The way things are set up in the current institutional church, there is often a sense of an earthly kingdom. Not in all congregations, though. Some pastors seem to set it up so that they are the playmates, rather than the leaders, of their flock. No boundaries to speak of. "Just have a good time." That's one ditch that can be as deep, in these modern times, as the one that brings me to the other side of the road today.
In traditional ways of doing church, it is a kingdom. Not a heavenly Kingdom, though, where there would be no kings. I'm not sure we've gotten a clear picture of what the Kingdom that Jesus was describing would even be like. I see it as a group where everyone is a grown-up and the leaders just make some suggestions and play roles. More like when our adult children come into the kitchen with Ron and I and help get things back in order. "You want to wash while I put the food away?" Everyone just figures things out and takes a role as we concentrate on conversation that, hopefully, is on a higher plane than maintaining the kitchen.
Now, when the grandchildren "help"--and the older ones do at times--that's a different scene. We expect to give them more direction, for we are teaching them how to be adults.
The problem with our thinking about church is that we don't see it as a community of adults who work together. Maybe that's because so many adults act like children. Or leave when they grow up because they get sick of the "children" who are over-grown in size.
We may see it as if we are all children--except for the Almighty leader, who might himself prefer that we see it that way. He (occasionally she) is the only "adult." He gets to veto all of our ideas or uses a delegation to help him decide whether to veto or not.
If that's been your idea of how church operates. If it's still how your church operates, get out!! Immediately! You are likely an adult if you are reading this column, and it's time you and everyone else recognizes that.
Those who want you to stay on a child's level do not deserve to have a relationship with you. They definitely do not deserve to have power over you. They will, however, as long as you either act like a child or allow others to do so. We all have a right to expect others to act like adults, and sometimes the only way to deal with immaturity is to simply cut off a relationship entirely. Or to cut down on the intensity or frequency of interaction.
It's painful to wake up. It's painful to grow up. Yet it's what we are all called to do. And that will change everything!!