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The Alternate Life Collection

Posted by Tim Isbell, this webpage is also accessible by typing into any browser.

If you've been following my site for long, you've undoubtedly noticed the terms Alternate Life, Alternate Community, and The Alternate Kingdom quite a bit. These concepts are key to my understanding of how to live between kingdoms, that is, how to reside at an address squarely in a kingdom of this world while living as a citizen of God's Kingdom. As it turns out, the Bible provides a treasure of guidance for exactly this kind of life which many of us are called to live every day. Understanding God's story and my story within God's story is the key ingredient informing my lifestyle and ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area.

These concepts and understandings are not of my own invention. I have borrowed from many Christian thinkers. You'll find them referenced throughout the material. I strongly encourage you to read their material.

This web page summarizes the basic concepts behind the Alternate Life Collection. Lower down on the page are links to various ways to package this idea into sermons and classroom settings. But first, let's unpack the overarching concept.

When preaching or speaking about The Alternate Life, I often use the icon below (modified slightly from Guder) to illustrate how the Fellowship of Believers fits into the Christian faith.

Blue Arrow indicates that God’s Reign is going someplace.

God is moving all of his creation from the kingdoms of this world to his Alternate Kingdom. It’s a Spirit-created political body where whatever God wants to be done gets done - where things are as he originally intended. It has an alternative vocabulary, calendar, politics, economics, sexuality, leadership style, and citizens of this Kingdom use power differently. Its people willingly endure hardships as they live as citizens of God’s Alternate Kingdom, but reside at postal addresses in kingdoms of this world. As hard as it is for people to accept, the Bible teaches that someday all other kingdoms will disappear, and only God’s Peaceable Reign will remain. 

Fellowship of Believers oval is where we grow closer to God and each other.

This Fellowship is at the very heart of living the Alternate Life of God. The main difference between Fellowship people and the rest of humanity is that Fellowship people believe and acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of all the earth, and Fellowship people choose to live daily in this reality. We are “early adopters” of a future day when all that remains is God’s Peaceable Reign. It is not so much the lordship of Jesus Christ that distinguishes the citizens of the Fellowship from the world, but it's the confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ. The whole world has a universal Lord; many just don’t know it, and others reject the concept. 

In many congregations, the Fellowship of Believers is a small core of about 30 people (adults and a few older teens).  They accept their assignment to live as a tangible Body of Christ - a place where the Reign of God and the kingdoms of this world intersect. They worship God together, learn together, and serve together. They pray for one another, celebrate and do life together. Through the ways they live their lives, they invite others to the Fellowship, the Alternate Kingdom, and God's church. Apart from weekly worship, at least every few weeks Fellowship people have some practice of meeting for fellowship and encouragement. In multi-congregational churches, God’s Holy Spirit connects the Fellowships of each congregation to the others (often which worship in different languages). The Holy Spirit also joins churches together around the world. This network of Fellowships of Believers at the core of local congregations and churches of every Christian tradition around the world IS the real Kingdom of God’s Reign on Earth in our time.

Church oval is a group of people sampling and considering life in God’s Peaceable Reign.

I use the term "congregation" because it is consistent with my multi-cultural church experience. New Life Nazarene Church is a single church comprised of three groups (English, Mandarin, Cantonese). Due to the language barrier, it seems best to think of each congregation as having its own Fellowship of Believers at its core.

Context means the world we live in every day.

Context includes all the residents in the kingdoms of this world, including our friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors (FRANs) and beyond.

Alternate Life preaching/teaching material

Click on a title below to link to the detail on that packaging option.

Alternate Life, a 4-sermon series

This is the most robust of the series. Its first two sermons are from Daniel, then one from the Gospels, and the third is from the rest of the New Testament.

4000 Years and Still..., a 2-sermon series

The first sermon, "4000 Years and Still Growing" follows the progression of God building his Alternate Kingdom from Abram through Pentecost, with a significant focus on Daniel 7. The second, "4000 Years and Still Worshiping," traces the progression of worship through this same period.

History is Going Someplace (to the Alternate Kingdom), a sermon

This one is the 7th sermon that I preached as part of the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series. Eventually, it and the following one led to the Alternate Life Collection of sermons. 

Living in God's Kingdom - Now, a sermon

This is the 8th sermon that I preached as part of the 10 Big Ideas of Christian Faith series. Eventually, it and the previous one led to the Alternate Life Collection of sermons. 

Politics of Worship, a sermon

This one uses Revelation to get at the concepts of how the Alternate Life intersects with worship in the middle of an unfriendly context. The last section may be controversial in some churches.

When Resident Aliens Drift, a sermon

Here's a stand-alone sermon, that interprets God's call to Abram as a call to launch a colony of Resident Aliens. God is longsuffering about their frequent drifting off-course and eventually sends his son into the world as the only Resident Alien, who never drifted. 

Citizenship, a sermon

This sermon leans heavily on 2 Kings 3 (a typical OT story of life in the world of the kings) and 2 Kings 4.1-7 ( typical OT story of life in the world of the King). And it makes an unexpected connection to Jeremiah and the time after Babylonia overruns Jerusalem and Judah. My intention in this sermon was to lift up a hurting congregation by showing them their significance as part of God's Kingdom. The thesis: God’s Kingdom is a body of fully-devoted citizens residing as resident aliens in kingdoms of this world.

Jeremiah/Lamentations teaching notes, a classroom teaching series

This is a 13 session series I taught in May through October of 2018. It is part of my Alternate Life Collection because it unpacks the prophecies of Jeremiah written to the Jews who had been deported to Babylon on how to live between the Kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of God. 

Kingdom Politics teaching notes, a classroom teaching series

This is a teaching series I am currently (2/2018) teaching. It is based on material from 2 Kings, which was likely written by Jeremiah as a way to help the Jews who had been deported to Babylon on how to live between the Kingdom of Babylon and the Kingdom of God. 

Where these Alternate Life concepts originated

The starting point for all my Alternate Life/Community/Kingdom concepts was private conversations with Dr. Ron Benefiel. At the time he was the President of Nazarene Theological Seminary; he now serves as a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, CA). I also benefited from interactions with Dr. Dean Flemming. At the time he was a New Testament lecturer at European Nazarene University; now the New Testament professor at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe, KS. Both men pointed me toward several helpful books: Missional Church by Darrell Guder, Evangelism after Christendom by Bryan Stone, several books of N.T. Wright including Simply Christian and Simply Jesus, Resident Aliens by Hauerwas and Willimon, Whose Religion is Christianity? - the Gospel beyond the West by Lamin Sanneh. And if you read Dallas Willard, you will also notice his influence throughout the material.

More recently (9/2018) I ran across this excellent article in Christian Century magazine, Can Christians Transform Culture. It is a book review of a new book in this genre. The review provides fresh insight and references to other publications on the Kingdom of God relates to the contemporary cultures of this world. 

Blessings, Tim

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