the kingdom that you described, instead of the place where you go or the institution that you belong to. In a primarily catholic culture, this is a challenge. Because of this we are moving into a type of house church structure where the kingdom is lived out in our daily lives, in community, over meals, etc. We ask for your prayers and encouragement. Thanks again for your beautiful description of God’s kingdom.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I pray for this community you have described to thrive! I can’t picture it better. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am motivated and encouraged to let the Lord use me and my teammates to impact Brazil for His glory and kingdom.
    Sascha Terry
    Porto Alegre, Brazil

  3. Scott Freeman Says:

    That is a beautiful vision, Bobby. May we each strive to be the inbreaking of the Kingdom.

  4. Tim Archer Says:


    Great thoughts. I think you learned brevity from the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:22).

    Years ago I had a class on “Theology of Ministry” with Lynn Anderson. He had us write out our theology of ministry, then examine practical applications for the church, passed through the matrix of that theology. I didn’t get it at the time, but it makes more and more sense as time goes by. That’s essentially what you’ve done in this post. Keep after it!

  5. Justin Says:

    My first post!
    I really appreciate your description. It has ministered to me today. Thank you!

  6. Paul Says:

    As I understand it, Stone paid much more attention to the spiritual quest for the kingdom and Campbell was more rational. It seems that with time even Campbell changed some of his positions at least in regard to the hermeneutic. The community of the kingdom is a worthy goal and will be realized when we “speak the truth in love” and love one another the way He loved us.

  7. Orange Grover Says:

    Write on (right on!), Bobby! Community is everything and we need to get it!!!

    Les Ferguson, Jr.

  8. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Tim I hoping that is a good thing about “brevity.” Some would say the preacher of Hebrews was long winded, 🙂 but compared to Karl Barth he is very brief!! So I will take that as a compliment 🙂

    I bet having Anderson was a rewarding experience.

    Benay, what a surprise to see you comment on my blog. It sounds like you are doing some great work. Pamella and I still pray for your mission on a regular basis and we love the pictures of the family growing up. Oh, and thanks for writing in ENGLISH and not Portugese (spelling?)!

    Sascha if I recall you are with the Blumes. I am grateful you have stumbled across the Stoned-Campbell disciple too. I look forward to more interaction with you.

    Justin, I am just full of church planters today! Glad to see you up and running on your blog too. I hope to see you at the Preacher’s Retreat at Fall Hall Glenn.

    Paul welcome and thanks for coming by. Stone and Campbell certainly had different perspectives on many things and different temperments. Contrary to popular belief though Stone was just as much a rationalist as Campbell … and at times Campbell could be more “mystical” than Stone (like on the Trinity). The legalism we have inherited in much of the 20th century Churches of Christ cannot, in my opinion, be laid at Campbell’s feet. AC never once made his understanding of the “Ancient Order of Things” a test of fellowship or even a condition of salvation and he declares such explicitly … in the middle of his series of articles by that title. No, our legalism comes from men who were not near as balanced as Campbell. Men like Arthur Crifield, Benjamin Franklin, R. L. Whiteside, Foy E. Wallace Jr. and a number others.

    Bobby Valentine

  9. cwinwc Says:

    Take another bow Bobby, great post. Can you imagine the amount of pain our very own members could have been spared if “every facet of the church was focused and grounded in the person of Jesus, his ministry, his death, and his resurrection.” We could have filtered our zealous desires to have “perfect forms” with the spirit of Christ.

    I’m encouraged to be part of a movement that is now headed in that direction.

  10. CFOURMAY Says:

    Ever read “The Church of Irresistible Influence” by Robert Lewis? This vision is discussed in great detail with examples of how and stories of success. It is a great book with a great vision of how the church should and can bridge the gap between the church and community.

  11. John Roberts Says:

    Great thoughts, Bobby – looking forward to your ongoing discussion. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on the nuts and bolts of how all this makes the change from theology to real live churches.

  12. J. Kevin Parker Says:

    Bobby, I like your water analogy a lot.

    I am planting a church that in some ways is different than modern churches of Christ (including the fact that we are built of small community groups, not just one big church body), and when talking with Rick Atchley about our vision, he asked, “What is keeping you in churches of Christ?” (A lot of young guys leave, which makes me sad.) My answer is I dearly love our fellowship and our restoration ideals. We are living in a generation where being “non-denominational” and “Christians only, but not the only Christians” are immensely powerful in proclaiming the gospel and building true Christian community.

    Keep telling it like it is (or, should be)…

  13. Falantedios Says:

    I’ve been dipping my toe into patristics lately, and I’m really interested in reading some of Augustine’s writings directed towards the Donatist school of thought in the early church. At first glance, it seems like the Donatists and the American Restoration Movement have much in common. But that’s just at first glance.

    in HIS love,

  14. JD Says:

    Awesome post, Bobby. We both know that most of the disgruntledness and problematic personalities in the church today are lacking a spiritual vision of the church. This is worth a series of posts to flesh out these ideas. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  15. Tamie Says:

    The community of the kingdom is where disciples discover gifts for ministry they never dreamed of.

    Perhaps the biggest challenge of all? I hope it’s one we embrace daily. Looking forward to the posts that follow this one, Bobby!

  16. Royce Ogle Says:

    Bro’ Bobby,

    As usual, great stuff!

    I appreciate your emphasis on the “soul” of the church. The rigid, historical Restorationist definition of the church is one that can be observed visually. We must never forget that the ideal is that we worship “in Spirit and Truth”. Our past has been big on truth but short on Spirit.

    There is a huge challenge ahead for your ideal of focusing on Jesus on the one hand while clinging to “the form” with the other. I firmly believe that if believers focus on the Christ and surrender to allowing Him to live through us, the goal of the 5 acts of worship will be met without ever having them mentioned.

    You stated, “The community of the kingdom is a non-judgmental and non-denominational fellowship of redeemed sinners united by faith in Christ and adopted by grace into the divine family”. You did not intend to say that no persons in denominations are in the kingdom did you? That sure looks like what you said. I agree with the “non-judgmental” description. We coC have a long way to go don’t we?

    How can we justify our history of the blanket denounciation of denominational churches while our movement is marked by an arrogant sectarianism?

    Thanks Bobby for the challenge you have laid out for us. Perhaps we need to take a fresh look at what the Bible says the church is and not what our history says it is.

    You have become a favorite writer. Thanks.

    Grace and Peace,
    Royce Ogle

  17. preacherman Says:

    Excellent post.
    I think the RM has focused on the wrong things in the past and so you see many RM churches not relying on God as they should. Relying on what they think are doctrines. Relying on self-righteous requiremnts and so many churches lack the community that God intends for us to us to have as a church. Many churches do church and don’t have the community and I find that sad. I found myself in that situation with the church I am at now…I have taught about he Kingdom Community that we have and emphesized “Family” and “Community” as church and it is now really feels like “Family” and everyone has a sense of “community”.
    If the RM changes in any way I believe it needs to be the “community” that God wants us to be.
    Thanks for your post as always.
    I always enjoy your thoughts. They are very thought provoking.
    God bless you brother.
    Keep up the great work.

  18. Darin L. Hamm Says:


  19. Danny Says:

    Why be brief Bobby? I would like to read more of your excellent and in my opinion, very biblical, description of the kingdom. This is the kind of Jesus community that can impact culture as he did.

  20. Candle (C & L) Says:

    Booby – Thanks so much. You have said it so clearly.

    The measure of the church is “being Christians” in all that we do — not in “becoming a member of the church” by observing certain practices or following certain steps — and by having the “right forms” of worship.

    I do think these “forms” and “practices” are important and we need to be diligent — each one – in seeking God’s direction but we shouldn’t make those things the test of “being in the church” – God does the adding – not us and he may not require that all play by our understanding of the rules.

    Anyhow – I could take a lesson in brevity from you —

    Thanks again for a “path” to answering some of the questions that I have been asking (including the “fuzzily formed” one I asked in my comment on your review of the “Kingdom come” book

    God Bless

  21. Stoogelover Says:

    Very good, Bobby. You articulated why I stay in a movement that, for the most part, has been a major frustration! The vision of restoration is a worthy vision.

  22. Bill Says:

    I feel like I’m coming to the party late, but still must chime in…THIS IS EXCELLENT! You should consider writing a book…another book!

    God bless you,

Leave a Reply