Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church
By John Nugent
We will be reading through the book this month, and posting discussion questions as we go. We hope you will read along with us, and share your thoughts and questions. (Or, even better, get a group of people at your church to read through the book together!)
NOTE: Our read-along of this book will likely go through the end of December…
Here are some quotes and questions, please use the comments below to share your own thoughts and questions.
Chapter 17: Fellowship
“The distinguishing feature of the “one another” practices (in the NT) is reciprocity. These are not practices that a few people do on behalf of the whole body. They are how all members relate to one another. It’s not enough for leaders to accept the members; members need to accept their leaders and all other members. It’s not enough for the clergy to forgive the sins of those who come to confession; members need to forgive one another.” (138)
How well does your church practice this sort of reciprocity? It what ways does it do so?
“The kingdom cannot mean any less for us today. We still live in a world in which people regularly experience discrimination at work, school, and home. We still live in a world where race, gender, age, pedigree, and net worth confer privilege and deny access. People still yearn to be part of a community that appreciates them for who they are, welcomes them into a life of flourishing that revolves around something bigger than themselves, and includes others who are not like them. People long to be at the center of the meaning of world history despite their inadequacies. They long to experience God’s kingdom in real life.
What would it look like for a church to fellowship like that? What sorts of structures would foster the genuine togetherness of God’s kingdom?” (139)
Discuss the two questions that Nugent raises at the end of this passage.
“Developing and maintaining this kind of fellowship can seem like a lot of work. Intimate relationships require time, energy, and devotion. Again, these observations are true. That’s the “bad news,” if you want to call it that.
The opportunity for new life in Christ and the better place he has created is good news. And it gets even better. We don’t have to create these relationships. God has already forged the new humanity. Our task
is to embrace and enjoy God’s good gift. Our job isn’t to make relationships grow. It’s to have faith that God has already accomplished that task and then plan our lives accordingly. If we don’t have time to truly share our lives with fellow believers, then our root problem is faith. If we don’t make time to truly love and prioritize one another in devoted Christian fellowship, we don’t really believe that we have been raised to newness of life together.” (142)
Chapter 18: Family Relationships
“The New Testament thus appears to be sending mixed signals about family. On the one hand, the family cannot come before God’s kingdom. On the other hand, we must remain faithfully devoted to our families. Some have resolved this tension by suggesting that there are two Christian paths. Those who can handle it should dissolve blood ties and live radical single lives of unhindered devotion to the Lord. Those who cannot stomach this should get married, live a family-centered life, and seek the kingdom less fervently.” (149)
What are we to make of the “mixed signals” that the NT offers on how we to relate to our families? How does this shape the ways in which we live out our faith?
“This approach has its merits. Both Jesus and Paul invited people to a single life even as they conceded that most people will not accept it (Matt 19:10–12; 1 Cor 7:7–40). Those who embrace singleness are certainly freer in many ways to pursue the kingdom with their time, energy, and resources. But this approach does not go far enough. It implies that those who marry are off the hook for radical discipleship and may seek God’s kingdom second rather than first.” (149-150)
How are we to understand the role of singleness/marriage in the life of the local church? How does it affect our seeking of God’s kingdom?
“We thus learn from Jesus that we are not called to ditch our families and replace them with the church. The point is that our sense of family changes as the kingdom community becomes central. The kingdom does not force us to abandon our biological families, even though the centrality of the kingdom in our lives may cause them to abandon us (1 Cor 7:15). Those who reject God’s kingdom will certainly reject its prominent place in our lives. This is how the kingdom brings a sword to families (Matt 10:34–36). Those who believe that birth family comes first will feel threatened by the priority we give to church life. Jesus experienced this firsthand and he said that his followers would, too.” (151)
Do you agree or disagree with Nugent’s assessment here?
Chapter 19: Friendship
“Jesus teaches us two important truths about friendship in [John 15:12-17]. First, friends love one another. Jesus defines that love radically: the greatest act of love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. This is a key difference between shallow relationships and true friendship. Christians are not selfish with their friends. They are self-giving, even to the point of death.
Second, Christian friendship is rooted in being about the same thing, and we can’t be about the same thing unless we fully disclose ourselves to one another.” (158)
“Here’s the point: in the kingdom, friendship isn’t rooted in shared hobbies, taste in movies, sense of humor, or even good chemistry; it is rooted in a common commitment to God’s reign. Since that reign is all-encompassing, those who are obsessed with it find themselves caring about the same things, living by the same principles, and valuing the same goods.” (159)
How well do we embody Jesus’s understanding of friendship in our local churches?
“It is important to note, however, that Jesus himself never called unbelievers his friends. He only identified as friends those who embraced his kingdom legacy. He honored all people—even his enemies—and he made time for them. But Jesus didn’t call them his friends. He made clear to everyone, including his family, that kingdom-seeking people came first.” (160-161)
What does Jesus’ example mean for us as we relate to those who do not share our faith?