[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/December 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 20: Vocation
“For Jesus and the disciples, seeking first God’s kingdom was the believer’s all-encompassing vocation. Fixing or running the world was outside of their purview. They trusted God to use others to take care of that.” ( 168)
How does this assertion square with your own convictions about vocation?
“If the church’s primary vocation is to be the better place God has made through Christ, then most of this work can only take place in the common life of the church. We proclaim the good news beyond the assembly of believers, but we can’t forget the substance of that proclamation: the kingdom isn’t work believers do but a work that God has done on our behalf. It is a gift that God has given us to embrace and display in our love-filled life together.” (170)
“No matter what our occupation may be, there are almost always three basic ways to bear witness to God’s kingdom: “
- The first has to do with how we carry out our assigned responsibilities. Will we be faithful and content with the work we have been given to do or will we covet authority that hasn’t been given to us and resent those to whom it has been given?
- We may also bear witness to God’s kingdom by treating fellow employees equally. In the world, people give special treatment to others
- A third way to bear witness to God’s kingdom at work has to do with our exercise of power. We follow 1 Peter’s advice and submit to our superiors even when they don’t deserve it.” (172-173)
How well do you bear witness in these ways in your particular job?
“In choosing our occupations, we should avoid jobs that monopolize our time, shape us to be unlike the kingdom, and harm the body of Christ. Yet, a spirit of creativity and stewardship should dictate the
Christian’s choice of vocation, not predetermined legalistic prohibitions. We should not ask, ‘What am I allowed or not allowed to do?’ but ‘What contributes positively to our church’s witness to God’s kingdom?'” (174)
What do we look for when we look for a new job (or help someone in our church look for a new job)? And Why?
Chapter 21: Missions
“Some approaches to mission have this shortcoming: their gospel message or approach to meeting social needs is divorced from God’s strategy of local church witness.” (176)
Discuss. Do you agree with Nugent? Why or Why Not?
Read Nugent’s depiction of the relationship between churches and para-church organizations (176-178).
How does your church relate to para-church groups?
When Disaster strikes:
“Most philanthropists and benefactors will help out until they run out of resources or vacation time. Then they return to their comfortable lives. Churches, on the other hand, will remain steadfast for years, even decades, as gradual, sometimes imperceptible growth takes place and communities begin to piece together their post-disaster lives.” (181)
Discuss Nugent’s perspective on how churches should engage in the aftermath of disaster…
Chapter 22: Witness to the Powers
Carefully examine the contrast that Nugent draws out between God’s kingdom and the nation-states of the world (summarized in bullet points on pages 184-185).
Do you agree with the contrasts that Nugent offers? Which ones? Why?
“[There] is abundant evidence in Scripture that God’s people have a set-apart role analogous to Israel’s priests. God has sent us into all nations as aliens and exiles whose citizenship is in heaven. He has done this precisely so we would not attach our identity to our host nations and so we would be properly positioned to serve them in ways that only those who seek first God’s kingdom can. Our disentanglement from running our host nations frees us up to welcome and assimilate those who are a burden or a threat to our unbelieving neighbors. Such disentanglement also positions us to bear witness to an alternative kingdom that is here in part and will someday come in full. Our priestly “irresponsibility” makes possible our priestly responsibility.” (188)
This is an important point to Nugent’s case in this book. Do you agree? Why or Why not?
How does the Church Witness to the State?
By Being a better place…
– “the church is a visible sign of God’s control of world history through Christ.”
– “the church reminds the state that it is not the only institution that commands loyalty.”
– “the church reminds the state that it is not God’s agent for saving this world, but for maintaining a basic level of order and seeking the good of its citizens.”
– “the church reminds the state that God cares about all people and not just those who live in their particular territory.”
– “the church reminds the state that God’s kingdom is the standard for all things, and that the way of Jesus is possible in world history.”
– “the church equips its members to live out the way of Christ in every aspect of their lives, whether at work, church, school, home, or in the marketplace.”
– “the church equips its members to honor state officials by praying for them and for all who are impacted by their policies.” (190-191)
Discuss these contrasts…
Chapter 23: Conclusion
“The specific relationship between the church and God’s better place:
the church’s role is to be the better place that God has already made in this world. I call this a “kingdom-centered” approach because our role centers on embracing, displaying, and proclaiming God’s kingdom. This approach does not want something different from most other Christian views. It, too, wants this world to be the best possible place. It cares deeply about the deterioration of creation and the suffering of countless people. It remains “kingdom” centered because it believes that God’s people have been re-created as the firstfruits of the best possible place, which is God’s kingdom. God has appointed us—and no one else—to serve this kingdom. We are the frontrunners of world history. Why would we be distracted by even the most noble alternative vision? Why shift our focus to making a fading world order as good as it can be before it eventually bottoms out?”
Pitfalls to avoid:
- Isolationism – “occurs when the church completely withdraws from the world, regardless of its reasons for doing so.”
- Utopianism – “Utopian communities naively or impractically attempt to create an ideal society. They believe they have identified the perfect social formula and that implementing it will generate a
community of prosperity and tranquility—the likes of which this world has never seen.”
In what ways is your church embodying the good news of God’s work in creation?
Answers to Practical Questions.
Is worth reading and reflecting on, although we will not highlight specific parts of it in this read-through…
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
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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