Kingdom Building

Kingdom building must happen everywhere: rural communities, small towns, and large cities.

Ivan Leigh Warden, DMin, is an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

Ellen G. White had a passion for kingdom building in the cities. She often spoke of and even experienced thought-provoking dreams about its vital importance. White recalled the following dream:

“I dreamed that several of our brethren were in counsel considering plans of labor for this season. They thought it best not to enter the large cities, but to begin work in small places, remote from the cities; here they would meet less opposition from the clergy and would avoid great expense. They reasoned that our ministers, being few in number, could not be spared to instruct and care for those who might accept the truth in the cities, and who, because of the greater opposition they would there meet, would need more help than would the churches in small country places. Thus the fruit of giving a course of lectures in the city would, in a great measure, be lost. Again, it was urged that, because of our lim­ited means, and because of the many changes from moving that might be expected from a church in a large city, it would be difficult to build up a church that would be a strength to the cause. My husband was urging the brethren to make broader plans without delay, and put forth, in our large cities, extended and thorough effort that would better correspond to the character of our message. One worker related incidents of his experience in the cities, showing that the work was nearly a failure, but he testified to better success in the small places.” 1

Kingdom building must happen everywhere: in rural communities, small towns, and large cities.

“There once was a time when big cities thrilled and amazed people. It is the metropolis of the universe, the garden of the world,” Arab histo­rian Ibn Khaldum wrote of Cairo in 1382. English traveler Thomas Coryat described Renaissance Venice as a “beautiful queen.” French artist Marcel Duchamp, in 1915, called New York City “a Complete Work of Art.” Since their appearances around 3,000 cities have always been the natural center of everything that mattered: the temple, the court, the market, the university. For anyone with a particle of ambition, there was little choice but to be in the city. Even though cities have been the fountains of civilization, many thinkers, from Rousseau to Jefferson to Thoreau, have regarded cities as the source of corruption and evil. “The universal myths of earliest Edens are always set in the country; the city is what happens after sin sets in.”2

Jesus gives ample evidence about His kingdom. “When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting” (Prov. 11:10).3 Everyone is eligible to become a member of the kingdom. The kingdom concept is past, present, and future. Speaking in the present, He said, “ ‘Abraham, Isaac and Jacob [are] in the kingdom of heaven’ ” (Matt. 8:11). This speaks of a kingdom past. The kingdom of God is present (Luke 17:21). And the future is represented when we pray, “ ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come’ ” (Matthew 6:9, 10a). Kingdomship has always been available for humankind to choose.

Looking back at Proverbs 11:10, if the city is not rejoicing, what does that say about the righteous? Should the city benefit from the presence of the righteous? The text says Yes.

Pastor Timothy J. Keller, in a ser­mon delivered on January 16, 2005, said: “ ‘The righteous’ [Hebrew is tsad­diqim] are the just, the people who follow God’s heart and ways and who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewards for His purposes. The righteous in the book of Proverbs are by definition those who are willing to disadvantage themselves for the community while the wicked are those who put their own economic, social, and personal needs ahead of the needs of the community.”4

What we can learn from this state­ment is that the righteous give to the city and community justice and peace. There is intentional stewardship of their time, talent, and treasure. Call it a taste of the kingdom.

Revival and reformation leads to kingdom building. People building is kingdom building. Some examples of Christ’s kingdom building are Jesus and the woman at the well (John 4), Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3), and Jesus and the woman of Canaan (Matt. 15). People are very important to God (Matt. 25:35–40). Everywhere you find people, you find an opportunity to build the kingdom.

Martha Rollins, an antique dealer in Richmond, Virginia, was many times voted of owning and running the Best Antique Store. One day Martha began getting serious about her faith.

Her pastor counseled her to use her well-developed vocational skill set to make Richmond a better place. She started driving around the city looking for a place to help. Eventually, she came to the Highland Park community, a sec­tion of the city that needed much love, economic recovery, and development.

God guided her to cross the path of Rosa Jiggets. The two women formed Boaz and Ruth (B & R) Enterprises. With Martha’s leadership, seven businesses were launched. Each employed ex-offenders. They worked in the second harvest store, in moving, in furniture restoration, on eBay, in the restaurant business, and for other B & R enter­prises. There was and continues to be great rejoicing in the Highland Park area of the city.

Pia Cayetano, the youngest mem­ber of the Philippine Senate and one of only three women in the Senate, was a difference maker, a kingdom builder in the Senate. She made sure she was a consistent voice for the underdog, particularly women, children, and senior citizens. She worked to pass legislation to enable the poor to buy economically priced prescription medi­cations and to establish a food and drug administration. Cayetano spoke for the protection of women and children in war areas—especially for those sexu­ally abused by peacekeeping forces.5 Helping people is kingdom building. Many shout and rejoice because of the voice of Cayetano. Using her gifts enabled sections of the city to rejoice.

In 1994, at the age of 20, Wendy Clark from Durham, North Carolina, started a business called Carpe Diem Cleaning. Kingdom values guided her in this business. Most of her employees were single mothers. Clark designed their work schedules to accommodate their needs—keeping in mind day care hours and getting their children back and forth to school. During the summer­time, Wendy holds training sessions for her employees in a rural setting so that their children can attend camp and the adults can also have a little vacation. Thanks to Wendy’s kingdom building, there is much rejoicing in that city.

Are our employees rejoicing because of their work environment? Do they feel and know they are valued? Are our tenants, students, and congrega­tions rejoicing because of our presence?

Minnie McNeil, a nurse by profes­sion, was led by the Holy Spirit in 1988 to acquire some property that included a few buildings. She wanted to be a difference maker, remembering how the Holy Spirit led her in the past. Those buildings are now home to a com­munity education and resource center; transitional and permanent housing for homeless men, and low-income apartments. There is rejoicing right now in the city due to Minnie McNeil listening to the Lord.

In 1982, the late Elder W. W. Fordham became the pastor of the First Coatesville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Though retired, he immediately asked what impact the church was having on the city. He reminded the congregation that churches sit on the best real estate in town without having to pay taxes and that the First Coatesville church should be intentional about giving back for the well-being of the city. He encouraged the church to find the greatest need of the city and see how the church could help. The idea of a shelter was born; and in March 1983, the shelter opened. It served men, women, families, and orphaned children. For the next six years, the shelter was housed in the Sabbath School rooms of the church from Sunday night to Friday morning, until it was moved to a new site.6

Wherever people are, there is potential to build the kingdom of God. Keep on helping people until one day King Jesus will turn and say to those on his right hand, “ ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’ ” (Matt. 25:34).

Go and be about your heavenly Father’s business; be a kingdom builder in your community.


1 Ellen G. White, Ministry to the Cities (Silver Spring, MD: Ellen G. White Estates, 2012).

2 Erla Zwingle, “Cities,” National Geographic Magazine, November 2002.

3 Unless otherwise indicated, scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible.

4 Pastor Timothy J. Keller, in a sermon titled, “Creation Care and Justice,” delivered at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City on January 16, 2005.

5 D. Michael Lindsay, Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).

6 Information obtained in an interview with Minnie McNeil in spring of 2013.

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Ivan Leigh Warden, DMin, is an associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States

June 2014

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