What Does the Church Look Like When the Kingdom Comes?

Matt Hyam, World Vision

“I wonder, if all the churches in this city shut down, would anyone notice?” This was asked of me, twenty-five years ago, by the director of a Christian charity running a foodbank in the city where I was leading a church. It has always haunted me.

“I wonder, if all the churches in this city shut down, would anyone notice?”

This was asked of me, twenty-five years ago, by the director of a Christian charity running a foodbank in the city where I was leading a church. It has always haunted me.

Since then, a huge amount has changed in the church across the UK, particularly with respect to social justice. Back then, many of us Evangelicals saw it as a “distraction” from the “gospel”, whereas now, for most churches, it is recognised as a vital part of the message of Jesus. But do we still have a way to go with this?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me, to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

-         Luke 4:18, 19.

Right at the start of Jesus’ ministry, he stands up in a synagogue and quotes Isaiah 61. Most scholars refer to this speech as the “Nazareth Manifesto” because, here, Jesus lays out his mission.

If this is Jesus’ mission, then by default, this is our mission.

This is what it should look like when “the Spirit of the Lord is on [us]”.

In 2022 I visited World Vision’s work in Pajule, Uganda. For the first time, in a community that had been decimated by war and suffering I saw something unlike anything I have seen before.  

Such was the transformation, that when I visited with a UK church leader last year, she was overwhelmed, “I don’t know how to describe this,” she said, “I thought I would see sadness and depravation, but all I see is hope and joy!”

The household clusters, which is a model developed in Uganda by World Vision, are a model of koinonia - “sharing our lives in common” – as communities grow food together, save together, learn together, work together, and live out their lives together. Within these communities are the men and women who had been child soldiers, forced to commit atrocities against the very people they now share their lives with, but such is the healing; such is the reconciliation, that they are so integrated within these communities that the World Vision staff who work alongside them every day do not even know who they are!

There is unity between churches –Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal - the like of which I have never seen anywhere before – church leaders, speaking in each other’s churches, supporting each other personally, saving together to buy a tractor for the community, and working together as one church. All of the leaders cite working in partnership with World Vision as the reason for this, and through it, God is delivering an astonishing transformation across every aspect of life; agriculture, education, healthcare, safe drinking water, nutrition, empowered communities, and discipleship.

I used to talk to UK church leaders about Christians’ responsibility to help those in need, but now I invite people to be part of what God is doing in Pajule, with the church right in the centre of it all, quietly serving and loving the entire community, a key part of healing and reconciliation, and being used by God to bring transformation to an entire region.

Nowadays, the question I am asked most by church leaders is “how do we get that here in the UK?”

I don’t have an answer for that. On one level, it’s as simple as following Jesus in the mission he outlined in Luke 4, but on the other, that is so much easier said than done. Though I think we know we need it. I think we know in our hearts this is what the church looks like when the Kingdom comes.

Top row, L-R: Johnson Ouhuru, Bishop Ocan Robert Tubamoi, Father Ongya Justine, Okidi Santo, Oloya Dennish. Bottom Row, L-R: Dr Krish Kandiah OBE, Matt Hyam, Odong Robert Breen, Onen Alfred, Pastor Patrick Kinyera.

Matt Hyam

Senior Church and Christian Engagement Specialist

World Vision

www.worldvision.org.uk

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