Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

JR Rozko on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is a part of an on-going blog series called The Good News, which is taking place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. JR’s local city newspaper as he mentions in his article is The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Here is JR Rozko on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS
The Commercial Appeal is the place where countless Memphians turn for news – some of it good, much of it, not so good.  We are a city divided by race, stricken by generational poverty, plagued by crime, and disadvantaged by socio-economic stratification.  Good news for us usually comes in the form of an absence of bad as opposed to the presence of beautiful surprises.  For those with eyes to see, these problems are far more than the result of individual human errors and failings; they also stem from firmly entrenched systems, paradigms, and powers, which create a broken culture that produces broken people.  There is a cycle at work here more insidious than we realize or could hope to finally defeat on our own.  But there’s good news.

I’m a Christian and Christians are good news people.  In fact, a central manta of the Christian faith is, “Repent and believe the good news.”  This isn’t about saying you’re sorry to God so you can go to Heaven when you die. It’s Jesus’ invitation to, by grace and through faith, escape the consequences of our capitulation to a world gone wrong by joining him in the ways he sees and engages the world.

See, God plans to recreate all that has been tainted and lost by evil and darkness.  The sphere in which this happens is known as the Kingdom of God.  Jesus embodied this Kingdom in his life and sealed it in his death and resurrection. That’s news, but it’s not quite good yet; cause news is only really good when it’s experienced.  This news becomes truly good for us when God’s plan for the future intersects with our present.  Ours is not good news that God will do, but good news that God is doing.

Jesus was the bearer of good news par excellence and those of us who bear his name but fail to similarly bear good news to the world around us have a share in the guilt and misery of the city and people we are called to lovingly serve.  This is where the Church comes in.  God means for the Church to be a unique body though whom Jesus actually continues freeing people from harmful things and reconnecting them with God and others. The Christian God is one of relationship.  Therefore, God’s Good News to the people and city of Memphis is purposefully intertwined with communities of people gripped by it.

Fellow Memphians, if you’re like me, grieved over the many sad circumstances of our city, if you are desperate for a new start, for healing and wholeness, I hope you will consider the news of God’s desire and plan for the world including the tiny metroplex of Memphis.  The news might not be the sort you’d expect, maybe not even the sort you’d prefer, but it’s good in the truest meaning of the word.

JR Rozko, a graduate of Malone University and Fuller Theological Seminary, currently serves as a pastor to young adults at Living Hope.  A former academic advisor for Fuller’s Master of Arts in Global Leadership program, JR also enjoys serving as an occasional TA and adjunct instructor.  JR is on the cusp of a brand new adventure, highlighted by a move to Chicago from Memphis and getting married to the girl of his dreams!


13 Responses to JR Rozko on The Good News

  1. jrwoodward says:

    JR Rozko,

    I have to say your full name, since we obviously share the same first name. I really appreciate how you share the good news with Memphis in particular, I felt that I was able to get a sense of some of the problems the city is dealing with and how the people of God as “good news people” are able to join God in seeing the city renewed in the here and now.

    One question that I have for you is: You emphasize the good news that God is doing now, which I think is vital, but you seem to de-emphasize what God WILL DO. Isn’t the good news for the here and now as well as the hereafter? Isn’t part of the good news that the New Jerusalem will come down out of heaven and that heaven and earth will be rejoined, and God will make all things new? Isn’t there a now and not yet feature to the kingdom? I would love to hear your thoughts on that.

  2. Jason says:

    JR Rozko,

    I loved your statement, “Jesus was the bearer of good news par excellence,” which strikes me as something Dallas Willard would say (that’s a compliment).

    It occurs to me that Tennesseans would likely think they already know how Jesus was the bearer of the good news. I wonder, how can Jesus be presented to Bible-belt post-Christians in a way that is unexpected and surprising? I’m sure you have some thoughts and experiences in this…

  3. len says:

    I like this: “Jesus’ invitation to .. escape the consequences of our capitulation to a world gone wrong by joining him in the ways he sees and engages the world.” I think that would have appeal and its not a bad summation. Overall tho I wonder if that short article would be beyond most of your readers? I know.. we are caught between the push for “sound bytes” and an articulation that is nuanced and deep.

  4. Josh Rowley says:

    “I’m a Christian and Christians are good news people. In fact, a central manta of the Christian faith is, ‘Repent and believe the good news.’ This isn’t about saying you’re sorry to God so you can go to Heaven when you die. It’s Jesus’ invitation to, by grace and through faith, escape the consequences of our capitulation to a world gone wrong by joining him in the ways he sees and engages the world.”

    Well said.

  5. len says:

    Hey.. and now I realize that “seeing” is a theme for both of us. That bears some thought … and reminds me of Richard Rohr: “Humans do not naturally see.. we have to be taught how to see,” or from “The Santa Claus,” … “believing is seeing.”

  6. Tony Stiff says:

    Great piece JR. Really appreciated how you wove into your address an overview of the city and its needs, while also articulating in a fresh way that Kingdom of God coming in Christ and continuing to come in his people is good news for this city, right now.

    You and Len have both really raised the bar high for the rest of us to contribute.

  7. JR Rozko says:

    @ JR Woodward – I actually thought about that very issue. The reason why I settled on saying it the way I did was because I don’t think it’s correct to differentiate between what God is doing now and what God will do in the future. What God will do in the future – new heavens and new earth is a continuation and climax of what God is doing now. I suppose this is how I have come to understand resurrection faith – not in what I hope God will do one day, but in what God has already begun and will one day complete.

    @ Jason – I didn’t lift that from Dallas did I?! Didn’t mean to. Bible-belt post-Christians? To be honest, I haven’t met too many. I have met plenty of nominal and confused Bible-belt Christians. To them, this presentation of the good news seems weird at best and heretical at worst. Now when I met those who have never really had much exposure to the Christian faith, they get incredibly interested.

    @ Len – You are quite right and I tried to think about that through the article. I was pacified by two things. 1) There is always a learning curve when it comes to Christian language and ideas. 2) It’s almost always borderline futile to present the gospel in print form divorced from people seeking to embody it anyway. My real article would have been 1 sentence – “Those who long for good news are welcome to experience it with us together.”

    @ Josh – thanks man.

    @ Len – Rohr and Tim Allen movies – truly a killer 1-2 theological punch!

  8. jrwoodward says:

    JR Rozko,

    I appreciate your response and clarification. I agree that what God will do in the future is a continuation and climax of what He is doing now and I think that the progression is helpful to both recognize and articulate.

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  10. Scott Olson says:

    JR,

    Thank you for adding the nuance of what the holistic gospel looks like in view of the presence of the kingdom that will come to fullness one day in Christ. It is thought provoking and refreshing in light of the traditional evangelical gospel that gets you a ticket to heaven…

  11. Liz says:

    JR – Sorry to be showing up late here but I just found the series a few days ago and am taking my time reading through all the posts (not necessarily in order). I thought you included a lot in a few short paragraphs, such as the fact that the good news of Christ is so much bigger than just the absence of bad stuff happening or the idea of getting to heaven when we die; that the news doesn’t get good until it is experienced; and that the good news is that the Kingdom of God can exist in our communities right here and right now. I particularly loved the idea that the good news of Christ is “the presence of beautiful surprises.”

    Good job!

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