The real job of Christians and their communities is “to entice people into the kingdom [of God] mission,” James Bryan Smith told the PC(USA)’s Disciple-Making Conference here today (Jan. 24). “not by guilting or shaming, but by convincing them that this is the most exciting thing they can be involved in. If we do this, it’s unlimited what God can do.”

Enticement is not how Smith described his experience of church as a child. “I really hated church as a kid,” he said. “It was unfriendly with hard pews, I had to wear uncomfortable clothes, the pastor was stern and the message was boring.”

But Smith had an inner longing, an emptiness, that was filled when he accepted Christ at age 17. A dynamic college fellowship group strengthened his faith and eventually led him to ministry. “The point is that here are two very diverse churches,” he said. “One was nothing and other a vibrant community of kingdom dwellers.”

The difference, Smith continued, “is that who we are, when we’re grounded in God’s kingdom, leads to certain ways of living.”

What Scripture tells us kingdom dwellers know and have, he said, are:

  • Safety and security ― reiterating his earlier talks here, Smith said, “We know the kingdom is eternal and unshakeable.”
  • Significance ― “We know we are made in God’s image and belong to Christ.”
  • Sacredness ― “We are temples of the Spirit.”
  • Strength ― “We know we can do all things through Christ.”
  • Provision ― “We know God will provide what we need when we need it.”
  • Love ― “the great truth of kingdom life”
  • Forgiveness ― “In Christ all our sins have been atoned for.”
  • Hopefulness ― “This is the center of our faith,” Smith said. “Faith and love spring from hope. Hope is not wishful thinking but certainty that we know how the story ends.”

So hope is kin to confidence, he said, “and you face life differently ― take risks, step out of your comfort zone, not fear failure.”

That certainty is the foundation of evangelism and mission,” Smith continued. “It’s natural and unforced, but we have to soak ourselves in these [kingdom dweller] narratives ― “what Paul calls ‘setting our minds on the things above.’”

Facing life differently means doing things differently, Smith said. “Kingdom dwellers are peculiar and maladjusted,” he said, “peculiar in the sense of being different and maladjusted to the values of this world.”

Kingdom dwellers encourage, love, forgive, provide, value, provide safe space, serve, love kindness and do justice and pray for the success of all other kingdom dwellers, Smith said. On a corporate level, “kingdom dwelling can be quite powerful because the power of mutual motivation creates momentum and the world is changed.”

Quoting his mentor Dallas Willard, “Smith said: “The true social activist is one whose apprenticeship to Jesus informs and influences all of his or her relationships.” Such apprenticeship produces a shalom, he said, “in which we experience intimacy with God, peace with ourselves, unity with others” and harmony with creation.

“Does the gospel that you preach naturally lead people to enroll as Jesus’ disciples?” Smith asked. “If it does God will change the world.”