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7/9/97 His self-examination, lament led to book on God’s kingdom

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–A self-examination that began with a lament has resulted in a book the writer hopes will transform others as it has his own life.
Gene Mims did not set out to write “Thine is the Kingdom” the day he realized his life as a pastor and that of many other Christians was not much different from the lives of people who do not go to church.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Why are you so culturally oriented?’ Cultural Christianity, I concluded, is deeply imbedded in American society. I found statistics that bear that out. Most Americans say they believe in God, but they don’t follow his Word. I began to ask other pastors if they felt that were true in their churches and they agreed.
“That began an investigation, and what I found I wasn’t pleased with. I wondered what it is that lets teenagers be excited about singing with their friends in the choir at church on Sunday, but on Friday night have sex or get drunk. How can someone sing ‘Amazing Grace’ and listen to a sermon, but cheat people in business or sleep with another man’s wife?
“I felt deep disappointment with the church growth movement. It grew churches, but it didn’t have much impact. Despite the fact that we had elected numerous Christians to political offices, people are more afraid, there is more violence and justice is a joke.”
After coming to the Baptist Sunday School Board in 1991 and later becoming vice president of the newly created church growth group, Mims recalled he “had time out of an active pastoral ministry to pursue his concern that Christianity had become more societal than scriptural.”
“I found dissatisfaction among men and women of God with their lives and their churches. They were disconnected from the presence of God.”
Mims began to read the gospels, looking for things that were important to Jesus; in doing so he made a surprising discovery.
“Jesus focused his whole life and ministry on the kingdom of God. He mentioned the church only twice, but he referred often to the kingdom,” Mims said.
Evaluating what had been important in his own life, Mims said he realized he had been concerned with numbers, budgets, building ministries, being on television and radio and influencing people politically.
“At the root of it all was that I was called by God and educated in the largest seminary in the world, but I left seminary with the notion I was going to do work for God instead of with him.
“I came to realize the kingdom of God is the fundamental reality in the world today,” he said. “It’s the kingdom of God that ties us all together. You sacrifice for the kingdom of God, not for a church. The local church is the growth agent, but it is not the kingdom. It is a part of the kingdom.”
Many think of the kingdom only in the sense of its coming in the future, Mims said, “and that makes you negative about what it can do today. You can’t begin to understand your response to the world until you understand the kingdom.”
Mims put his personal understanding of the kingdom of God into book form after he was asked to write the 1998 doctrine study book for Southern Baptists.
He readily says he was changed personally by the research and study he did because “my sin, pride and self-sufficiency were broken.”
While some of his work colleagues have referred to “Thine is the Kingdom” as Mims’ life message, he is reluctant to characterize it in those words.
“It’s a message God has given me right now, not so much to define the kingdom but to experience it. I don’t have to do work for God. He’s working through me. It’s made me more active with a purpose. My passion is Christ, not this subject. It’s a pursuit of Christ and Christlikeness,” he continued. “It’s not a theology or a system. It’s a discovery that God has made us to be a part of his purpose.”
For his readers, Mims would like to see a reversal of cultural Christianity “in which the pastor is viewed as a chief executive officer and the people are consumers who go to church like they go to the mall to get what they need.”
“I want to see people in a daily life with Christ so his life is their life. I want to see a return to basics like prayer, discipleship that is transformational and real evangelism. I’d like for Christians to be able to make decisions in their lives based on his will.”
Understanding the kingdom of God, Mims said, helps people “turn loose of a lot of concerns because God is in charge,” and it is “a powerful paradigm change for a workaholic.”
Mims tells his readers a study of the kingdom of God from Scripture helps people “see God at work and have confidence that Jesus Christ is ruling over all our circumstances.”
“Thine is the Kingdom” is designed to be a six-week study and is available in an interactive member book, a leader guide and a kit that includes an audiotape and a video.

    About the Author

  • Charles Willis