What the Kingdom Is and Isn’t: A Review

Everyone who has read the Gospels knows that Jesus talks a lot about the kingdom of God (“kingdom of heaven” in Matthew). What kind of kingdom was this? Was it something to be looked for in the future? Was it something to be looked for in the present? And why don’t Christians tend to talk about the kingdom as much as Jesus did?

Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, answers all these questions and more in his book This Beautiful Mess: Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom of God. The first edition of this book was released in 2006, and a revised and updated version was published in July 2013.

The book comes in three parts: “Discovering the Kingdom,” in which McKinley describes what the kingdom of God is; “Re-Visioning Life in the Kingdom,” in which he describes where to look for it; and “Practicing the Presence of the Kingdom,” in which he describes some ways in which Christians can live out the kingdom today. Imago Dei Community embraces the arts, and most chapters end with a brief poem or creative bit of prose from a member of the community.

This book is short (less than 200 pages) and readable. McKinley writes in a conversational and accessible tone, using no footnotes. McKinley’s description of the kingdom of God as “already and not yet” will not come as news to people who have read New Testament scholars such as N. T. Wright, Scot McKnight (who are not mentioned in the book), or George Eldon Ladd (who is)—or, indeed, the New Testament itself. His emphasis on discipleship carries echoes of Dallas Willard. This book will be most valuable to those who are looking for an accessible introduction to what the kingdom is, and how to live out its beauty today—in the midst of the mess.

★ ★ ★ ★

Note: Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for a review copy of this book. I was not asked to give a positive review.