What is the single characteristic that most distinguishes those who are members of God's Kingdom Family? To put it into the words of the Kingdom Family commitment, they are, above all, characterized by a "passion for fulfilling the Great Commission." They view life with an eye for sharing the gospel.
Bob and Peggy Oxford live in Denver, Colorado, where they are members of the dynamic Applewood Baptist Church. Bob is a petroleum engineer, a businessman, and founder of Industrial Gas Services, a nationwide consulting firm. For the past few years Peggy has worked beside him in this family owned and operated business. But while that is the Oxfords' "business," it is not their "life." Their life is consumed with a passion to use everything God has provided to them as a means for sharing the gospel and encouraging others to do the same.
Several times a year the Oxfords participate in short-term overseas mission projects where they have been joined by their children and, most recently, their grandchildren. Their two children are also strong believers in Christ, serving faithfully in their church. The Oxfords are faithful in the outreach programs of their local church and have served in various ministry capacities both locally and nationally. But their favorite responsibilities relate to the mission endeavors of their church. Their home has been opened to countless visitors, both nationals and foreigners, who have found a warmhearted welcome and an eagerness to "talk about Jesus." International students and business people, many of whom they have personally led to Christ, are their favorites. They keep up with them, visiting and corresponding with them, even though the list grows by the month.
During the fifty years of their married life, the Oxfords have sought to be careful stewards of the resources entrusted to them, determined to make them count for Christ's sake and the Kingdom's. They make every attempt to keep what God has given them "in circulation" for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Recently, while participating with them in an overseas partnership crusade, we found ourselves dining with a renowned military general with whom they have cultivated a friendship based on a mutual desire to spread the gospel. Never offensive, always gracious and ready to share their faith, the Oxfords picture what is meant by a Kingdom Family.
The Unique Distinction
Perhaps the most unique attribute distinguishing members of God's Kingdom Family is a consistent eagerness to share the gospel with others — others in our own family, our neighbors, our work or school associates, and with people around the world. We are motivated by something more than Christ's command. We have a love for Him and an eagerness for others to have what we possess — forgiveness of sin, peace with God, and genuine purpose, not to mention eternal life.
Kingdom Families have the world on their heart! They have learned what it means to give sacrificially, both of themselves and their resources. They know that if you still live, wear, go, spend, drive, and eat in the same manner as always, then nothing has been sacrificed! Sacrifice requires an alteration in our lifestyle; something is "given up" for God's higher cause.
A growing number of families are seeing the value of a "family mission trip." They plan and pray together as they anticipate their days "on the field." Together, they begin to set aside resources for the trip, praying all the time that the Lord will bless their days out in His harvest field. Giving up "vacation time" for such a trip becomes part of the sacrifice and only adds value and significance to the time they will spend together. What better memories could a family have than those of their shared experiences on mission with God?
Underlying all that a Kingdom Family does in regard to missions, both local and international, is the basic assumption that, somehow and in some way, every family member will participate in the fulfilling of the Great Commission. They have learned to look beyond their own comforts to the ultimate, eternal harvest which is to come. And they face the possibility of God's call to a lifetime of missions with a sense of joyful eagerness.
The Driving Force
What is the driving force behind the Kingdom Family movement? I believe members of God's Kingdom Family have a firm grasp on four very simple but heart-stirring issues. These issues are clearly spelled out in Proverbs 24:10-12. We'll look at each in detail, but first, read carefully the following passage:
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. If you forbear to deliver those who are drawn unto death and those who are ready to be slain; if you say, Behold, we knew it not; does not He who ponders the heart consider it? And He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And shall He not render to every man according to his works?
Members of God's Kingdom Family believe with all their hearts that there is no greater peril than for a person to be without Christ. Being "drawn unto death" pictures the unbeliever as a blind man who has been taken by the hand and is being led along by the Adversary. His destiny is not life but death, eternal death. Apart from Holy Spirit-led intervention, he will die in his trespasses and sins. His utter helplessness touches the heart of God who sends divine intervention in the person of His Holy Spirit and in the "persons" of His Kingdom Family members.
There's more to this "lostness" experienced by those without Christ, however. Apart from Christ they are also hopeless. They are "ready to be slain." That is, they are on the edge of the precipice. The soil is giving way beneath them. All it takes is one push forward, or simply no one reaching out to help.
It is also a hellish lostness. Hell is more than an actual place; it is both an awful place and an always place. In other words, there is never a moment when an individual having once entered Hell, can say, "I am almost finished with this experience." And there's never a moment when the senses cease being impacted, a moment when an individual can say, "I'm getting accustomed to this horror." When Kingdom Family members reflect on what God has saved them "from" as well as what He has saved them "to," they eagerly anticipate the joy of sharing God's Good News with their own family members and friends.
In light of these compelling realities, members of God's Kingdom Family see two critical responsibilities related to the Great Commission. We must seek, first of all, to rescue people from the impending judgment of God.
Some years ago one of the fiercest tornadoes in America's history swept through our city only narrowly missing our church! I had gathered in the church building with my family, neighboring families, and other church members to escape the pending storm. Once the winds died down, we came out to survey the devastation. Knowing that many people, including many of our own, were trapped in the rubble, we immediately mounted a search and rescue effort. I will never forget that night! We ran, stumbling over the debris, shouting, "Is there anyone in there? Does anyone need help?" It was not until later, as some of us were trying to get strength for a second effort, that I looked at our little band of "rescuers." No one had given a thought to what they were wearing or what the effort would do to their clothing. Formality was irrelevant in this attempt! We were desperate because we knew lives were at stake. That's the way Kingdom Family members feel about people without Christ. They are helpless and in need of rescue … at all cost!
But what about those who simply refuse the message of the gospel? Do we have any responsibility regarding them? The NASB rendering of verse 11 reads, And those who are ready to be slain, O hold them back! In other words, God is saying, "If they will not be rescued, you should at least restrain them!" In other words, if they do choose the path to Hell, they should at least have to overcome our efforts rescue them. Or, as one man said, "They may fall into the pit, but we will be clutching at the laces of their shoes!" Having you as a friend will not guarantee any person's salvation. But it should give them an advantage!
The writer of Proverbs warns of three reactions we must avoid as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission.
First, we must not "faint" or simply decline to become involved in this great work to which He has invited and "co" missioned us. We have all heard of those who have said, "Leading people to Christ is simply not my gift." Imagine any soldier responding to his superior's command in a similar fashion. "Sorry, Colonel, you're the greatest, and I have utmost respect for you, but fighting is not my gift."
Second, we must not delay or "forbear." My mother often said, "Delayed obedience is disobedience." Can the Lord feel anything less about our own reluctance to obey the promptings of His Spirit? One of the great sorrows of my own life revolves around an encounter with a future student in the university I attended. At the end of a swimming session which I was coaching, he said, "You're a preacher, aren't you?" Then he continued, "I've been thinking a lot about eternity and God." Weary from the day's activities, I told him that we would have to sit down and talk about that some day soon. When I inquired about him a few days later, I was told that he had taken his own life. I know he is responsible for his own choices, but I also know that I delayed in choosing to obey God myself.
Third, we cannot dispute the issue with God, saying, "Behold, we knew it not." In other words, God knows what we know … and we know He has called us to be His witnesses. When our family was living in Zimbabwe, Africa, I actually questioned God over a specific witnessing responsibility He had set before me. Looking back, I am ashamed at the utter wickedness and rebellion of my heart. Think of it! I had come 7,000 miles to be a missionary but was now struggling to go a few feet to follow my Master.
A Certain Reckoning
As Kingdom Family members, we know that one day we will stand before Christ, not in the final or Great White Throne judgment, but at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10). At issue will not be whether we will be in heaven. We would not be at this judgment without the assurance of eternity with Christ! The issue will be what we did with what was given us. The writer of Proverbs clearly states that this judgment is both accurate and assured.
Does not He who ponders the heart consider it? And He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? With those words he speaks to the absolute accuracy of this coming judgment for all believers. At this judgment we will be confronted with our stewardship over that which the Lord entrusted to our care … not just material resources but opportunities, as well. The Lord who "ponders the heart" will be the Judge.
Is this judgment really going to take place? Shall not He render to every man according to his works? No room is left for us to think otherwise. It is certain that one day we will stand before the Lord and render up an account. Our works will be tried as by fire, says the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians: 3:12-15), and the truth will be known. It will be revealed whether we have built with "wood, hay, and stubble," or "gold, silver, and precious stones." This is why Kingdom Family members are eager to share their faith with their family and friends and to "join with others in specific projects which create a passion for fulfilling the Great Commission."
What an incredible privilege it is to be a member of God's Kingdom Family — but it is a privilege that must be shared! After all, God's Kingdom Family must be extended "until the Lord comes!"
Adapted from Tom Elliff's, Unbreakable: The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family, Broadman & Holman, 2003. A further study of the Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family can be found in the newly released seven-week Bible study, Come Home to the Heart of God, LifeWay Press, 2003. Information regarding future Kingdom Family Conferences can be found at LifeWay.com.
Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family
Honoring God's Authority
(Rom. 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 5:21; 6:1-4)
Respecting Human Life
(Ex. 20:13; Psa. 139:13-16; Prov. 16:31)
Exercising Moral Purity
(Ex. 20:14; Job 31:1; Matt. 5:27-30; 1 Cor. 6:18-19)
Serving My Church
(Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:11-16; 5:25; Heb. 10:25)
Using Time Wisely
(Deut. 6:6-7; Psa. 90:12; Luke 18:16; Eph. 5:15; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Practicing Biblical Stewardship
(Gen. 1:28; Prov. 3:9-10; Mal. 3:8-11; Luke 6:38; 12:48; 1 Cor. 4:2, 16:1-2; 2 Cor. 9:7)
Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
(Matt. 28:19-20; John 4:38-39; Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Rev. 22:17)