I get asked this question pretty frequently, usually in response to me challenging Christians to live missionally and be involved in “building the Kingdom.”

It’s a very reasonable question, and a humble one. The heart behind it is basically “It’s God’s Kingdom, so isn’t in arrogant to think that we can build it? Isn’t that something that only God can do?”

Yes and no.

Yes, only God can actually accomplish the work of building the Kingdom. No human being, however well-intentioned or gifted, can actually build God’s Kingdom on their own. So if the question is “can I build God’s Kingdom without His involvement?”, then yes, it would be incredibly arrogant to answer in the affirmative.

But if what we mean to ask is “can God use me to build His Kingdom and does He call me to work diligently towards that end?”, then no, there is no arrogance inherent in thinking that we can do so.

The issue here is really what we mean by “the Kingdom”.

Think of it this way: the Kingdom of God is the sphere in which God’s reign is recognized and respected. See, a kingdom is, by definition, that place where a king’s authority is accepted, submitted to and assumed to dictate a variety of things about how life shall be lived. The King of Spain is still a king regardless of the fact that Americans don’t obey him…because America is not part of the King of Spain’s kingdom. It is not part of the sphere in which his reign is recognized and respected (in the sense of obedience).

Now, of course, God is King whether or not anyone recognizes and respects this fact, but because He has graciously given us the opportunity to submit to His authority or not, God’s king-ship does not automatically extend to every person on earth…at least not at present.

So as we share the Gospel, we are working to extend the sphere – one person at a time – in which God’s reign is recognized and respected. And in that sense we are absolutely working to build the Kingdom of God. We’re not the architects or the owners, but we are absolutely privileged partners in the work of its expansion.