What Jesus meant by kingdom was the society where God’s will is done. But any reading of the Gospels will show that he knew that the kingdom dream wouldn’t happen all at once in a perfect and sudden way. He knew it meant hard work, struggles, and interpersonal conflict with real people in our own neighborhoods. He knew his own followers weren’t perfect and their society wasn’t living up to the ideal. His closest follower denied him; his specially chosen apostles were power-hungry and reputation-grabbing. Yet, those were his people and the ones he chose to concentrate all of his attention on.
Local churches aren’t perfect, and if you are looking for the perfect local church, you won’t find it. But here’s something I’ve learned: Local churches reflect the realities of real humans who participate in kingdom living in a world broken by sin and systemic evil. Kingdom life is designed to take root in local communities, and it is the vision of Jesus for you and me to make our local community of faith our primary launching place for kingdom-dream living. Neither your local community nor mine will be the perfect one. Our challenge is to settle in and strive for the kingdom dream–empowered by God’s Spirit–from the local community into the global village. It’s much harder but it’s the real world….
So, Jesus’ kingdom dream is meant for this world and is meant for folks like you and me. We fall short of our own ideals, and we dwell with others who fall short. Perhaps the commitment of “short-of-ideals” people to one another is the very heart of what Jesus means by kingdom living in the here and now. Which has taught me this: I owe my primary commitment to my local church, not because it is what I want and not because it is the ideal place, but because the only way for Jesus’ dream kingdom to take root is when local people commit to one another to strive with one another for a just, loving, peaceful, and wise society, beginning at home, with friends, and at their local community of faith.
Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, 107-108.