[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”149829166X” locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/41k48pRilfL.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”222″]Our Book of the Month for November is…
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 10: God Calls the Church to Embrace a Better Place
“Though God accomplished the work of inaugurating a new creation and reconciling this world to himself, he makes his appeal to the world through us. He has appointed us his ambassadors. He has no other strategy. If we don’t represent him before the world, the world will not know that it has been reconciled to God.” (78)
“Embracing God’s kingdom means more than saying, “Yes, I want to be part of God’s new world.” It means truly believing that God, in Christ, has made this world new. God’s new world is not readily apparent to unbelievers. This is why Paul says, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (2 Cor 5:17).
This new creation is not some mystical, invisible, disembodied reality. God’s new creation has taken preliminary form in the body of Christ. We are the new world on the way. We are as much of the new order as anyone or anything is currently able to see or experience.” (79)
In what ways do we bear witness to God’s new creation in our church communities? In what ways do we resist bearing witness to the new creation?
The coming of the New Creation:
- We have entered a new era in world history.
- We have entered into a new world reality.
- We have entered into a new life.
- We have entered into a new social reality and set of relationships.
- We have entered into a new way of living.
- We have entered into a new status.
- We have entered into God’s abundant blessings. (79-84)
“For some, this is hard to accept. It seems so utopian, so detached from everyday life. We find it easier to embrace the idea that new life will be available in some distant time and place. Yet God’s better world is exactly what we accept when we enter into Christ. We cannot accept forgiveness of sins and an eternal afterlife without embracing the abundant life and new world that God has called us into even now in the body of Christ.” (84)
Do you find the new creation easy to accept? Why or why not?
Chapter 11: God Calls the Church to Display a Better Place
“We are the model home of God’s kingdom. To the extent that we display God’s kingdom in our life together, God is able to draw people to himself through our witness. Among us they can taste and see the Lord’s goodness. We are the evidence that Jesus has changed the course of world history, that he has already begun a new and better world. This new and better world can be experienced now. We are the foretaste of God’s perfected world to come.” (87)
How attentive is our church to the reality that “we display God’s kingdom in our life together”?
“[ The NT] authors say very little about how believers ought to treat unbelievers. They clearly expect believers to proclaim the gospel to all people, but they also insist that we remain separate from unbelievers and respectful of worldly powers. Scripture is strikingly silent as to how God’s people ought to help out needy unbelievers, improve living conditions for all people in our towns and cities, and speak prophetically to unbelieving institutions that are abusing their power on loan from God.” (89)
Discuss. Consider passages that might be counter-examples (see p. 95-97 for some to start with). Look at them in the fullness of their context. On further examination, do they support this thesis?
“Our loving unity is how God wishes to convince the world that God sent Jesus. It is God’s way of convincing unbelievers that he has intervened in history for the whole world’s sake. Jesus has not glorified us so we can bask in that glory, but so we can reflect his glory to others. He has glorified us so we can be savory salt, bright light, and shining stars—a community that displays his kingdom and his righteousness in every aspect of its life together.” (101-102)
Chapter 12: God Calls the Church to Proclaim a Better Place
“[The writers of the NT] also make clear that verbal proclamation is central to Christian mission. People will not know what God has accomplished in our lives and for the world unless we tell them. They won’t be able to connect the dots simply by observing our good deeds and pious lives.” (107)
Discuss. In what ways does your church proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom?
“When the church’s life is out of step, it needs to focus on in-house proclamation. Its disobedience and disorder indicates that many on the inside have not fully embraced the kingdom. That makes it almost impossible for outsiders to regard the better world that the church proclaims as an attractive offer.” (108)
Discuss. What does “in-house proclamation” look like in your church?
Chapter 13: God Makes This World the Very Best Place
“How will it all end? … The renewed world to come—the very best place that God has always intended creation to be—builds upon the new creation that God began in Christ and his new covenant people. Human actions do not slowly progress in reforming or repairing the old fallen order. That order is passing away. Rather, the renewed world to come will complete God’s dramatic interruption of world history in creating a new humanity amid the old.” (110-111)
Discuss. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Summary of Nugent’s perspective:
“The kingdom-centered view gives up the desire to make this world a better place and embraces instead the church’s unique commission of being God’s better place in this world. It agrees with the heaven- and world- centered views that God will someday intervene in world history to set the whole world straight. It affirms with the human- and world-centered views that the salvation to come is located on this earth. It agrees with the world-centered view that God has already begun his saving work in human history. But it disagrees with all views that hold Christians responsible for doing whatever they can to fix the fallen order.” (114)
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com