RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Gene Mims rediscovered the joy of the pastorate after falling off a merry go round — and he wants to spare other pastors the ride.
The vice president of church resources for LifeWay Christian Resources and former pastor recalls the day clearly: “It was August, and I was meeting with my staff at First Baptist Church of Cleveland, Tenn., going over the upcoming calendar events. We worked our way through the fall events, then Christmas, then January Bible study, then Easter, then summer camp, and before I knew it, we were back to August again. A sense of dread came over me. ‘I’ll never get off this merry go round,’ I thought. ‘I’m going to live from August to August for the rest of my life. What am I going to do?'”
He started rereading the Gospels and decided he would reshape his ministry and focus on what was important to Jesus. “What I discovered on my fourth reading of the Gospels was that Jesus almost never mentioned the church,” said Mims, “but nearly 100 times he spoke about the Kingdom of God. From that point on, the Kingdom became my passion and Matthew 6:33 — ‘seek first the kingdom of God’ — became my life verse.”
Mims shared his experiences on the eve of the release of his new book, “The Kingdom-Focused Church: A Compelling Image of an Achievable Future,” published by Broadman & Holman, the trade book division of LifeWay Christian Resources.
Mims was a featured speaker at “Communicating the Kingdom,” an April 30-May 2 conference for Southern Baptist state paper editors, seminary and SBC entity communicators sponsored by LifeWay and held at the LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center. Goals of the conference were to better understand the Kingdom of God and the Christian’s role in it, and to communicate it in a clear, consistent and relevant way to Southern Baptists and the local church.
“In the 1940s through the 1960s, our denomination focused on building great institutions, such as our wonderful seminaries,” he said. “In the 1970s through the 1990s, we focused on building great churches. But in the 21st century we will have to be focused on the individual. If we do that, we’ll be on Kingdom ground, because God builds His Kingdom one person at a time. If you start with a church focus first, or an institutional focus first, you’ll miss the dynamic of what God has in store for us.”
Mims studied 1,100 documents — books, articles, dissertations, even music — in researching Kingdom-Focused Church and draws heavily from his own experiences as pastor and LifeWay leader. He defines the Kingdom of God as “the reign of God in today’s world. The Kingdom is the ultimate reality and sovereign movement of God in the universe. This is expressed in the transforming truth that Jesus Christ rules over all things and is evidenced by God’s supernatural work in and through believers in local churches.”
Nothing is greater than the Kingdom of God, said Mims, and nothing is more important to the Kingdom on earth than the church. Because of this, pastors and churches are crucial to Kingdom work.
So what is a Kingdom-focused church? “If you’re a Kingdom-focused church, you’re in a church that has a shape and dimension that God will decide,” Mims said. “A church’s Kingdom focus has to come from outside the congregation — never from the inside. The focus of every successful church comes from the God of the universe. It is a Kingdom focus because it comes from, rests in and is empowered by the King.”
There is no silver-bullet Sunday School curriculum or magic formula that makes a Kingdom-focused church, Mims noted. “But a Kingdom-focused church is one that’s convinced God Almighty is reigning. You can’t stop God when He purposes to redeem a people for Himself. But you can enjoy it and participate in it as you allow Him to use you and your church. A Kingdom-focused church also focuses on the Great Commission — making disciples one at a time by meeting people right where they are. You see, the church is where the Kingdom of God intersects lives.”
Churches that seek to be Kingdom-focused through someone else’s successes, ideas, methods or models are missing the point, Mims said. “Your answer is in knowing the biblical model of a church and understanding how to conform your church — regardless of size, location, resources, history or any other variable — to that biblical pattern. Kingdom work is liberating. You don’t have to be in the biggest church to be successful. If you’re doing Kingdom work, you’re right where God wants you to be.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: GENE MIMS.