Choosing the Kingdom
By Josh McCoy
April 17, 2019
As I sit at my living room coffee table, I hear her crying and praying. Perhaps she is overwhelmed experiencing peace, quiet, and rest for at least one night after a month of walking. I don’t understand much Spanish but I hear her cry out “Dios! Dios!” through her tears and I hear the rattle of the boys playing with the two small toy trucks, the only toys they carried with them on their journey.
A young mom I’ll call Emely and her two sons are spending the night with me after walking from Guatemala. Her story is compelling – a one month walk with her little six- and eight-year-old boys across a continent, 18 days in an ice-cold ICE detention center, hopes and dreams of seeing her husband and brother soon after over a year of separation. Now she is crying out to God to continue walking with her as her journey continues. Today, in my little apartment, her story finds itself in a larger storyline, one of the Kingdom of God.
“All the believers were of one heart and mind…”
Our little church in downtown Phoenix has anything but small dreams. A few years ago I passed by what is now Mercy Hill Church, and I assumed it was abandoned. But there was a small church here, and they had an incredible heart for serving the poor by providing food boxes on Tuesday mornings. It was and remains the largest one-day distribution of free food in the city of Phoenix. God has been reviving this church, calling people into faithful living and serving in our neighborhood.
You can see we have Kingdom vision and hope for all God plans to do through us. After Jesus’ baptism he proclaims to the crowds “the Kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe!” (Mark 1:15). He continued to characterize his ministry by the idea of The Kingdom of God. We Southern Baptists speak of evangelism & missions frequently, most recently we’ve been asking each other “Who’s your one?” to identify someone with whom we are intentionally sharing the Gospel, a practice central to being a Kingdom people. As Jesus shared his ministry with the Jewish crowd in Luke 4, his message of the Kingdom struck a slightly different cord: Ministry to the poor, sight to the blind, prisoners set free. To the religious crowd Jesus reminded them that social & moral engagement also hold Kingdom centrality. At Mercy Hill Church and our Mercy Ministries, we lift Jesus up over every single facet of our lives.
“God’s grace was powerfully at work in them all…”
As you may have guessed, immigration is one area our neighborhood feels acute pain. Complex and broken immigration laws, an increasingly nationalistic sentiment that is hostile to immigrants of all sorts, and corruption on both sides of the legal system are only a handful of things that have caused incredible frustration & division. The largest hurt though, is often from our American churches who are content to stay ignorant or ignore clear scriptural teaching and refuse to engage these issues for fear of rocking the boat. At Mercy Hill we praise God for our partners at Neighborhood Ministries who have developed a program called “Neighbor’s Table: Experiencing God’s Heart for the Immigrant.” Roughly 40% of our members have gone through this powerful curriculum to ease the transition of understanding what God’s word has to say about immigrants and immigration, enabling us to better connect with our neighbors, to truly hear their stories, and to provide very practical next-steps to engage complex social issues in light of scripture. One of those next steps is hosting migrants like Emely & her sons seeking shelter because you can’t read much of the New Testament without becoming more hospitable.
“They shared everything they had…”
Another step we have taken is a merging of two different worship services; our English language service and what was once a separate Spanish language church that met in our facilities. We each found it too ironic that Jesus’ final prayer and vision for his church was for unity, yet we were content to pass each other with only an occasional smile. We should never settle for what we are comfortable with when our comfort is a threat to Jesus’ Kingdom.
We are in a process of unifying our bilingual congregation. It is a beautifully messy process. We’ve learned to worship together in language we don’t understand and to submit every one of our preferences to the Lordship of Jesus in order to better love one another. We will soon offer both English and Spanish classes for our church members. Language will not be a barrier to full citizenship in the Kingdom of God, so on this side of eternity we will do all we can to eliminate that barrier in our congregation as well.
“The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection…”
While there is very real pain among us, we choose to be people of hope for our community. I praise God we are seeing his Kingdom come in our little corner of Phoenix. We see the Kingdom come when we join our neighbors at their kitchen table and as our church celebrates communion together each Sunday as one body in our resurrected Christ. We see the Kingdom come as we listen to the cries of migrants finding safety in the homes of Christian believers. We see the Kingdom come when we follow Jesus to shine incredible light in the darkest corners of our world.
We will be a people united by Gospel, community, and mission. We will be the Church.
*If you or a church you know in the Phoenix-metro area may be interested in joining The Neighbor’s Table, please contact Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org.