Bringing God’s Kingdom to Earth

by Bethany Wagner ’14

For centuries Christians have prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” But what would God’s Kingdom look like today, in the 21st century? How would the everyday Christ-follower live? The Divine Conspiracy: Continued (HarperOne, 2014), coauthored by the late theologian Dallas Willard and Gary Black Jr., Ph.D., APU theology professor, poses powerful, practical answers to these questions.

In 1997, Willard published The Divine Conspiracy widely recognized as a seminal piece of theological literature across many different sectors of American Christianity. In it, Willard argued that the Gospel of Christ transcends doctrine. Instead, the Gospel is about living a life based upon the values of God’s Kingdom and a relationship with Christ.

The Divine Conspiracy:Continued extends this message while focusing on Christians’ vocations. “This book helps people—specifically Christian leaders—live out their vocations in light of the reality of God’s Kingdom,” said Black. “We need people who know Jesus in law, politics, medicine, business, and academia, and on the cutting-edge of the science and technology driving our world. These systems won’t be fixed by human solutions—they require the wisdom of Jesus.”

“We need disciples in every area of society to minister right where they are, living as Jesus would live in their professions, in their neighborhoods, in their volunteerism, everywhere.” –Gary Black Jr.

Willard and Black both recognized the gap between Sunday and Monday as one of the greatest struggles facing the Church. “We can compartmentalize our life into the secular and sacred, so that we live out our faith at church, but not at work,” said Black. “We need disciples in every area of society to minister right where they are, living as Jesus would live in their professions, in their neighborhoods, in their volunteerism, everywhere.”

Once an employee of a high-ranking global investment firm, Black knows firsthand the challenges of following Christ in everyday circumstances. “I fell into the trap of thinking ‘evangelizing’ only meant inviting people to church. I eventually found I could minister through managing finances, serving clients, encouraging my co-workers, and making important decisions seeking both love and honesty.”

Black first met Willard at a conference not long after college graduation. He was never the same. “Dallas knew Jesus as if He were his next-door neighbor—just as completely as the disciples did,” said Black. “You could almost smell the fish on his clothes, like he had just come from the Sea of Galilee and time with Christ. After hearing him speak, I really believed I could actually know Jesus as a person.”

Twenty years after that first meeting, Black went on to complete his doctoral dissertation on Willard’s writings and influence, becoming his good friend through the research process. During that time, Black also uncovered many of Willard’s not-yet-published writings and suggested these ideas be shared with the world.

A few months later, shortly after receiving a cancer diagnosis, Willard chose his next and final project: a book to continue what The Divine Conspiracy started. And he wanted Black to serve as a coauthor. “To work side-by-side with Willard was a dream come true and a great honor,” said Black. “He truly lived what he believed, practicing daily what he knew, wrote, and spoke.”

Black finished their draft of The Divine Conspiracy: Continued 8 just six weeks after Willard passed away on May 8, 2013. “Throughout the process, Dallas and I spoke as friends about our mortality and future in heaven,” said Black. “It was incredible to be with him during his last days.” Those conversations inspired Black’s next writing project, a book about eternal life.

A little more than a year after Willard’s passing, The Divine Conspiracy: Continued was finally published. “It was a big responsibility—to steward his ideas as best I can,” Black said. “I believe in his vision for life in the kingdom. Revelation 11:15 reads, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ’ [NASB].I believe that is the primary objective Christ has for his church.”