For Jesus, the good news was not simply a handful of doctrines to be pedaled on a street corner. According to Matthew 16, the good news is about the kingdom of heaven coming to Earth, made understandable and accessible to and through every saint.
To Jesus it was the key to everything: “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19).
What if we never had to worry about growing or building a church? What would change if we really lived out of the truth that God does the building and growing as we live in simple kingdom ways?
Well, that was our experiment. We had a small group of friends and we took a few months to study everything Jesus did and what he said about heaven. After we had an overview of kingdom reality, we decided to make it our reality. Although we made hundreds of observations, we noticed that almost everything had to do with three aspects of doable life.
First, we noticed that Jesus hung with outsiders—all the time.
So that’s what we did. We threw a ton of parties and made space for anyone to belong with us. We didn’t overthink it or worry about it. We just did it—all the time: weekly gatherings with old friends and new friends, great food, celebrations, fun, meaningful conversations and inquisitive questions about their lives.
Second, Jesus blessed people.
So we listened for needs, concerns or situations where we could be of practical help—and then we would try to meet those specific needs within 48 hours. We also tried to include as much of the community—including our kids—so that everyone could see this as a kingdom rhythm instead of a different kind of outreach event.
Third, Jesus created space for people to just be with God.
For us, every two weeks was a nice pace, usually on a midweek evening. We would read Scripture, pray and sometimes do simple liturgy. It was always a beautiful time for us believers, but it also gave us a very easy invite to friends who were processing spiritual issues: “Danny, I don’t know if this would be of any interest, but a lot of the people you have gotten to know in our community gather about every other week to talk about life and God, and we pray for each other. You’re always welcome to join us.”
None of these keys to the kingdom are inaccessible or above anyone. Any person in any context can implement these rhythms with some success. All the keys are free. No money or structure is required to do them. This is why I always say, “You can start a church without a dime.” Or, even better, “God can build his church without a dime.”
The longer I go in life, the more I appreciate the genius of Jesus. He knew what the average Joe and Jolene are up against, so he gave simple, doable, replicable ways of life that can help make his kingdom tangible to the people around us. Jesus had the kingdom in mind when he gave the Great Commandment—telling us to love our neighbors. Since we are surrounded by neighbors—and we all have access to live out the rhythms of kingdom life—God should be able to build his church on knuckleheads like Peter or, yes, even you and me.
As you consider how to move people back into the neighborhoods, try not to bog everyone down with heavy teaching, curriculum or intense processes. Just come up with your own simple handholds of kingdom life and let them go. If you need help, check out my book The Tangible Kingdom.
Hugh Halter is the U.S. director of Forge America, an apprenticing community committed to training men and women to live as missionaries where they already are. He is the author of a number of books, most recently Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation Down to Earth and Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Nonjudgment. For more information: HughHalter.com.