Adult Education REsources

Browse through a selection of Adult Sunday school and education materials below. These materials come from our Sunday Morning classes so you won't miss out if you miss a week. 

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Endangered Gospel

Is it the Church's job to fix the world? Has God given the church the specific task of fixing the world around us in order to bring about the fulness of God's Kingdom? This lesson series will zoom in and focus on this question as we explore the ground breaking text written by Dr. John Nugent titled Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church.

Classes taught by Joshua Bush

  • Endangered Gospel: The Case for a Better Place

     

    Intro Questions:

    “What is the main purpose or function of the church?”

    “How do we accomplish this purpose or function?”

     

    Main Question:

    “Has God called the church to fix the world in order to make the world THE better place–the Kingdom of God?”

     

     

    As you listen, feel free to pause the recording and try to answer these questions as they come up. What do you think is the main purpose of the church? How would you accomplish this purpose?

    Now, critically think back to all the Bible lessons and stories you have heard and ask yourself, “Has God given the church the explicit task of fixing the world in order to bring about His Kingdom?”

     

    Challenge

    As you respond to these questions, try and find biblical passages and verses that support your answers. You may or may not find any. That’s OK. The point of these questions is to get us thinking about what specifically the Bible says about what God has called the church to do.

     

    Three traditional views of the Church

    Heaven-Centered | Human-Centered | World Centered

     

    Heaven-Centered: This view believes that the church is meant to point to the better place that we cannot yet access. Essentially, Christians are meant to GO to a better place.

    Key points

    •  God’s Kingdom is not here and not yet because our future is in heaven.
    • The church’s primary role is the make sure that the people of the church are found to be acceptable in the final day of the Lord–Judgement day.
    •  Essentially, the church is a “recruiting and holding place” for believers.

     

    Human-Centered: This view believes that humanity makes the world a better place.

    Key points

    •          Jesus cast a vision for what the fullness of the Kingdom of God would be like. It is up to us to carry out that vision.
    •          Jesus began making the world a better place and it is up to the church to finish Jesus’ work.
    •          As time goes on, life will gradually improve as humanity itself improves.

     

    World-Centered: This view believes that we must work toward making this world the better place to come.

    Key points

    •          This view is most critical of the Heaven-centered view.
    •          This view is more ecologically sensitive in that it seeks to care for the planet.
    •          The church is remaking this world into a better place–Humanity is the agent by which the world will be made completely good.
    •          Finds is support from prophetic texts such as
    •                 o   Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1-16; 30:18-26
    •                 o   Micah 4:1-4
    •                 o   Ezekiel chapters 40-48

     

     

    Salvation in Heaven

     

    Salvation on Earth

     

    Restoration began with Jesus

     

    Future Interruption


    God replaces fallen order


    Christians begin fixing fallen order

     

    Heaven Centered

     

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    Human Centered

     

     

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    World Centered

     

     

             X

     

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             X


    A fourth View of the Church

    Although these three views have their strengths and weaknesses, none of these options are our best choice. Sure, some may be better than others, however, we don’t want to settle on what is better. We want to find the best option.

    There is a fourth option that highlights what Christ has already begun to do in the church.

    Here are two fundamental truths about the work of Jesus and the role of the church:


    First, Jesus has already made a better place in this world

    Second, The role of God’s people is to embrace, display, and proclaim this better place.

     

    The problem for us today is that we often combine these truths with other truths that result in a confused task or purpose of the church. For example, we may combine two truths by saying, “Because Jesus began making a better place in this world, we must join him in seeing it through to completion, until the whole world is better.” Or, “We should certainly embrace and convey the better place that Christ makes possible. And we should also do everything in our power to shape the wider society accordingly.

    These additional truths presuppose that Jesus sowed the seeds of world betterment and then it is our job to water it and help it grow. However, this is a misguided assumption. Dr. John Nugent describes these two roles another way:


    First, since Jesus has already made a better place in this world, it is not our responsibility to do so.

    Second, since our job is to embrace, display, and proclaim this better place, it is not our job to engineer or otherwise orchestrate its fulfilment.

     

    Simply put, God’s people are not responsible for making this world a better place. We are called to be the better place that Christ has already made and that the wider world will be until Christ returns.

     

    Copyright © 2016 John Nugent. All rights reserved. All credit for this material belongs to Dr. John Nugent at Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Michigan.

    Nugent, John C. Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2016.

  • Main question

    Has God called the church to fix the world in order to make the world THE better place– God’s Kingdom?

     

    Focus for this week

    Exploring God’s plans and God’s blueprints for this better place as seen all throughout the Old Testament. Specifically, how does the Bible describe the role of God’s chosen people when it comes to our relationship with the world?

     

    Creation

    What was God’s initial plan for creation?

    What was God’s plan for creation after sin entered into the world? How did God start fixing this problem and what steps did he take?

    The desire, necessity, and possibility for a better place.

    So, whose job was it to fix the world?

    God took it upon Himself to bring about this better place.

     

    The Powers of the world

    Genesis 6:5-8– The Evils of Humanity

    What was God’s solution to the evils of humanity?

    God chose to limit humanity’s lifespan to 120 years.

    Imagine a world where evil rulers could live for a millennium. Would you want to live in such a world?

    God also limited the evils of humanity by making blood sacred.

    So, if humans could no longer live for a long time, perhaps a city could? Thus the city of Babel was built.

    So, how did God respond? God scattered their languages and split people off in order to prevent evil world leaders living in massive cities to take control indefinitely.

    God installed the powers of this world to:

    Keep sin in check

    Meet the basic needs of people

    Make the world a better place


    Were the people of God instructed to do anything at this point in the Bible story?


    Israel is prepared for a better place

    Main functions of Israel: Genesis 12:1-3 and Exodus 19:3-6

    1) Move away and remain separate from the other nations

    2) Bless the other nations

    The question remains, "How does Israel do this?"

    Look to Deuteronomy 4:5-6 and see how it answers this question.


    Note how the prophets never condemn Israel for not:

    Going out into the world and converting the other nations,

    Cleaning up the streets of Edom, Moab, Amon, Egypt, etc.,

    Decrying the social injustices of the other nations around them. 


    Instead, the Prophets rebuked Israel when they:

    Neglected the widows and the orphans of Israel,

    Failed to take care of the poor and needy of Israel,

    Took advantage of fellow Israelites.

    Read Deuteronomy 15 for God's specific instructions on how Israelites were meant to treat other Israelites.


    Final thoughts

    The people of God have been called, not to fix and make this world a better place. Jesus has already brought the better place to earth. It’s already here. The function of the chosen people of God is to BE the better place by embracing, displaying, and proclaiming Christ’s Gospel message to and for the nations around us.

     

    Next week we will take a look at the New Testament and see how the text describes the specific function and role of the Community of believers, who we are meant to care for the most, and why our specific task is so important.



    Copyright © 2016 John Nugent. All rights reserved. All credit for this material belongs to Dr. John Nugent at Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Michigan.


    References

    Nugent, John C. Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2016.


    Boris, Elizabeth T., and C. Eugene Steuerle. "After Katrina: Public Expectation and Charities' Response." The Urban Institute 14, (2006): 1-29.

  • Main question

    Has God called the church to fix the world in order to make the world THE BEST place– God’s Kingdom?

    Focus for this week

    Exploring God’s plans and God’s blueprints for this better place as seen all throughout the New Testament. Specifically, how does the Bible describe the role of God’s chosen people when it comes to our relationship with one another?


    Embrace

    How do we embrace God’s Mission and God’s Kingdom?

    As Ambassadors, Christians are called to represent God’s Kingdom in our actions and in our lives. We are called to live in a way that the world will see a new, better way of living through our treatment of one another.

    We must live in a way that these truths are evident:


     We have already entered into a new era in world history (Matt 4:17, 2 Tim 4:1, Luke 17:20-21, Gal 4:4-5, Heb 4:3, 10-11, Luke 12:54-56)

     We have already entered into a new world reality (1 John 2:17, 1 Cor 7:29-31 2 Cor 5:17, 1 John 2:8, James 1:18)

     We have already entered into a new life (Rom 6:11, John 5:24, John 3:15-16, John 10:10, John 4:10, 1 Pet 1:23)

    We have already entered into a new social reality and a set of Relationships (2 Cor 5:16-18, Eph 2:1-17, Gal 3:28, Eph 2:11-15, 1 John 1:7, Eph 1:13-15)

    We have already entered into a new way of living (John 15:3, 1 John 1:7, Col 3:9-11, Gal 3:27, Titus 3:5, 2 John 1:2, 2 Cor 4:16)



    Display

    Who are we called to love? Are we called to love everyone in the world? Or are we called to love one another according to how the Bible’s descriptions?

    Did the early church feel responsible for the overall direction of society as a whole? Or did the early church feel a responsibility towards one another and to fellow believers all across the world?

    Read these passages and think about who is being talked about and who we should prioritize with our love:

    o   John 13:34-35          John 15:12-23          John 15:17-19

    o   Rom 12:9-10             Rom 14:15                 Gal 5:13-15

    o   Eph 1:15                    Eph 4:1-3                   Eph 4:15-16

    o   Col 1:4                        Col 3:14-15                1 Thess 4:9-12

    o   2 Thess 1:3               Phlm 1:4-5                 Heb 6:10       

    o   1 Pet 1:22                  1 Pet 2:17                  1 Pet 4:8

    o   1 John 3:23               1 John 4:7-12            1 John 4:17-21


    Our main priority should be toward The "brothers and Sisters," "one another," those "among us," "all the saints," and the people of the church.


    Does this mean we should ignore the world? No! In fact it is on behalf of the world that we live this way. Prioritization should not be confused with isolation from or rejection of the world in which we reside. 


    Counter points

    1) What about “loving your neighbor as yourself? (Romans 13:8-10; Mark 12:30-31; Matt 22:37-39; Gal 5:14; James 2:8) (Lev 19:2, 17-18)

    2) What about “Well ‘neighbor’ can still imply our neighboring countries or people across the street right?” (Lev 19: 17)

    3) What about the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37?

    4) What about “love your enemy as yourself” in Matthew 5:43-48?

    5) What about Romans 12:20-21, about feeding your enemies? (Exodus 23:4-5)

    6) What about “the least of these?”

    7) What about the “widows and the orphans” (James 1:26-27) and the “poor and oppressed?” What about Mary’s Magnificat or the song of Zechariah in Luke 1?



    Ashamed of the Gospel? 

    Is this something we want our Bibles to say? Or does it say this so that all people may be drawn to God and so that the world may know that Jesus is Lord? (John 17:22-23)

    If it sounds wrong, or if it feels foolish to us, that's because God's wisdom sounds foolish to humanity and we have failed to grasp the genius of His perfect plan.  We think its foolishness because we continue to think like the world and measure success according to the worlds standards and not God's. We must pay close attention to God's Word and to God's guidance through his Spirit. 

     


    Proclaim

    The New Testament seems to prioritize and focus upon how believers relate to fellow believers.

    The New Testaments focus was not on how the Holy Spirt influenced disciples to bring non-believers into contact with a better place. Instead, it focuses on being the Better and the Best place to show people what God’s kingdom is like.

    However, non-believers are so important to God’s plan, that he created a group of people, unified under a single kingdom, to draw people in and show them a better way of life. The wider world is God’s top priority, and it is through the church that God will fulfill that mission of gathering all nations to Him. 


    Copyright © 2016 John Nugent. All rights reserved. All credit for this material belongs to Dr. John Nugent at Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Michigan.


    Nugent, John C. Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2016.

  • Endangered Gospel: A Better Place in Action

     

     

     

    Salvation in Heaven

     

    Salvation on Earth

     

    Restoration began with Jesus

     

    Future Interruption

    God replaces fallen order

    Christians begin fixing fallen order

     

    Heaven Centered

     

              X

     

     

     

              X

     

              X

     

     

    Human Centered

     

     

              X

     

     

     

     

              X

     

    World Centered

     

     

              X

     

              X

     

              X

     

     

              X

     

    Kingdom

    Centered

     

     

              X

     

              X

     

              X

     

              X

     

     


    Fellowship

    “Sharing life in common with one another” 


    Accept one another (Rom. 15:7)

    Agree with one another (1 Cor. 1:10; 3:13)

    Be kind to one another (Eph. 5:21)

    Be subject to one another (1 Thess. 5:15)

    Bear with one another (Col. 3:13)

    Carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)

    Encourage one another (Heb. 3:13; 1 Thess. 4:18)

    Forgiving one another (Eph. 4:32)

    Love one another (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; 1 John 4:7; 2 John 1:5)

    Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16)

    Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)

    Serve one another (Gal. 5:13)

    Show equal concern for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)

    Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19)

    Teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16)

    Wait for one another before breaking bread (1 Cor. 11:33)

     


    Friendship

    How does Jesus describe Friendship? (Read John 15:12-17)

    Who does Jesus call his friends? Does Jesus call the wider community or everyone in the world his friends?

    Those who are part of the Kingdom of God are those who are our friends.

    So, should we shun our non-Christian friends? Or are we called to prioritize the people belonging to “one another” first?

    Jesus never ignored people outside of God’s Kingdom, but he did prioritize those within God’s Kingdom.

     


    Mission

    How should the church respond to the world, its troubles, and God’s mission for the Kingdom?

    The Church’s response is to fill the earth with churches and Christ communities that embrace, display, and proclaim his Kingdom.

    What about non-profits and para-church organizations?

    A Missionaries life together with the people they serve is kingdom living.

    God’s design is that “churches committed to God’s kingdom strengthen other churches committed to God’s Kingdom and continue planting still more churches committed to God’s Kingdom.”


     

    Pitfalls to avoid

    Isolationism – Circle the wagons, focus only on ourselves, and exclude outsiders.

    Church’s response: Churches that cease to exist for the world, cease to exist as an integral part of God’s plan for his kingdom. Our mission is for the world.

    However, we should not mistake prioritization for isolationism

     

    Utopianism – Creating the ideal society of prosperity and tranquility

    Church’s response: We acknowledge that we are still affected by sin and its consequences. But it is not utopianism to cast a vision of the Best place–God’s Kingdom, while still acknowledging that God will fulfill his mission.




    Copyright © 2016 John Nugent. All rights reserved. All credit for this material belongs to Dr. John Nugent at Great Lakes Christian College in Lansing, Michigan.


    Nugent, John C. Endangered Gospel: How Fixing the World is Killing the Church. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2016.

Church as community

The early church was an assembly of believers empowered by Jesus Christ. Throughout the Book of Acts and Paul's letters we see the first century church modeling community and the life changing influence of God's Kingdom. Join us as we explore what it meant for the earliest Christians to be a member of the church and the practical application for us today as we continue living within this community.

Classes taught by Larry Vinson and Tim Martin

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Spiritual Warfare

How does the Bible talk about the spiritual forces all around us? What can we do to protect ourselves against evil. This series focuses on the spiritual forces all around us. We explore who or what these forces are, how they interact with us, and what we can do to remain strong in the faith of Jesus Christ. 

Classes taught by Scott Curtis and Joshua Bush

  • Intro Question

    Based on your Old Testament knowledge only, who or what is Satan?

    What Scripture references can you point too to support your position on Satan?


    Take the time to Pause the audio recording for a minute or two and write down a few of your ideas. Write down who or what you think Satan is. Think of some Old Testament passages that you may use to support your reasoning and write them down.


    Main Question for today

    How does the Old Testament use the word "satan?"


    Background information

    The word "satan" comes from the Hebrew word שטן  and it means " an adversary," "opponent," or "one who stands in opposition to." So in the generic sense, it means exactly that-- someone or something that stands against someone as an adversary. 


    Now just שטן  on its own means “adversary,” but in Hebrew there is something called the “definite article,” and it is the English equivalent of the word “the.” The article looks like this ה and it shifts a word from an indefinite state to a definite state. For example, instead of “a ball,” “a church,” “president,” it becomes “the ball,” “the church,” “ the president.”  השטן


    So when this definite article is present on a word, it makes it definite. And more specifically, in Hebrew, it can turn the word satan into a proper noun like a name or a title. So the presence of a definite article turns it into a title like “THE Satan”, while its absence usually means the generic word for “adversary” and is treated like a noun.  


    In total, the word "satan" appears about 27 times in the Old Testament-- sometimes with and sometimes without the definite article.


    Three Categories of Satan


    Human Adversaries

    Let's take a look at a few examples in the Old Testament where "satan" refers to Human adversaries

    1 Kings 5:4, 11:14, 23, 25

    1 Samuel 29:4


    Note that these passages do not contain the definite article when the Hebrew word "satan" appears. When no article is present, the English translates "satan" as "adversary," when used as a noun in these passages. in 1 Sam 29:4 the word "satan" is being used as a verb and is translated as "he will turn against." Here the Philistine commanders are calling David a "satan"/ one who will "turn against" the Philistines. 


    Think about how the word "satan" is being used in these passages. Write some of your thoughts down and think about how this information impacts your understanding of "satan" as we move forward.


    Celestial Opponents

    Let's take a look at a few examples in the Old Testament where "satan" refers to Celestial Opponents

    Zechariah 3:1-2

    Numbers 22:22, 32

    1 Chron 21:1

    (Just for fun-- 2 Samuel 24:1)


    The Zechariah passage does have the definite article with the word "satan." Satan is functioning as the "opponent to God in this passage. Yet the broader context of the passage does not seem to indicate that Satan is or isn't evil. In fact it seems that Satan is serving as a prosecuting attorney (we will touch on this more in the Book of Job).


    Satan is not out to destroy Joshua, but rather just saying that Joshua is not a fitting person to be part of a priesthood. The Satan is arguing that Joshua is not qualified to serve as priest, and YHWH argues that he is. So the Satan is serving as an opponent in the way someone would be an opponent in a debate or a court case. 


    Numbers 22:22, 32 is the story of Balaam's Donkey. There is no article attached to the word "satan."

    (Fun fact: This is the first time from the start of Genesis until now that the word "satan" appears in the Old Testament.)

    Who is the "opponent" or "satan" in this passage?-- An "Angel of the Lord." 

    Here the Angel came to "stand against him." 


    1 Chronicles 21:1 is when David is incited to take a census of Israel. There is no article attached to the word "satan."

    This is an interesting passage and is an exception to the rule we have talked about so far. Here there is no article with Satan, yet it can still be translated into English as "The Satan"-- Capital "S" Satan as a proper noun or a title. 

    This passage is the only time in the Old Testament where Satan could be used explicitly as a personal name (rather than a title). 


    Just for fun-- take a look at 2 Samuel 24:1 and compare it to 1 Chronicles 21;1

    Who incites David to take a census? In 1 Chron. it's Satan, yet in 2 Sam. it's the Lord. One possibility is that God is functioning as a "satan" (opponent, adversary) to David and succumbs to sin. This could work since there is no article attached to "satan" here, but this issue has some textual complexities with the note above about "satan" being used as a personal name in this passage. 

    So this point is very interesting and unclear. I wanted to point this out to you all so you can get a taste for the complexities of Scripture and have a more diverse understanding of who or what this Satan figure is. 


    The Book of Job

    Let's take a look at a few examples in the Old Testament where "satan" refers to Celestial Opponents

    Job 1:6-12

    Job 2:1-7


    In these passages, Satan does have the definite article and is definitely talking about a specific entity known as "Satan." Here the Satan could also be considered a Celestial Opponent to Job. 


    Consider this:

    If someone hit your car, or broke into your house, or stole something from you, would you want a really good prosecuting attorney or a bad prosecuting attorney? Why?

    You would want a good one of course!


    In the judicial system and in a court of law, what is the function of a prosecuting attorney? 

    A prosecuting attorney is someone that makes accusations against the defendant and who tries to get a guilty plea from them. So simply because they accuse people of wrong doing, that doesn't make prosecuting attorneys good or bad, it just means they are doing their job. They are simply fulfilling their functions within a court case in order to ensure that justice is being carried out as well as making sure that those who may have committed crimes receive a proper punishment. 


    Having considered this, you could argue, that the Satan in Zechariah and Job is simply serving his role as a prosecuting attorney. Yes, Satan caused the death of Job’s family, destroyed his riches, and ruined Job’s health, But who explicitly commanded and allowed/instructed Satan to do this to Job?

    God did. Yes the death of Job’s family is bad, but it was God who specifically instructed Satan to carry these actions out. Satan’s actions were approved by God himself. So Satan was simply carrying out his role and function and the instructions explicitly given to him. Satan was just doing his job.


    Reflect

    How has this impacted your understanding of Satan? What has changed?

    Did you learn anything new? If so, why is this significant?

    Is any of this a salvation issue? Or is there room for different interpretations that does not impact our understanding of Jesus, the Gospel, or salvation?


    Homework

    Notice how we did not cover Genesis 3 in the Garden of Eden. Your homework for this week is this: if you believe that Satan is the serpent in Genesis 3, write down as many reasons why you believe this and provide scripture references to support your position. 


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