Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove 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. Jonathan’s local newspaper is the Durham Herald Sun in Durham, NC. Here is Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

It is not uncommon in our post-Christian culture to hear Christianity derided as bad news. Its Crusades were violent, its Inquisitions inhuman, its gender norms oppressive, its truth claims intolerant, its political imagination undemocratic. An established and powerful church in the West succeeded in both gaining dominance and losing credibility. Our good news turned bad in the ears of the culture.

But the end of cultural dominance does not mean the end of Christianity. Indeed, a post-Christian culture may turn out to be good news for the church. At the very least, it helps us see that the way of Jesus is something distinct from the status quo; that following this Way will cost us nothing less than everything; and that the Way is best proved by walking it.

The good news the church has proclaimed for 2,000 isn’t any less true for our having failed to live it. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. This is the news we proclaim. But given the signs of the time, most people aren’t interested in hearing our careful reflections on the work of Christ until they see some difference that it makes in our lives and in the world. The good news we most need is a good news the world can see.

The last thing we need, though, is some last-ditch effort at heroic Christianity-holier-than-thou asceticism or utopian communitarianism-as an attempt to save the church (or Christendom). It’s not enough for us to turn from an obsessive focus on getting our doctrine just right to an equally myopic focus on getting our practice just right. We’d do well to remember the publican’s prayer-the one he prayed at the margins of the synagogue, head bowed in a posture of humility: “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The good news I have known has come in community across dividing lines. I’ve experienced it while struggling to see and confess my own sins and to forgive the sins of others. The church and community that I call home are not perfect. They exist in real space and time, tied in closely with the broken systems of America’s Christ-haunted South. My life here does not make me feel very holy. Indeed, trying to keep faith with these particular people reminds me again and again how broken I am.

And yet, the good news is that we can go on together. We can go on because we’re always dying and living again-always getting interrupted by the risen Christ, always learning to forgive and be forgiven. In the process we find the greatest news of all: that we are not alone. We are saved together in fellowship so that we might know the fellowship of God.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove has written about the good news in his church and community in Free to Be Bound and New Monasticism. To learn more about his ministry as well as his upcoming book God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel, check out his website.


4 Responses to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on The Good News

  1. Dustin says:

    Hey Jonathan, thanks for your post. I grew up in Carthage, NC about one and a half hours from Durham. It is an interesting place (the South) because it’s so permeated with church artifacts (buildings, billboards, etc.), but something still seems to be missing. Could you elaborate on what you mean by “Christ-haunted South?” That phrase really intrigued me.

  2. Maria says:

    Thanks for the warning- we can’t move from obsessing about our doctrine to obsessing about getting our practice just right. Instead, as communities, we need to come to humility and ask for mercy. Thanks. I think we need to start with the realization of our own brokenness as communities in this world.

  3. JR Woodward says:

    Jonathan,

    In these few thoughtful words you remind us of how our culture hears the “good news” and paint a picture of how those of us who call ourselves Christians are called to live and be the good news. But you don’t stop there, you recognize the reality of living in these “in-between times” and how a part of living the good news is coming to terms with our own brokenness and living the forgiven and forgiving life, one that is as you articulate so well, “is always getting interrupted by the risen Christ”. Thanks for giving us so much to reflect upon, reflection that I trust will lead to continual repentance and transformation. Peace.

  4. Kerry Whalen says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s not our doctrine or our practice that connect us to God, but the Cross of Jesus.

    Re sin/forgiveness & *life’s messiness* – I am so blown away by the extravagant, unconventional, even “inappropriate” grace of an infinite and Holy God, who chooses to dwell with me – mess and all! – & how that changes everything!

    Blessings,
    Kerry

Leave a Reply