What real-life examples are there of God already at work outside of the church?
As in Jesus’ day, it seems that discovering “real-life examples” and joining in is primarily about having eyes to see and being attentive and present to the Spirit at work “outside the church.” But what are we looking for? What might be signs of the kingdom of God at work?
One way to begin to think about that question is to imagine God’s dream for your neighborhood (your workplace, your city, etc.). I imagine that God longs for everyone in my neighborhood to be welcomed and included, to be fed, safe, and cared for; for kindness, generosity, and beauty to flourish; and for shalom and abundance to be shared by all.
So when I know that every good gift comes from the Father (James 1:17), I can see God at work in all that goodness, in all that reflects God’s dream, such as when my neighbors support a household that has experienced significant loss, bring meals to a new mom, decorate a front yard with well-wishes before a dad heads to the hospital for surgery, or provide childcare when a parent has cancer. I experience God at work at our neighborhood leadership meetings, where the discussion focuses on how we can make our community a better place to live for everyone; when our “Talking Gardens” group works hard to create a food forest that will bear much and benefit many for decades to come. I recognize Jesus’ way when neighbors gather to share life with one another around tables and campfires, with good food and wine, laughter and lament. I realize the Spirit is up to something when our book club conversation becomes about making things right in our broken world. I feel the welcome of God’s kingdom when new neighbors are embraced, those with developmental disabilities are included, and prejudices are dismantled as we listen to and learn from one another.
There are many more stories of God at work—not only in my neighborhood, but in yours. Perhaps it’s time to “look carefully and listen closely and pay attention” and set our minds on all that God wants to show us (Ezek. 40:4).