- On page 137, Eugene Peterson writes, “And my work is not to fix people. It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.” How is leading people in the worship of God and in living a holy life different from fixing them? What happens when we church workers cross that line?
- Peterson states, “The messianic virus, which can so easily decimate the pastoral vocation once it finds a host (me!), is hard to get rid of. As with the common cold, there doesn’t seem to be any sure-cure or preventative medicines. The best you can do is try to stay healthy on a decent diet and plenty of exercise in worship with the people of God” (140). What does it look like when a pastor catches the messianic virus?
- Peterson describes how a Jewish rabbi named Paul helped the Company of Pastors in the formation of their pastoral identity by giving them “…texts and stories that set everything we did on weekdays within the structure of what we preached on Sundays: prayer directing, storytelling, pain sharing, nay-saying, and community building’ (154). Were these texts and stories helpful to you? If so, how?
- Describe an encounter you had with someone who had a negative opinion of the church like Willi Ossa (Chapter 19).
- How do “…artists and their works of art …[take] us inside what we see and touch, taste and hear…(187)? How does art and worship connect with each other?
- If you are married, what impact does your spouse have on your ministry as a church worker?
Read the italicized passages of Scripture in Chapter 17.
- Timothy Keller writes, “Of all the things Jesus could have said…he specifically says he’s the judge. By his choice of text, Jesus is deliberately forcing us to see the paradox. There’s been an enormous reversal. He is the judge over the entire world, being judged by the world” (196). Why is that reversal important?
- What reasons does Pilate have for not wanting to condemn Jesus to death (198)?
- What do you think of when you read the quotation from Psalm 22 on page 199?
- Keller writes, “All four Gospel writers take pains to show us that all the critical events of Jesus’s death happened in the dark” (200). What is the significance of that darkness?
- The pain of forsakenness is greater when one is forsaken by someone with whom there was deep intimacy. What was it like for Jesus to be forsaken by his Father with whom Jesus had experienced “infinitely long, absolutely perfect” love (202)?
- Have you ever tried to navigate in total darkness? What was it like?
- How is having anything more important than God like darkness (204)?
- How does valuing anything more than God lead to devastation and disintegration in a person’s life (204)?
- Keller tells us that, because we are all orbiting around something other than God, we are all on a trajectory towards a life of disintegration that won’t stop when our lives come to an end (205). How has Jesus altered our trajectory?
- How can there be beauty in the darkness because of Jesus?
Close by reading from “The only time I ever faced death…” on page 210 to the end of the chapter.
Read the italicized passages of Scripture in Chapter 12.
- What were the reasons that made it necessary that Jesus die?
- How was Jesus’ death going to be a ransom (140-141)?
- Timothy Keller writes, “…all life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice” (141). Explain how that is so.
- Describe how someone changed your life through sacrificial love.
- Why can’t evil simply be overlooked (143-144)? Why must it be paid for?
- What did James and John miss when they asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left when he achieves his glory? What lesson do we learn from this?
- How is worry an example of our own blindness (147)? Can you give another example of our own blindness?
- Most people try influence society through power and control. But God calls us to a different path (148). What is that path?
- How is trying to live an unselfish life in order to gain a better outcome (even if those desired outcomes and God’s blessings and eternal life in heaven) actually being selfish (149-150)?
- How is grace the only way that we can truly live an unselfish life?
In closing, read the last paragraph of Chapter 12 (151-152).
Read the italicized passages of Scripture in Chapter 11.
- According to historian Andrew Walls the centre of Christianity always moving? Why is this so (123-124)?
- According to Walls, Christianity is always moving away from power and wealth (125). Why do you think this happens? Do you see examples of that in the world?
- Some say that having wealth is a sign of God’s blessing. Others say that having wealth necessarily means that a person is far from God. What does Jesus say (127)?
- Jesus said to his disciples, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” What is Jesus saying about the likelihood of a rich person entering the kingdom of heaven (128)?
- Timothy Keller writes, “Jesus was saying that there is something radically wrong with all of us—but money has particular power to blind us to it” (128). How did money blind the rich young ruler? How does money blind us?
- What was the flaw in the rich young ruler’s idea of goodness (130)?
- When Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” How would giving away his wealth help the rich young ruler?
- Keller writes, “Christians… are people who know that their Christianity is impossible, a miracle—there’s nothing natural about it, it flies in the face of all one’s merits” (132-133). How does our moral worth get in the way of us entering the kingdom of God?
- Keller writes, “Here we see [the teacher of the law] coming to recognize what an impossible standard the law gives us—that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a good man to satisfy the law. The closer he gets to seeing this, the closer he is to figuring out the gospel. If we concentrate on rules and regulations exclusively, we can begin to feel pretty righteous, but when we look at the heart attitude that the law really is requiring and getting at, we begin to realize how much we need grace and mercy” (135). What is the difference in the heart attitude of the rich young ruler and the teacher of the law?
- How is Jesus the true Rich Young Ruler?
“We will never have the easy, unhesitating love of God that makes obedience to Jesus our natural response unless we are absolutely sure that it is good for us to be, and to be who we are. This means we must have no doubt that the path appointed for us by when and where and to whom we were born is good, and that nothing irredeemable has happened to us or can happen to us on our way to our destiny in God’s full world…. It is confidence in the invariably overriding intention of God for our good, with respect to all the evil and suffering that may befall us on life’s journey, that secures us in peace and joy. We must be sure of that intention if we are to be free and able, like Joseph, to simply do what we know to be right.” (emphasis added in the Ogne & Roehl quote)
“The postmodern church will be a witness to its contemporary generation by being a peculiar people orientated to a coming kingdom through the practices and language of a living tradition.” James K. Smith, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (Baker, Grand Rapids, 2006), 135.