ENDANGERED GOSPEL: How Fixing the World Is Killing the Church. By John C. Nugent. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016. X + 220 pages.
Surveys have suggested that people are turned off to Christianity because churches and church people are too political. At the same time churches are criticized for being too concerned about themselves and not about their communities. There is also that growing trend of people, even within Christian circles, of people distancing themselves from the church. Many say they are "spiritual but not religious," while others continue to claim the Christian mantle but don’t seem to believe that the church is necessary to the task of planting and expanding God’s realm. These are not easy days for those of us in the church business!
There are, of course, counter arguments that seek to claim a space for the church. Indeed, there are numerous voices suggesting that God has chosen the church to be the vanguard of God’s kingdom work. Thus, outside the church there is no salvation! Among those voices is that of John Nugent, professor of Old Testament at Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing Michigan. Nugent has become an important interpreter of the works of John Howard Yoder, and in this book he follows a path that seems rather counterintuitive. He argues in this book against the missional vision that suggests that God is already at work in the world and the church should get on board. In contrast to that vision, which is quite popular today, John argues that God is creating in the church an alternative community that is called to exhibit God’s vision of a better place. He affirms the principle espoused by missional folks that people are seeking a better place, he just doesn’t believe that there is any hope of making this world a better place. Only God can do that, so in the meantime the church is a beacon. It’s primary message to the world isn’t a social justice one, it is an evangelistic one. By trying to make this world a better place those who embrace a “world-centered” vision of the kingdom are killing the church.