Mathematics is an exact field, so is computer science. They state that something is or is not. Two plus two equals four. It is not two plus two should be close to four. It is four. This sort of thinking is helpful for giving expression to the relationship possibilities for Kingdom and Church even though this is a theological discussion.

  1. The Kingdom and the Church are separate entities. In this idea the Kingdom can be completely future as some read the Sermon(s) on the Mount or the Kingdom can be time bound to the Jewish understanding of themselves being the Kingdom of God and Jesus challenging them they have it wrong. Some of my students relayed the idea from their Lukan Theology class and I have yet to ask for the sources.
  2. The Kingdom and the Church are the same. In this idea what the Church does is the Kingdom. I have a reference by Walvoord along this line. This is also a theme I have heard preached in different ways.
  3. The Kingdom is inside the Church. This means that the Kingdom is manifest only in the Church but some aspects of the Church are not in the Kingdom. This is appealing for the aspect that church is imperfect but seems to limit the Kingdom to be only inside the Church and not greater than it.
  4. The Church is inside the Kingdom. This is the inverse of the previous one. This means that the Kingdom is bigger than the Church but everything the Church does is in the Kingdom. This ignores the fact that the Church gets it wrong sometimes and there is sin in the Church. I think many people who ascribe perfection to the Church take this position as it hedges all bets.
  5. The Church and the Kingdom overlap. There are aspects of the Church outside the Kingdom, these are where the Kingdom is not honoured in the Church. At the same time there are aspects of the Kingdom outside the Church. This is what God is calling us into and to do.

I realise that other people will disagree with these analyses and which is the correct one. I lean toward the fifth.  Yet if I was to ask you with scandals in most branches of the church we how do you understand sin in the Church? (The reason I say most is that I am unaware of abuses in the Orthodox church though I would be surprised if that branch was pristine.) Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches all are suffering under the glare of media lights caused by scandals. The Liberal (or progressive wing as I have seen it represented recently) has to deal with the scandal of the Anglican split and even they are under media’s attention.  None of us can say “we can cast the first stone.”

The traditional  answer has been to posit the invisible church and the visible church.  These are not biblical categories though.  In the end we have to deal with the empirical reality of sin and have faith that we will be presented “holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:27).

Ultimately we have to decide how we see Kingdom and Church for this will affect everything in our ministry for if we are the Kingdom everything we do will be correct and can never be questioned, if we are not the Kingdom everything we do will be more provisional than we want, if we might be the Kingdom we need to look further at what the Kingdom is like.