The Neema story

Kingdom Structures are vital if the gospel is to thrive.

This story is very significant when we think about the kingdom of God and the Body of Christ. Neema Crafts is not a church! It is a redeemed business. Of course it is inspired and nurtured by Christian teaching, faith and wisdom but a business has a different calling from a local church. This redeemed kingdom structure was able to transform Hezron's life in a way that a local church cannot!

When Christians gather together as a (local) church they are not expected to make and produce handicrafts. They gather in order to hear God’s Word and to take communion etc. We must distinguish between different manifestations of the Body of Christ. Christians are busy at Neema serving disabled people in a way that is not possible for a local church.

Consider this in a slightly different way. There are many churches in Tanzania which do a great job. We affirm the vibrant worship and witness that these churches bring but Neema is serving another purpose. Another calling. We should not attack the Neema craft business by pointing out that it isn't a church! We should rejoice that a non-ecclesistical 'kingdom structure' is complimenting the work of the local church. At the same time we should not attack a vibrant local church for failing to provide redemptive work opportunities for deaf and disabled people.

Exactly the same can be said with respect to George Cadbury's chocolate factory, Bob Lavelle's Christian bank and the Salvation Army model match factory. (Incidentally both Neema and the Model match factory attract and attracted huge interest from MPs, journalists etc; interest that is rarely garnered by local churches.)

When we reduce God's kingdom to the 'institutional' church we will inevitably condemn culture to the tensions and miseries of secularization. Why is it so easy to be a secular person today? Surely the answer must refer to the constant drip-feed factor of popular culture and education. Marinade too much in Eastenders and Coronation Street and your imagination will become increasingly secular and godless!

Hidden worldview stories indoctrinate us as Christians retreat into the church sphere.

Consider the issue from the point of view of the great missionary William Carey. Carey set up many Christian schools that educated girls and untouchables. This was unheard of in 19th century India! He introduced the idea of low interest savings banks to India, to fight the all-pervasive evil of usury and he campaigned for the humane treatment of lepers. He struggled against human sacrifice and prevented the murder of many innocent children.

Carey founded India’s Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820’s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England. He wrote some of the earliest essays on forest management and conservation. He wrote concerning this – "If the Gospel flourishes in India, the wilderness will, in every respect, become a fruitful field."

And Carey was also a great preacher and evangelist! Carey affirmed and encouraged church activity and church attendance but he realised that the kingdom of God goes way beyond local church activity. He set up appropriate kingdom structures in different spheres of life and culture.

Vibrant local churches must work with appropriate (non-ecclesiastical) kingdom structures in order to transform culture and communities.

Add new comment