Rick McKinley on Living The Kingdom of God

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Rick McKinley serves as Lead Pastor of Imago Dei Community. He and his wife, Jeanne, and their four kids moved to Portland, Oregon in October of 2000 to plant the church. Since then, Imago Dei has been voted one of the Top 25 Most Innovative Churches in the Country by Outreach Magazine and Portland Monthly Magazine named Rick one of Portland’s 50 Most Influential People. He is the co-creator of Advent Conspiracy and Love Portland. He teaches on topics such as holistic mission, leadership, and spiritual formation and serves as President of The Waterhouse Network. Rick has authored four books including This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God which was recently re-released.

KW: Your books such as This Beautiful Mess all discuss themes dealing with the Kingdom of God. Why is the Kingdom of God such an important theme for you and what are the key elements that would help others see its beauty?

RM: The Kingdom of God is not a vague, abstract idea about the future of our souls after death, but is right here, right now. I like to say the Kingdom of God is already here, but not yet. I think it is important that we notice and engage in the pieces of the Kingdom that are breaking in all around us.

For me, there are two key elements: one is to proclaim Christ as the one who offers personal redemption, and the other is to serve our neighbors generously.

At Imago Dei, we see many people putting their faith in Jesus in the context of the kingdom. But the temptation to reduce the message of Jesus is never far away. We are sometimes tempted to let go of the tension and either practice a religion of good deeds or preach personal salvation in Christ. Better to hold on to the tension and to view it as God’s invitation to collaborate together with the Spirit in putting forth a whole gospel to our city and world. We see the great beauty of people knowing that they are forgiven of their sins and accepted as God’s children through the grace of Jesus. More often than not, though, we see it happen after they have felt and experienced the goodness of the kingdom break into their lives through the good deeds of kingdom people who care enough to serve them and who care enough to tell them about Jesus’ sacrificial love.

KW: In A Kingdom Called Desire: Confronted by the Love of a Risen King you say living out of a place of authentic desires is central to living in the Kingdom of God – can you summarize what you mean by that?

RM: I think it’s really important that we talk about what we truly desire. It is so easy to focus on behavior—our own and of those around us—and really miss the point of why we act the way we do. Behavior is a symptom of our authentic desires. In our churches, we cannot be fearful to really look closely at our heart’s deepest desires.

We are made for Christ. I think that when you get past behavior to what you really desire, you’ll find that desire is not scary but is true, authentic relationship with Christ. Father God, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit live in perfect communion (relationship) with one another, and at the center of our most true desires lies our own longing for that type of relationship with God.

KW: Describe your view on how the church should intersect and impact culture and how is this played out in your ministry?

RM: I think the church needs to repent from the things we are not doing to love our neighbors. We need to give each other permission to be authentic, and not “cleaned up” versions of ourselves. The primary identity of the church is we are the sent people of God. The Father sends the Son, the Son sends the Spirit, and the Father, Son, and Spirit send the church. As the church, we exist for the world, our culture, not ourselves.

At Imago, we have lots of ministries with the purpose of serving our community- both inside and outside the walls of the church. What’s different about ministry at Imago is these ministries are envisioned and led by people in the church, not by our pastors. We don’t want to provide a bunch of products for people to consume, but instead provide space for people to pursue their gifts and passions.

KW: What role does innovation and imagination play in Christian leadership?

RM: What is unique about innovation and imagination in the context of Christianity is that you have deeply transformed disciples who have encountered Christ. These disciples have experienced God in such significant ways that their whole value system has shifted; they are new creations in Christ. This transformation in and of itself is such a creative and imaginative work by God.

We have this great opportunity to cultivate imagination and innovation in our churches and communities as a natural extension of our own transformation.



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