The early church referred to themselves as "Followers of The Way", and I believe this title and those like it (Followers of Christ, Disciples, Disciples of Christ, etc.) are a much more lucid depiction of what the early church was trying to develop. The early church believed that we were to be followers of a certain way of life that Jesus both displayed and taught (This way of life is described in the verses below). This in fact was "The Kingdom" that Jesus constantly referred too. Jesus would often communicate to his disciples that "The Kingdom is here" just before he healed or ministered to someone in need. They were just to blind to see this "kingdom" because in their minds they believed that "their messiah" was supposed to come and overthrow the "kingdom of Rome" and return possession of the land to the Jews. Jesus however, came and presented a "New Kingdom"; and specifically this "Kingdom" was a way of life that operated differently than any kingdom in our world. This "Kingdom" was inclusive to all who believed and wished to follow the way of Jesus. I believe in our culture we are very confused as to what it means to follow Jesus because we have been misguided in our education of what it looks like. I believe that the way of Jesus, "His Kingdom" can be summed up in the application of these two passages of scripture.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Galations 5:22-2322 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
That means that Following Jesus has nothing to do with elaborate buildings, and extravagant worship services. It means that we learn to live the way described in these two passages, and teach others to do the same. It means that we are grateful for grace and we gracefully give to those around us.
This is NOT to say that there is no heaven and that Jesus will not come back one day and restore our world. I believe he will return one day and restore our world (AMEN)! However, as his followers or the "Body of Christ" (which means that we are his presence until he returns) we are charged with bringing this "Kingdom of Heaven" in our present reality and communities both here and now!
So the question is; are you a "christian" (in our cultural context simply a believer) or are you a disciple (a follower of His way of life)? The time for this question to be asked is both now and often my friends.
-For the Kingdom