Last week I reviewed a book wherein the thinking was right, but the feeling was missing. This week (courtesy of my younger daughter, who attends this pastor’s church in Portland and thus snagged me a free copy of this), we arguably swing too far in the other direction. But in the end—because we not only get a vision of the kingdom but an opportunity to catch it—this one works decidedly better.
Rick is pastor of Imago Dei, a church that walks the talk, reaching out to the homeless and victims of sex trafficking, among many other marginalized segments in the Portland area. On the few occasions I’ve visited Imago and/or heard Rick preach elsewhere I’ve never failed to come away impressed by his style that’s very conversational yet thoroughly biblical, or with the church itself for that matter.
With A Kingdom Named Desire, Rick almost veers too far to the former (in comparison, noticeably farther than with his first book This Beautiful Mess)—and if you’re not into the occasional expletive in your Christian ministry book you’ll have issues here—but ultimately he gets it right. Because the kingdom of God is ultimately a heart (or “desire”) issue, and if we don’t address that issue we probably won’t truly address too much else God desires for us or His world either.
The first third-to-half of the book is really Rick talking, as if he was sitting across from you or I. It’s engaging, but you’re kind of waiting for him to get to the point. He does, especially nailing it in the late chapter called “The Security That Gives Birth to Hope” (go read it for yourself). However, he sets it up sometime earlier in the chapter called “The King of Life,” where he broaches the seeming insanity of following someone who walked the earth 2,000 years ago, let alone trying to explain that to someone else:
Here is what I would tell you: that is what faith feels like. You are betting your life on Jesus. You are putting everything you have on Jesus being life, Jesus overcoming death, Jesus bringing a kingdom that puts the world back together. We have to come to this place if faith is going to move us into this kingdom called desire. The revolution that is happening is coming through those who are foolish and ridiculous and dumb enough to have the courage to sell everything they can’t hold onto, to gain a life they can never lose. What seems foolish in this world makes total sense in the kingdom.
Furthermore, Rick asserts, it’s knowing who we are in Jesus that makes our “are-ness” visible to the rest of the world. One more quote in the final chapter “Kingdom Vocation” captures this: “The church’s vocation is not to sit on the sidelines of culture and evaluate it, nor is it to try to create an alternate culture that is a cleaned-up version of the dominant culture. Instead we are sent to create a different world. One that displays Jesus as the world’s King…. This is what you were made for: to live into the love of the King and display his kingdom through the church in whatever forms that takes.”
Rick calls us to give our lives to Jesus, to let Jesus be our life, and to let that new life be visible to the world. And its early talkiness notwithstanding, that’s a message worth sharing.