Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Alistair Johnson 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. Ali’s local newspaper is The Star serving Sheffield and South Yorkshire. Here is Ali Johnson on the Good News. The title of his entry is: What is Good News to Sheffield?

“Who do people say that I am?” Peter was asked this question some 2,000 years ago and I have always wondered what his internal response would have been. In some of my dialogue with the people of Sheffield over the question “Who is Jesus?” I have had some positive responses, other times some hostile responses to that question; but I believe that here in England we are lost. We live in the shadow of large empty churches and we can’t catch the sun.

Whispers are coming from all over the world proclaiming the good news of this guy some call redeemer, some call saviour, some call prophet, some call a fake but what is he here in Sheffield? This was the start to a conversation I had on the tram the other day. This may not have been the greatest moment in my life as an evangelist. However the bewildered looking guy I was chatting with, did respond with, “what is good news about this Jesus guy anyway?” This started me thinking about what the whispers of
Jesus’ love and grace grow into in our lives?

The most critical issue facing Christians today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. Robert Capon-Farrar wrote, “The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore; He changes them into nice people.” In our world today we have a problem with the understanding of the good news; nothing about the good news of Jesus is considered good news outside of the four walls of our life.

Sheffield is a product of a lost generation, a generation that in one swoop of Marget Thatcher’s pen lost the very heart of its city (Margaret Thatcher closed many of the mines in Sheffield which were the main source of employment). The good news here can’t be just good news, it can’t be okay news; it has to be great news. Great to the lives of the hearers, as it is to mine, to Paul’s and to yours. The only way we recapture the good news is by living out that which is good.

The answer is recapturing the transformational nature of the good news. The news that turned Saul from a Jewish jihadist into, Paul, one of the most life giving, grace dispensing, great souls of his day. If we recapture the power, we will see lost generations all over the world come out from behind the empty churches and began to live in the light.

Ali Johnson is a third year student at Cliff College, a bible college in Derbyshire, England. He is about to graduate this summer and go into the big wide world. Ali blogs at costly grace. He is a young fresh thinker; he loves to watch football (both types), reading, people and smoking cigars.

11 Responses to Alistair Johnson on The Good News

  1. jrwoodward says:


    Thanks for reminding us of the importance of the transformational nature of the good news. I absolutely love that quote by Robert Capon-Farrar “Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore; He changes them into nice people.” Unfortunately, that rings too true.

  2. Ali says:

    And I wonder myself what it really looks like to live a great life, the power of the spirit? That quote is amazing. I wonder how many times we all fall into that same trap of living ok lives. I confess some days I do! Thanks JR

  3. jrwoodward says:

    So what practically do you do to live a great life instead of an okay life? By the way, I am expecting that you will stay up all night to answer comments when people post them in the day here in the U.S. LOL.

  4. Ali says:

    Sure man, will be doing just that for you lol! Well I think its living in the risen power of Jesus Christ. With hope for the future but also taking that which is good in the present, the full holistic gospel which is great news, to the world that is so in need of it. I wonder if sometimes we are not just holding that little bit back because we are not completely full reliant on God and fully trusting of him. A great life involves risk and faith, the one that fully believes that Jesus meant what he said when he came to bring us salvation.

    I think we are all searching together to find out what it means to live a great life, right? I certainly am. But this good news that God gave us in Jesus isn’t a ‘nice’ idea or ‘okay news’ it has to be great news and the best idea. I think its a change in philosophy that could have an impact on how we live our lives and the impact the people we meet. Practically I think that means returning to the Bible and seeing the lives that the heros of our faith lived, Paul, Barnabas, the disciples, the women of the cross and many more. What did the do to live a great life?

    I wonder…

    Some thoughts for you….JR!

  5. James Wood says:

    This is true Ali! Well said! I like this! Do you feel that once we get back to the heart of who Jesus really is and what He is about we will see a change, and I am going to use the words ‘real revival’?

  6. Ian says:

    Great post. Its so true about the UK being under the shadow of a massive, empty church.

    Empty, interesting choice of words. Do we just mean a church devoid of membership, or a church that no longer contains anything the world really needs?

    Or maybe it’s a church that has emptied herself and desperately needs the replenishment of God’s Spirit, so that she might pour herself out before this nation.

  7. Ali says:


    Cheers for the comments, I think a return to who Jesus would be a great place to start. I wonder if I our Christology should not impact more of missiology which would not impact more of out ecclesiology. This re-centering of Jesus would bring back the ‘good’ news and it would final be good news again.

    I am in no doubt that if we were more like Jesus something might would happen and the excitement and astonishment that is seen often in the early church would come back. Real revival? I don’t know, I sure hope so man!!

  8. Ali says:


    I was purposefully ambiguous with my choice over the emptiness of the church. Think its something I am unsure of right now. I love the church, not sure how empty it is because within these churches are some faithful followers of Jesus. But the church isn’t meeting the needs of this world and won’t if it doesn’t return to the understanding that the news of Jesus is actually great news for everyone.

  9. Sonja says:

    About the closing down mines in Sheffield and England and the lost generation…
    Have you seen the movie: ‘Brassed off’ with Ewan Mc Gregor?wikipedia
    There was this whole social aspect around it that got lost too,the music fanfare and music concours…It opened my eyes to grief for that loss.

    A great question to meditate on ‘what the whispers of Jesus love and grace grow into in our lives?’

    In Robert Capon-Farrar his line:’Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore; He changes them into nice people’
    A friend of mine shared with me recently that she of all religion of the world she most like the buddist flow for they are recognized by their ‘nice’ appearances.
    I wonder at the same time what is the point of becoming wild-eyed radicals again and what is wrong with being ‘nice’?

    What do you mean ‘if we recapture the power’ we will see lost generations all over the world come out from behind the empty churches and began to live in the light?
    I understand you are sharing about the power through Jesus right…but where would you see the Holy Spirit participation through all of this,without turn into such fanatic extremist mindset games?

  10. Ali says:

    Thanks for the response Sonja. Yeah I have sen Brassed Off was a great movie, and it showed alot of the community breakdown when the steel works and mines were closed. The crazy thing is the generations that still encounter the burden of this grief and loss. The blame that is still handed out towards others, some justified and some unjustified.

    I think that nice is place of accept the middle road. In my small knowledge of Buddishm of which is very limited I believe that finding he peace and the middle road is at the very centre of that religion. When I look at this generation of people I see them searching for something more than being nice, for more than the middle road. I think thats what I see and feel here in Sheffield.

    I would be wary of saying ‘extremist mindest’ maybe I would use ‘more devoted follower of Jesus’, maybe. I believe the Holy Spirit is central to moving into the light. The landscape of England is dominated by huge churches that dominate the skyline, yet some of these churches are closed 6 days a week and when the open are struggling to fill any proportion of the building. I have a belief that is we capture the power of the Holy Spirit and re-imagine how these communities can transform the lives of the wider community they live in we will. I think we have lost our belief in the full and awe inspiring presence of God and His spirit. But I would wary of saying it is extremist for the mindset that brings and all the associations that would occur when using such a word.

  11. Sonja says:

    Thank you for the correction.It is just that i’ve been around ‘wild-eyed radicals’ too much and i found a negative association with it myself i guess.I hear what you’re saying.You can remove my comment if you’ think it harms the dept of your message.
    I have found so much beauty in isaiah 32:1-4,17 .I like the words u use ”a more devoted follower of Jesus’.
    It is sad to hear the churches are closed most of the time during the week in England.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.