Josh Brown on the Kingdom of God

Kingdom of God

This post is part of an ongoing guest blogger series on the kingdom of God.

Josh Brown

Today, we will hear from Josh Brown:

I got “saved” at age 16. I got “called to ministry” at 18. And then spent the next 8 years working for mega-churches, going to seminary, and attending trendy conferences. I was being groomed to be a “next-generations communicator”, whatever the hell that means. I spoke weekly to large groups of high school students. I had a rather nice salary complete with retirement investments and health insurance. And I’ll tell you a little secret if you promise not to tell anyone . . . I voted for . . . ahem . . . Bush. Twice.

Needless to say I was a card carrying member of the establishment.

Then Jesus messed up my life.

Anna and I got married and went on our honeymoon. That’s a revelatory experience for most people. But we met this couple while there and became instant friends. This couple lived together before they got married (gasp!). And believe it or not, they couldn’t find a pastor or church that would allow them to get married because of their “indiscretions”.

Being that we were a few miles away from the equator, we figured it was safe enough for us to have a beer without fear of losing our jobs. I thought it was safe enough for me to light up a nice cigar. And we found it safe enough to be able to talk about what we really felt about church and Jesus with our new friends. So we told them that something along the lines that Jesus isn’t really anything like the church. I think the words that I used to describe their situation sounded similar to “That’s bull shit they wouldn’t marry you!”

After a week of conversations with our new friends about Jesus, faith, culture, etc, (conversations that we wouldn’t have been able to have back home), Anna and I had an epiphany of sorts. How odd is it that we have to travel half way around the globe in order to be far enough removed from “the church” that we feel safe enough to talk about and do all the things that we know to be true? How is it that if we talked about any of this back home or did any of this back home, we would be sent into exile?

It is at that moment that we realized we weren’t living into the kingdom of God. Rather we were building an establishment.

The gospel doesn’t work well in the hands of the establishment. It doesn’t work well in the hands of “the man”. The kingdom of God is antithetical to power and control. It defies organization and categorization. And any time power or control, organization or categories, get their hands on the gospel, it gets neutered.

Fast forward to today . . . our non-Christian (as they are defined by the church) honeymoon friends are actively involved in a faith community back home and recently had their daughter baptized into the church. We’ve been to visit them in Wisconsin and they’ve been to visit us in Atlanta. Anna and I now both work from home. We haven’t been to church but twice in 2 years. We give away more of our money than we ever did before. And I mega-loathe Georgie boy. We also are now living into and living out the kingdom of God as opposed to building an empire.

Funny how Jesus messes things up when we actually take his words seriously.

Josh Brown is a dreamer, co-creator, and adventurer. As long as the adventuring doesn’t involve heights. He’s was a former staff member with a couple of evangelical megachurches before he called it quits a couple of years ago. Now he sits at home all day where he reads, travels, and blogs. And when he gets desperate for money, he runs Red Cowboy Designs (www.redcowboydesigns.com). He’s the ugly half of www.thenickandjoshpodcast.com. And likes to think of himself as an affable bloke. One day soon he’s going to put on his big boy pants and re-enter a faith community. For now, he’s busy just plotting and imagining what that day will look like. And working on the courage to take that jump.

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Comments

  1. says

    Josh — you’re not alone in your journey. What you wrote about sounds so much like many of the experiences my wife and I have had over the years. Within the “establishment” it seems I’ve been swimming upstream most of my life. Outside those confines there is real freedom and a sense of God’s peace.

    Blessings!

  2. says

    Nice post. It reminds me of my experience. I was a fundy, and then one day I realized that one of the people who inspired me most in my life was my best friend… who was gay.

  3. says

    i’m not sure why we let our government define marriage for us. if they’re in love and committed, what does a piece of paper mean? let them live together.

  4. says

    I think that we are getting too caught up in the “is it a sin, is it not a sin” issue … “the gospel of sin management” as Dallas Willard would call it. That wasn’t the point of his post. It was to say that the Kingdom of God reaches beyond the walls of our “perfect” churches … maybe even that it exists more fully in places where people are real and honest about their crap. Sure, maybe you aren’t sleeping with your significant other outside of marriage, but you’ve got a secret addiction to pornography that no one knows about, or you really hate democrats, or something in your life that keeps you from really experiencing the life that God has for you. At least these people are willing to engage in conversation with other Christians and commit to learning from one another. Personally, I think that the church is God’s plan for the world and believe that the people who see its flaws, more than anyone else, need to stay in it or they will never be addressed. But that doesn’t mean that it has to look like it does now. I thought it was a good post, though it did seem like swear words were thrown in just to say “hey look! I’m a Christian who swears!” Not definitely a bad thing … just an observation.

  5. says

    Let me get this straight – you “mega-loathe” a person you’ve never even met and you think you’re taking Jesus’ words seriously? (and as far as I can tell, you actually never mentioned any of Jesus’ words in this post on the Kingdom). Look, I think just as much as the next guy that Bush is a strutting, swaggering, cocky conservative and probably the worst President you’ve ever elected, but let’s be honest, he’s still just as human as everyone else, right?

  6. says

    When I look at pictures from Abu Ghraib, when I think about the devastation in Iraq, when I read that we’re debating whether waterboarding is torture or not, I have to say, I loathe him. I don’t know him personally, but do I need to? Perhaps I’m not taking Jesus’ words seriously enough… but then again, Jesus overturned tables for less than this…

  7. CJL says

    I have to echo Tyler’s sentiments on this one. While I am not certain that Bush has done the best job as the President I am reluctant to “mega-loathe” him as that violates everything that the Kingdom stands for. Jesus commands us to love those that are different than us; in fact He commands us to love our enemies. If our enemy is that which is antithetical to our religious, political, and social point of view than loving Bush is well within the author’s capability. If not, than it indicative of the author’s unwillingness to love another creature that was made in the eye’s of God.

    While I disagree and abhor the viewpoints and sin of those who wish to see America and other free people destroyed, I still love Muslims all over the world. Bush is more my neighbor than they are so if I can love the Muslims who seek to kill me, loving Bush is not much harder.

    But I also question anyone who intentionally removes themselves from the corporate body of worship. Again, the scriptures command us to not forsake the assembly of believers (Heb. 10:25) which was an exhortation to be molded by others towards love and good deeds. This lack of corporate sharing of lives with fellow believers is one of the reasons why many are unable to love their neighbors. Personally, I believe this “mega-loathing” of a man whom one has never met stems out of a resistance to be around fellow believers. If we cannot even love those who are in the “empire” than of course we are not going to love those who are in positions of power or in depravity.

    I would encourage the author of this post to reconnect with the Kingdom of God in a meaningful way by connecting back into the body of believers. It is one thing to rant about the Kingdom of God, but it is quite another to separate yourself from it.

    Blessings,

    CJL

  8. Andy says

    “And any time power or control, organization or categories, get their hands on the gospel, it gets neutered.”

    What does this statement even mean? What are these diabolical “categories” that turn good ol’ Jesus lovin’ folk into minions of the machine? *Any* organization *neuters* the gospel? Really? What about Acts 6, where the diaconate is…gasp…organized? Was that a neutering of the gospel, or rather an act with ensured that the gospel was extended to the Hellenist widows?

    God save us from sexy rhetoric. And from “categories”!

  9. rndaniel says

    “i’m not sure why we let our government define marriage for us. if they’re in love and committed, what does a piece of paper mean? let them live together.”

    Is this a serious attempt at “conversation,” or are you (hopefully) speaking tongue-near-cheek? If you’re trying to be ironic, I think the irony was lost in translation. If you’re serious, I would urge you at least to try to give a little more meat to your rhetoric, because this sounds like a lot like a trying-to-be-rebellious-teenager.

  10. says

    Interesting post on the Kingdom of God. It left me with a few questions. Do you believe that your experiences with the church are normative or only amongst those who worship in your particular theological ethos? What exactly does, “living into” and “living out” the kingdom of God really mean? What is the Kingdom of God? There really are no examples or definitions of what you are currently doing besides philanthropy. So, going to another country on your honeymoon helped the spirit of truth move? Sounds just as reasonable as singing a praise chorus 100 times from a projector.

    Thanks for the post

  11. David Hallgren says

    I have seen many fundy’s pendulum swing to swearing, drinking and rejecting church attendance. I liken it to showering off the restraints of oppressive institutions. But, it still reflects a self indulgent way of life that does not really speak to a kingdom ethic. The kingdom of God happens in this world and we stand near it when we can. Maybe the journey for finding freedom from religiosity necessitates full freedom and then a retreat back to some sort of subjection. This is most comfortably sought out in a community that is focused on our hurts, our needs or our ideas. But this self centered place is no closer to God’s kingdom than a sham of the church instititution. I know what it is like to find freedom from a place of religious heaviness, but residing simply in our freedom is not nearly as free as subjecting our selves to kingdom awareness and, dare I say, obedience.

  12. Sam says

    Like most people don’t have the “Pearl of Lao Tzu”, most people don’t have the Kindgom of Heaven either.

    The truth HAS BEEN LOST, buried in time, (hence the parable of the man who FOUND the treasure) there’s no doubt about it. You wouldn’t have to seek for it and search it out if it were as easy as going to church or reading the Bible. You can FIND both of those every fifteen feet and they are as common as gravel. This is UNCOMMON and RARE and has to be FOUND, which is why it is a TREASURE.

    Seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. Well, why ask and why seek if it’s so easy? YOU don’t have the Kingdom of Heaven. If you think that stings now, wait until you find out what it is and how you missed out on it by playing pretend like.

    I don’t know what it is either but I intend to find out before I die if it’s possible. Jesus said, seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. FIRST. Not second or third, FIRST. Interpretations will abound, confusion will set in, arguments start and people will be offended, so I go in search of someone who isn’t deluding themselves. I go in search of the real deal believing that it is there to be found by those who seek it.

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