Territory

A king needs territory. A kingdom is a geographic area or territory controlled by the king. The boundary of a kingdom was never fixed, so most kings tried to expand their authority by pushing out the boundary of their kingdom. A king who was not expanding his kingdom was perceived to be weak.

A king usually ruled from a castle or palace at the centre of his kingdom. He could expand his territory by pushing out from this stronghold into places where a neighbouring king was vulnerable. Once he has taken the new territory, the king would build defences and put his own army in place to protect it. By constantly pushing out and seizing more territory, a strong king could expand his kingdom.

The castle was a safe place where the king could retreat if he suffered a setback in battle. Another king might seize some of his territory, but would struggle to conquer the stronghold at the centre of the kingdom. The defeated king would retreat to his castle and rejuvenate his army ready to push out and regain the territory that has been lost.

If the king hid in his castle and didn’t try to retake the territory that the enemy king had stolen, his kingdom would shrink and eventually disappear. Any loyal citizens living in the lost territory would be robbed and beaten by enemy soldiers. Even if they went to the castle once a week to honour their king, they would eventually get tired of being harassed and begrudgingly accept the authority of the enemy king who dominated their lives.

Jesus Needs Territory

Most Christians have failed to understand the importance of territory for the spiritual struggle we are engaged in. Whereas the early Christians were “together in one place”, we have scattered ourselves in houses far from each other. We go to church once a week to honour Jesus, but have not bothered to establish evil-spirit-free places where Jesus’ authority is recognised.

The spiritual powers of evil understand the importance of territory. The powerful ones have become “principalities and powers” controlling nations and kingdoms by dominating the kings and political leaders with authority over them. Lesser spirits control small areas where they have been given authority.

Jesus now has many followers in the world, but very little territory where he has authority. There are very few places where he is king. Instead, his followers are scattered throughout territory that is controlled by the enemy. Because we live and work in enemy territory, we are often battered, beaten and robbed.

A king without a territory is not a real king. He is just a dreamer. If there are no areas on earth that are evil-spirit free, then Jesus does not have a kingdom on earth. He just has people living in enemy territory, who have given allegiance to him. This should disturb us. Jesus needs followers who understand the importance of territory.

Clearing Territory

The Kingdom of God expands as Jesus’ followers push the spiritual powers of evil out of territory and bring it under his authority. Once the importance of territory is understood, the keys to a successful strategy become clear.

Implementing this strategy will require a different kind of church. Driving to a church meeting once a week will not be enough. God is calling his people to establish neighbourhood churches to win back territory. A neighbourhood church is a group people living close together in the same location, loving one another and serving Jesus in the power of the Spirit.

Each neighbourhood church will be led by a team of elders with complementary gifts. They will be united by love for Jesus and each other. They will disciple those who have chosen to follow Jesus and build relationships between them.

Each neighbourhood church should be attached to a particular locality and there can be as many churches as there are different localities. Ideally, there should only be one church in each location and each location should have just one church.

Retaking Territory

Neighbourhood churches are the key to retaking territory for Jesus, so efforts to establish them will have to be quite deliberate. The next few sections describe one way this can be done. However, the Holy Spirit is creative and can do it in dozens of different ways, if his people listen to his voice.

The Holy Spirit will usually begin when a few friends who have learned to trust each choosing to do something new and better in a new place. They should have giftings that complement each other. One will be passionate about sharing the gospel, while another might be more visionary. At least one will have a shepherd’s heart. Despite their differences, they will have learned to serve Jesus in unity.

The friends will move to a neighbourhood where the Holy Spirit is working. Ideally, they will know someone living in the neighbourhood who is open to the gospel and has many friends there. This is the person of peace described by Jesus (Luke 10:6).

In this context, a neighbourhood is not a large suburb, but a street, a block or cluster of houses. The people sharing in a neighbourhood church must live within walking distance of each other, so they can share their resources and serve each together. They will not be the only people in the locality, but will leave room for others to live amongst them and watch how they live.

Elders

Once the neighbourhood church starts to grow, new believers will recognise the people who moved into the street as elders. They will teach them how to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus.

One of the elders will watch over each Christian living in the neighbourhood, but they will not be heavy-handed. They will mostly just pray for them. The elders will ensure that everyone in the neighbourhood church is growing into their ministry.

The elders will be committed to unity. When making a decision that could affect the advance of the gospel, they will always check with each other, before taking action. When division comes into the body, they will act to restore peace and unity.

The elders will be committed to loving and serving everyone in their neighbourhood. They will be welcome everywhere, because they do good to those in need, but do not impose their standards on those they bless.

A neighbourhood church is a network of relationships between people living close together and watched over by a team of elders who are united in love for Jesus.

Spiritual Stronghold

Territory is critical to the Government of God. God has given humans authority on earth, so he needs places where people have given him permission to work. Like other kings, he establishes a stronghold of safety and pushes out into new territory.

To defeat the spiritual powers of evil, God needs places where his people have given the Holy Spirit full freedom to operate. A single house or a church building does not give him much scope. The Holy Spirit will be more effective, if his followers establish a stronghold in a group of dwellings close to each other.

The best way to take territory for Jesus is a group of his followers living close together in one place. Living in unity in the same place expands their spiritual authority, because Jesus promises to be there with them.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matt 18:20).

They have authority in their homes. By standing together, they have authority to force the spiritual powers of evil to leave the vicinity of their homes.

A small group of believers living at the same location, united by love and submitted to Jesus can resist the spiritual powers of evil and force them to flee some territory.

Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in the spiritual realms (Mat 18:18).

When three or four families who are united by their love of Jesus and empowered by the Spirit move to a place and live close to each other, they can drive out the spiritual powers of evil that control it. If one family had moved on their own, they would struggle, because the powers of evil could concentrate to pick them off.

If the people living in a cluster of dwellings follow Jesus and stand together against the spiritual powers of evil, they can establish an evil-spirit-free zone where the Holy Spirit is free to work and a neighbourhood church can emerge. The people in the six darker shaded houses have chosen to follow Jesus. The lightly shaded area is an evil-spirit-free zone, where the Holy Spirit can operate freely.

Unlike other kings, God will not expand his territory using force to gain control of people (He will only use force against the spiritual powers of evil). His influence increases as his people:

Once a spiritual stronghold has been established, the Holy Spirit will be able to move freely. When the friends share their faith, the Holy Spirit will confirm their words with gifts of healing. Everyone will see what is happening and some will choose to follow Jesus.

Each new believer will be taught to do Jesus’ will by listening to the Holy Spirit. Before long, they will be sharing the gospel in the power of the Spirit with their neighbours and friends.

As more people choose to follow Jesus, the spiritual stronghold will expand in the neighbourhood and the intensity of the Holy Spirit’s presence will increase. Healings will be more frequent and the gospel will be more effective. As more people choose to follow Jesus, a new neighbourhood church will emerge and the territory under his authority will grow.

When residents of the surrounding houses choose to follow Jesus, they can join with their believing neighbours to squeeze the spiritual powers of evil out of the area where they live. The territory where Holy Spirit is free to work expands and the authority of Jesus grows.

Jesus needs teams of followers who understand the importance of territory. By living close together, they can work with the Holy Spirit to drive the spiritual powers of evil out of the area where they live.

Apostolic Team

When the neighbourhood church has grown to about forty adults and their families, the elders will prepare to move out and start again. An apostolic team will be sent to a place where followers of Jesus are already having an impact on their neighbours. The following principles should apply to an apostolic team.

This apostolic approach can be applied and repeated anywhere. If the Holy Spirit is moving powerfully, most neighbourhood churches will quickly get to a point where they can send out an apostolic team to start again in a new locality. After several years, some apostolic teams will have moved on three or four times and established new neighbourhood churches in several places.

Establishing a beachhead in a strategic locality and then expanding outward is a very effective way to take control of territory. As neighbourhood churches expand and multiply, the territory where Jesus is acknowledged as king will expand.

Kingdom Communities

Each neighbourhood church consisted of a group of forty or fifty adults following Jesus together in the same location, but that is not the ultimate goal. For the Kingdom of God to come, neighbourhood churches must be transformed into Kingdom Communities that can reshape their neighbourhood.

Modern societies are shaped and controlled from the centre by human government. When human governments collapse, the situation will be ripe for the Holy Spirit to do something special. Social and civic services will shrink, and people who depend on them will find themselves in dire circumstances.

Neighbourhood churches will fill the gap by taking over all the roles currently undertaken by human governments. Everything that the human government is failing to do, the neighbourhood church will do better, but without force or coercion. When the neighbourhood church has replaced the human government in their neighbourhood, it has become a Kingdom Community.

Modern human government have taken on four main roles: social support, justice, protection and defence. They do none of these well. As human governments struggle under the stress of traumatic events, neighbourhood churches will step up and take responsibility for these tasks, but in a totally different way.

Neighbourhood churches will already have been providing financial support and physical protection for followers of Jesus. Elders will have been resolving disputes between the people they are watching over. A neighbourhood church becomes a Kingdom Community when these services are offered to the rest of the community, but without using Imposed Authority.

A Kingdom Community will provide financial support, justice and protection for everyone living in the community. People who have not accepted the gospel will let the elders of the neighbourhood church serve them. They will often accept their authority because they recognise their love and integrity.

Neighbourhood churches should prepare for the future by transforming into Kingdom Communities.

1. Welfare

Modern governments are deeply entwined in the economies they control. When they collapse, economies will be devastated. People who depended on government welfare will find that their economic support is gone.

Followers of Jesus will have lived simply, so a neighbourhood church should have spare resources. They will commit to serving everyone in their street facing financial difficulty. The neighbourhood church will provide financial support to everyone in need, even those who have rejected Jesus. Providing support for people who were hostile to their message will be a tremendous witness .

2. Justice

Theft and violence hurt people and undermine the cohesiveness of a society. Local judges applying God’s laws against theft and violence are the best solution.

Participants in a neighbourhood church will take their disputes to their elders. If one demonstrates a gift of wisdom, the other elders will refer difficult cases to them. Residents within the community will bring their disputes to this elder.

When reports of the elder’s wisdom spread, they will gain credibility beyond their community. More and more people will bring disputes to them. The elder will be recognised as a judge, as people discover their wisdom and bring disputes for resolution.

Elders in a Kingdom Community can only offer voluntary justice, because they do not have legal authority to enforce their decisions. Their authority comes from the respect that they have in their neighbourhood. .

3. Physical Protection

The neighbourhood church will take responsibility for keeping the people safe for protecting their neighbourhood from attack. They will provide protection for everyone, including those who have rejected the gospel.

If dangerous people come into the neighbourhood, they will be noticed quickly, because everyone will know each other. The people of the community will gather to pray. Others will talk with the intruders and offer them food and help. When the intruders see the unity of the people, they will usually go off to look for easier pickings.

Other Needs

The Kingdom Community will take up other tasks that are currently seen as the responsibility of the government. As human government collapses, the followers of Jesus will endeavour to meet all needs that emerge into their neighbourhood. They will take responsibility for education, sanitation, rubbish collection road maintenance, etc. Some of these roles will be done by new businesses that emerge in the community.

Meeting the needs of so many people will be costly, but giving for the service of others is normal for the followers of Jesus. It is another way of taking up the cross to follow Jesus.

As the neighbourhood church freely provides more and more of the services that were previously provided by the civil government, everyone in the neighbourhood will be influenced. The leadership of the elders organising these services will be recognised by everyone in their neighbourhood. People who have rejected the gospel will acknowledge their wisdom, because they are dedicated to serving their community.

Citizens and Residents

A kingdom is a territory where a king exercises authority. Two categories of people live within the territory of a kingdom.

David was resident in Saul’s kingdom, but his allegiance was to God. Shimei the son of Gera was a resident of David’s kingdom, but he was a not a citizen, because he remained loyal to Saul (2 Sam 16:5-14). Ziba the steward of Mephibosheth was a citizen, because he remained loyal even when David was being pushed out of his kingdom (2 Sam 16:1-4).

In the same way, two categories of people live within a Kingdom Community.

Citizens will support the work of the Spirit by loving and sharing with the residents of their neighbourhood. They will provide justice, support and protection for anyone with a need, free of charge and control. However, residents will have to acknowledge the authority of the elders of the neighbourhood church to receive these benefits.

Participation in the activities of a Kingdom Community will always be voluntary. However, when residents freely submit to the elders to obtain the benefits provided, they will be submitting to the authority of Jesus, even if they have not acknowledged him as their Lord.

Different Standards

Kingdom society will operate at two levels with different standards of behaviour.

  1. Citizens will be spread through society.  They are expected to live by the gospel standards described in the Sermon on the Mount, because they have the gift of the Spirit.

    • Love one another
    • Turn the other cheek
    • Give to those who ask for help.

    This type of behaviour should be normal for Christians, but it will not be expected from those who have rejected Jesus.

  2. The Kingdom society will have many non-Christians within it.  The standard for residents is the core of God’s law.

    • No stealing
    • No assault
    • No murder

    Nothing more will be expected of non-Christians.  They will often benefit from Christian love, but they will not be expected to live by Christian standards.

Jesus’ Territory

A Kingdom Community will become territory where most of the people freely submit to the authority of Jesus, either as citizens or residents.

The territory that belongs to Jesus will expand as the authority situation in the neighbourhood changes.

Taken together, this means that many of the people in the neighbourhood are submitted to God’s will most of the time, and most for much of the time. The Government of God has come, because his will is being done within the territory covered by the Kingdom Community.

Yeast

Society cannot be transformed from the top down by changing the government. The Government of God will emerge as Kingdom Communities transform society by spreading out from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, like yeast in kneaded dough.

He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matt 13:33).

The yeast is almost invisible, but as the woman kneads the flour, it spreads through the dough and transforms it into bread. The Kingdom of God gradually spreads throughout society like yeast hidden in flour.

The first Kingdom Communities will be hidden in isolated places that no one cares about. God does not work in the centres of power, but on the margins of society where worldly wisdom does not go. Because Imposed Authority is avoided, most people will not even realise that a new government is emerging.

The more the dough is kneaded, the more the yeast will spread. During tough times when everyone is struggling, Kingdom Communities will grow stronger and stronger.

When the political, business, religious and spiritual powers entwined together at the centre collapse, Kingdom Communities that have been invisible on the edge of society will multiply and grow. God’s invisible kingdom will spread out from community to community and neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

Each new Kingdom Community will be a beachhead from which it can be launched into the next neighbourhood. The good news will spread from house to house. An entire society can be transformed, person by person, household by household, locality by locality.

Kingdom Communities will multiply and grow. As they push out the spiritual powers of evil, the territory that is loyal to Jesus will be enlarged.

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