I’m re-reading Theirs is the Kingdom, a collection of vignettes written by Robert D. Lupton, a man who moved to Downtown Atlanta to work with the urban poor.
This is one of my favourite entries:
There they sit, row after row of remarkably gifted grown-ups. Dressed in proper Sunday attire, they are waiting. Waiting for the minister to step to the microphone with words to ignite them. Hoping that this Sunday he will challenge them to more than a capital funds campaign for the new family life centre. They wait, these talented ones, for worlds to stir them, to drive them from their comfort to challenges worthy of their best. Perhaps today they will hear the call to tasks of greater significance than their own personal success or growth of their church.
An architect, a CPA, a surgeon, and seven other professionals file down the center aisle. The bow for prayer, then dutifully fan out with offering plates to collect a cut of the profits from the marketplace. With the exception of a CEO from an international trade organization who reads the morning scripture, ushering is the most noticeable role that lay leaders fill.
Less visible are the real estate developers, insurance brokers, and educators who serve on church committees. But there they sit, a people with the nature and gifts of the Divine, fully equipped with every skill and ability necessary to tackle the complex problems of the world. Although domesticated by their culture, they long for the courage to throw off the obligations of consumerism and spend themselves for the God who has called them.
Outside the stained glass windows, beyond the parking lot, towards the skyline where most of the gifted ones make their living, there is a place that churns with the challenges of eternity. It is the burgeoning center into which the peoples and perplexities of our shrinking globe pour. A place filled with adventure and intrigue, it calls out for the full investment of every gift to God’s chosen ones. It is the city.
Amidst the chaos of its crowds and the ominous power of its structures, there exists small, nearly invisible pockets of vigorous, healthy growth. In old storefronts and empty warehouses of decaying communities, gifted ones are finding each other. Called from different places by the same voice, they are joining hands and hearts to take on the overwhelming problems of the city. In the process they are creating kingdom playgrounds.
Strange things happen in kingdom playgrounds. Adults become children andlearn to play again. They bring their best tools and talents (the toys of the kingdom) and dream together. They invent ingenious methods to feed and clothe the poor, methods that enhance rather than destroy. They create new economies in destitute neighbourhoods, and build homes and businesses and hope where despair has reigned.
In these kingdom playgrounds, impossibilities become probabilities and visions become reality. Here children discover the secrets of how kingdom magic really works.
In kingdom playgrounds God’s children play with great intensity. At times they may grow weary, but they are never bored. They learn that their gifts, which they once though were useful only for making money in the marketplace, are actually the exact abilities needed to work in God’s kingdom. In these unlikely places, God’s children discover that the serious work of eternity is simply the joyful employment of the talents they desire most to express.
The gifted ones are standing up now. Doctrine has been masterfully restated, the large Bible on the pulpit has been closed, a proper benediction pronounced. The one-hundred member choir sings an impeccably harmonious AMEN and all the responsible, gifted adults file out. They return once again to their adult obligations, not knowing that they were never created to be adults anyway: “Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 18:3)