Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Brian Russell 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. Brian’s local newspaper is the Orlando Sentinel. Here is Brian Russell on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

One of Walt Disney’s core maxims reads: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Over the last forty years, Orlando has morphed from a sleepy Central Florida town centered on the citrus industry and World War Two era military bases into a gateway city that welcomes the world with top-notch resorts and attractions. Orlando is in the business of fun and offering its visitors a respite from the suffocating status quo of the daily grind of life. The dream of carving out an international city in the midst of former wetlands and citrus groves has largely been achieved. Orlando is known as the City Beautiful. At least, this is what the marketing campaigns proclaim. But as an almost decade long resident of the area, I wonder if perhaps we haven’t dreamed big enough?

It is undeniable that millions of persons enjoy their vacations in Central Florida. But is an existence rooted in manufacturing memories for others of mouse ears, sun tan lotion, roller coasters, chain restaurants, and convention centers truly a dream worthy of our lives? What if instead we were in the business of life transformation? What if people came to Central Florida for a vacation and instead found life? What if vacationers did not encounter only employees of Orlando’s extensive service industry but women and men joyously serving as part of a radically different Kingdom? What if Orlando embraced a bold and daring vision for what it might become-a gateway city that welcomed and ushered the world into a radical new reality?

For this to be possible, we will need a new story to ignite a fresh vision for our community. Let me suggest an encounter with a largely forgotten storyline. The Bible offers an audacious narrative of a God who is looking for a people with whom to partner to extend blessing and good, life and wholeness, and hope and reconciliation to all peoples, nations, and tongues. This God is the creator of a world in which the final words are Rest, Love, Justice, Mercy, and Peace. In the life of Jesus, this God came to live among us. Jesus modeled true humanity while at the same time subverting strongly held misconceptions about divinity and religion. Jesus came to invite us back to life the way that God had intended. To this end, Jesus announced a liberating message that can be summarized this way: “(Re)align yourselves because the long awaited good future has now arrived in me.” Jesus immediately called into being a new community to embody his life and teaching and freely sacrificed his life for this new vision. But this isn’t the whole story. Jesus was no mere martyr who inspires us and serves an example to emulate. The full story is this: Jesus is alive. The Creator God of all that exists delivered Jesus from the grave so that he stands today fully alive as the triumphant Lord of a new Kingdom. If we have ears to hear, we can still hear him calling to us today to dream new dreams and envision new possibilities. But most all of all he promises to stand as the vanguard who will lead us to become the women and men whom we were created us to be-a people that exist to reflect and embody the character and nature of the God in and for the world.

What if following Jesus was the way to taste and experience true life-the life that God alone dreams for you and has acted in Jesus to make possible? That would be good news indeed. What would our lives and city look like if we (re)aligned our lives in response to this good news?

Brian Russell lives in Oviedo, FL with his family. He serves as Professor of Biblical Studies on Asbury Theological Seminary’s Orlando campus. His research interests center on engaging the Scriptures from the perspective of God’s mission. Brian’s forthcoming book on missional interpretation will be published in 2010 through Wipf and Stock. He blogs regularly at Real Meal Ministries. His local paper is the Orlando Sentinel. Brian enjoys surfing, swimming, and engaging in reckless fun with his family.


6 Responses to Brian Russell on The Good News

  1. JR Woodward says:

    Brian, Thanks for imagining more for Orlando and calling people to “switch stories” and get involved in partnering with God “to extend blessing and good, life and wholeness, and hope and reconciliation to all peoples, nations, and tongues.” May God’s Spirit come upon us freshly so that we might dream big, see beyond and live the adventure, even though it involves a great deal of suffering. Because joy comes in the morning.

  2. Pingback: realmealministries.org » The Good News for Orlando

  3. Sonja says:

    Brian,
    I liked the ‘final words section’ where God is the creator of a world in which are Rest, Love,Justice, Mercy and Peace.
    ‘If we only have ears to hear we can still hear Him calling us today to dream new dreams and envision new possibilities, but most of all……a people that exist to reflect and embody the character and nature of the God in and for the world.
    Especially the last part i find beauty in.
    Is it for everybody to dream big and have a vision?
    Does the concept of success needs to be part of a dream?

    I watched the movie ‘ámazing grace’ yesterday.Very impressive and when i read your
    post it reminded me of the ‘battle’,sacrifice and waiting proces it takes to got William his vision and dream to break through.

  4. John Santic says:

    Brian, I appreciate the way you took the storyline of vacations and fairytale and turned them upside right by offering an invitation to the most important adventure of following Jesus. I also echo Sonja’s thoughts about your final words of Love, Justice, Mercy, and Peace.

  5. JR – Thanks for the invitation to participate in the series.

    Sonja – Thank you for your kind words. Your questions are worthy of blog posts… My short response would be: Yes, in the sense that part of what it means to be human involves living for something bigger than self. We may not call such a vocation or insight a vision but it is its equivalent. I don’t necessarily think that everyone is called to a individualistic “big” dream, but God’s Kingdom is the biggest of all dreams/visions and he calls all humanity to it.

    Great question about the role of success. I would define success as living as the person whom God created me to be. In my opinion, we would do well to think intentionally about the meaning of success and failure in light of life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

    Again thank you for taking the time read my post and offer a response.

  6. Thanks John. Context is everything. It is vital for us to locate the Gospel within our social context and try to deploy metaphors/language that communicate it clearly. I found the essay a fun one to write. It was also challenging as it is easy to fall into cliches from other eras.

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