We all want to go to the Kingdom, donít we? But, what is Jesus saying here? Heís saying that we cannot just receive the Kingdom, but we must seek the Kingdom. What does that mean in daily life?
Does it mean that we should become a "seeker." According to my experience, this is not the case. The Principle teaches that we must exercise our portion of responsibility if we are to experience any of the things God intended for us. This would include the Kingdom.
What IS the Kingdom of Heaven? Is it in the Spirit World? Is it a place we go after we die? How do I get there? The answers lie in knowing the Kingdom of Heaven is meant to be here and now. Many have lived their lives in religion, without real change, with a promise of Heaven in the hereafter. I submit to you that we do not go to the Kingdom, or receive the Kingdom, but we must build the Kingdom, brick-by-brick.
Jesus told us, "The Kingdom of Heaven is in the midst of you." What does this mean? It means that we need each other to build the Kingdom. We cannot build it by ourselves! Many people believe they can! Many of us even believe that we can do it in our family. If we build the Kingdom in our family, then we are there! Is that so?
So, what shall we do? Can you go out and make the whole of Humanity the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth? I donít think so! Thatís the Messiahís job, isnít it? Then, where should we start? How about right here in our Church community. Take a look at the Statement of Vision and Purpose; the Vision:
"We are a community of faith working together to expand true love by living and teaching the ideal of True Parents." The keys here are "community" and "working together." As I said, we cannot build the Kingdom alone. We need to build it TOGETHER.
We need to build a community of faith that lives together and loves together and raises our children together and helps our marriages together and helps each other thrive together and helps each other do everything, TOGETHER!
So, are you ready to go out and build our whole community of 300 families into the Kingdom? Of course not! Thatís Rev. Schaufflerís job, you say! What makes you think I can do it if you canít. Whatís different about me? Guess what: I canít build the Kingdom here in DC by myself either! How can we do it? We need to work TOGETHER!
I once had an image in my mind of coming to the gates of Heaven after my life on earth. Saint Peter was there, sternly saying, "What do you have to show for your life?" All of a sudden, coming over a hill behind us, was a multitude of people, a loud rally. They were carrying signs and chanting, "Henri into Heaven." And, "One, two, three, four, for Henri open Heavenís door." Who were they? They were all the people I built relationships of True Love with during my life on earth.
The key, then, is to build authentic relationships of True Love. We talk a lot about doing this, but ask yourself, "How many such relationships am I working on?" Is it just those in your family? Your relatives? A few close friends?
The fact is, we need MANY of these True Love relationships. Why? Because these are the folks with whom we will live in True Love for eternity in the Spirit World! Worth working on, wouldnít you say?
Well, I have a practical idea, a proposal for you; a way for all of us to begin branching out and building a few more True relationships that the few we have now. Youíre probably a little skeptical now about the small group idea, because:
But, weíve ALL had many experiences in small groups. Those of us who spent our younger years in full time missionary work simply called them "teams" or "trinities" or "centers." Same thing, though.
What is a small group, then?
A small group is an intentional gathering of between 3 to 12 people, gathered for common purposes, for a specified period of time, to facilitate growth and fellowship, or to accomplish certain tasks.
I had an experience recently that really drove this home. I was in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, as a local messiah, working to promote a local ALC conference. It was quite a big job, and I knew I couldnít do it together. I called about ten different friends that I knew were interested in conferences like this and said, "If weíre going to have this great conference here in Portland, I need your help." They all came out to the first meeting. For the next two months, we met weekly and developed and planned the conference. During that time, we also became very close. Those relationships will be with me for eternity. They will be part of my Kingdom!
You see, a small group is simply a "small kingdom of heaven." It is a place where we can build authentic relationships in a practical way. A successful small group brings "Heaven down to earth."
There is a bit of confusion about what weíre talking about as we promote and develop small groups. Let me clarify a few things, working from our definition. First, letís clarify the SIZE. It is between 3 and 12 people. Less than three is too small. More than 12 is too large!
Next, a good group is intentional. This simply means that those involved have chosen to be there; they were not "assigned" or otherwise persuaded to be there. Next is "common purposes." Successful groups actually have written agreements amongst the members as to what the purposes of the group are, and they all sign them!
Next, is "for a specified period of time." Successful groups plan to meet for 10 weeks, twelve weeks, twenty weeks, or whatever. But, it is a planned time frame. This way people commit for that time. They know that they are not going to need to be in the group forever! Also, if they try to quit the group, they can usually be convinced to stay in the group until the time period is completed. These two techniques, common goals and a time period, often make the difference between a successful group and one that loses its momentum and energy and disbands.
Many think that groups are just geographical and organized by the church organization. That has been done for years, and it didnít work! A different strategy must be employed, based on people starting and joining groups based on a need or interest they might have.
There are several types of groups:
Based on an interest of need, people form groups with support from the church. The strongest way for groups to affect our community life is if they are all networked together centering on our central church. Our spiritual life, fellowship and even campaign life can become centered on a small group instead of just Sunday Service. Families become more connected. Blessed children become more connected. And we offer it all to God as a community.
In fact, this is the best way for pastoring and ministry to take place. Rev. Lee and I and the Pastor's team cannot possibly take care of the 300 plus Blessed families in this area. But, we can help us to take care of each other! Our network of groups can become like a beautiful quilt; each patch is different, but they are all sown together to make a beautiful, warm blanket!
I believe that this idea is at itís zenith for our community. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit with Kook Jin Nim Moon, our True Parents fourth son. He has set up a foundation that gives grant for witnessing and development of our movement. He administers it with a committee of elder leaders, such as Dr. Anthony Guerra, Dr. Hendricks, Rev. Peter Kim and Neil Salonen.
I presented our idea of small groups. They went wild! Kook Jin Nim could not stop talking about how he sees building these groups as a solution to so many problems we face in our movement:
So, his committee has given us a sizeable grant to build a small group network here in DC! Weíre going to begin by taking 10 Ė 12 people from our community to a four day conference in Chicago to learn about how to build this kind of network. Iíd like to invite anyone whoís interested to apply for a scholarship to join us. There are only two qualifications:
If youíre interested, please see Rev. Randy Francis for an application form. There is no cost!
I sincerely believe that if we work together to build this network of groups, our community life will dramatically change:
But first, we need to be ready to GIVE something. Most likely, you will have to give up some TIME to get involved with a group. But it will be returned many times over. Getting involved with a group is a practical, hands-on way to live for the sake of others. God blesses those who live for others!
Letís build our "Community of Faith". Letís seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. It wonít happen by magic. It wonít arrive from the sky. It wonít come by a miracle created by True Parents. We have to build it, by "working together to live and teach the ideal of True Parents."