Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Annan
Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Annan is a book which asks the reader to consider practices for doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly in the world. Although Annan never states it, Micah 6:8 is the lens through which he views living the Christian life. Annan challenges the reader to participate in the coming Kingdom (Mark 1:15) (13). Annan suggests that the Kingdom of God is not coming when Jesus returns. Instead, Jesus’ prayer for “Thy kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven” should happen today. However, it takes time (19).
Annan defines the mission in terms of Luke 4:18, not the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 (22). Luke 4:18 and Matthew 28:19-20 form the bookends of Jesus’ mission. They both must be advanced. Annan suggests five practices which will bring about the Kingdom of God. He shows how they apply to individuals (24) as well as non-profits and the church (25).
FIVE PRACTICES WHICH WILL BRING THE KINGDOM OF GOD
1. Attention (Matthew 26:38)
Annan wants us to awaken to justice. I would have used other verses as this verse is about the impending capture and crucifixion of Jesus (27). Annan suggests that attention to justice should lead to the deepening of our spiritual lives (39).
2. Confession (2 Peter 3:9)
Confession, the second practice, is the posture for engaging. Annan reminds us of the challenge from Matthew 6:1-4 about the temptation to do justice in a very public way in today’s social media world. He says this temptation comes from Mount Zuckerberg (Facebook) (50). Confession breeds humility (52) so that we can humbly lift up others and be wary of being the hero of our own stories. Practicing confession allows us to experience deeper joy while working for justice (57).
3. Respect (Romans 12:10)
The third practice is to give respect. Respect means that we love one another and show them honor. It is the golden rule for helping (63). Unwillingness to pay the cost of respect can cause us to engage in cheap compassion. Like cheap grace (per Bonhoeffer’s book The Cost of Discipleship), cheap compassion is compassion without God’s power (72). Relationships allow our imaginations to transform sympathy into empathy and compassion to respect (73). Respect takes effort and discomfort. We have to get involved in other people’s lives. Martin Luther King Jr. quote from Strive Toward Freedom is compelling here (77).
“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”
Annan states that respect is a nice summary of the Golden Rule (79). Annan describes and encourages the practice of lectio divina as a way to develop respect for others. It led the author to see the importance of (1) listening, (2) imagining, and (3) promoting rights as a way of developing respect for others (81-82).
4. Partnering (Philippians 1:4-5)The fourth practice is partnering (83-102). There is four kinds of partnering: (1) rescue partnership, which helps save people, (2) fix-it partnership which tries to help fix other people’s problems. These two practices don’t work well in the long-term. Instead, we need to develop a (3) equal agency partnership which benefits both partners and finally (4) partnering with God (85). Partnering, not competing, is how we are supposed to relate with one another (99).
5. Truthing (John 8:32)
The fifth practice is “truthing”. Annan quotes David Foster Wallace:
“The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.”
Annan states that love without truth is a boat without a rudder (103-120). Annan then gives a definition and practice of truthing. One checks the assessment against reality on the ground (104). For slow Kingdom coming, one must also engage in truthing – going back between the big picture and feet on the ground. He gives an example of verifying the prosperity gospel (105). Truthing can help one cast out fear (1 John 4:18) (107). Annan compares examples of truthing in missions (108) to examples in literature: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (109).
Annan states (110) that “we practice truthing so we can better see what acts of love are actually bearing fruit.” Truthing is a form of evaluation for the sake of love (113). Following a discussion of the purpose and ways of truthing, Annan shares what he believes are the building blocks of a thriving community (115).
SIX BUILDING BLOCKS OF A THRIVING COMMUNITY
- The True (Human knowledge and learning)
The Good (Social Mores Ethics)
The Beautiful (Creativity, Aesthetics, and Design)
The Prosperous (Economic Life)
The Just and Well-Ordered (Political and Civic Life)
The Sustainable (Natural and Physical Health)
Annan challenges the reader to practice faithfully even when we’re overwhelmed (Matthew 6:33). We have to practice these practices (121). Gratitude cultivates joy and can help sustain us through the inevitable failures. Gratitude often seems very much like faith, which leads us to practice attention, confession, respect, partnering and truthing. And we keep practicing (130). Annan summarizes that the reader is invited to practice bravely because it leads to deep change (133). Annan ends the book with a helpful appendix (134) which contains study guides, resources, and how these five practices work together.
Kent Annan has written a great book about how to personally get involved in bringing God’s Kingdom to pass. Unfortunately, he seems to say that if we participate in these practices, God’s Kingdom will be like it is in Heaven. Yet, that won’t happen until Jesus returns. However, that shouldn’t stop Christians from trying to make this world a better place. With Slow Kingdom Coming, Annan shows Christians how we can slowly prepare for God’s kingdom to come. I join Annan in that desire. As John says in Revelation 22:20 – Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!