Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

JR Woodward on The Good News

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

Illustration by Nidhi Balwada from India

This entry is the conclusion of the blog series called The Good News, which has taken place throughout the Easter Season, from Easter to today, which is Pentecost. A full list of the contributors can be found here. My local newspaper is the the Los Angeles Times. Here is my entry on the Good News.

THE GOOD NEWS

Los Angeles is probably best known for its story telling through the arts – especially film. Good films are born of good narratives. I try to see a movie once a week when possible. When I watch a good film I sometimes get so lost in the story that I lose my sense of time… only to emerge after the credits with new eyes, a new awareness and a new sense of energy and hope. Good stories have that effect.

So what is the story of L.A.? Here are the current headlines that are part of L.A.’s script:

Unemployment Reaches Record High
Trafficking in Humans
Hit-and-Run Driver Kills USC Student
Love Thy Neighbor? Not in L.A.
Los Angeles Most Polluted US City
Racism’s Role in LA Gang Case Rekindles Debate

Where is the good news in all of this? There is some good news happening in LA, like the Lakers making it to the finals (lol). But also there’s a lot of bad news. Are we doomed to live out the same headlines year after year? Is this bleak script being reported the whole story, or is their a script that tells a richer story, a story leading to a more promising future?

We are all a part of some narrative. Every one of us resides in some story and the story we live in shapes the script we write day to day.

So what story are you living in?

How does that story shape your relationships and your calling in life? Does that story enable you to experience constructive transformation in your life and in the lives of others? When you imagine the future, do you have a sense of hope or despair?

The good news is that God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, and because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can now live as forgiven and forgiving people and join God in writing a new future for LA and for the world.

Of course the story of God started before Jesus arrived on earth. If the story of God were a five-act play, its like we have been given the first four acts (Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus) and the last chapter of the fifth act (New Creation) in the scriptures. Now as people who live in this real life drama, we are called to know the first four acts and the last chapter of the fifth act so well that we live improvisational lives in the now that are faithful to the God of this story.

If we choose to live in the story of God, we are called to follow Jesus. In that story, we learn to follow the Liberator of those who have been oppressed by the system, the Lover of those who have been rejected by society and the Deliverer of those who have been seduced by consumerism. This story doesn’t end with the annihilation of the earth, but a remade heaven and earth.

So why should we join Jesus in his story? Stanley Hauerwas suggests that “just as scientific theories are partially judged by the fruitfulness of the activities they generate, so narratives can and should be judged by the richness of moral character and activity they generate.”

As we reflect on God’s future (the last chapter of the fifth act) and let it shape our sense of calling, we can join with God in writing a new future for LA and the world — by anticipating God’s future in the present.

In other words, if God’s future is the elimination of hunger and thirst, how are our economic practices at this moment anticipating the reality of abundance and the elimination of hunger and thirst? If God’s future is the elimination of weapons and war, where people live peacefully with each other, how should we treat our enemies at this moment anticipating the reality of peace and justice? If God’s future is a renewed creation with clean air, fresh water and beauty, how do we approach living a sustainable life in the present, anticipating the reality of new creation?

God will bring the world toward the future he has imagined, and you and I have the opportunity to join him in that story. If you choose a different story, you also choose a different ending. You and I choose the story we want to inhabit, and then that story shapes us, for the good or for the bad. So which story are you living in, really?

JR Woodward is co-founder of Kairos Los Angeles, a network of neighborhood churches in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council as well as on the board for the Ecclesia Network and GCM. He founded The Unembraced, a ministry to orphans in the Turkana region of Kenya. He is also the co-founder and director of The Solis Foundation that awards micro-grants to help start small businesses in Kenya. He enjoys coaching and consulting and is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Global Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.  He loves to surf, travel, and have a glass of wine with old and new friends. He enjoys watching films as well as engaging in the art of photography.  He currently resides in Hollywood, California.  He has thoroughly enjoyed hosting this series on The Good News.


25 Responses to JR Woodward on The Good News

  1. Ian says:

    I hope I can learn to imagine God’s future, and respond accordingly. Your post has kindled my imagination with scripture – I look forward to my own adventure through the Bible to start figuring this all out.

    Its been such a great adventure, reading through this series. Thanks for all the hard work

  2. Jon Tyson says:

    JR,

    You have powerfully articulated why the Christian story is the most compelling narrative today.

    May we play our small, but important roles well.

  3. Sonja says:

    jr,
    To get ‘lost in the story of a good film’ to lose your ‘sense of time’ …’only to emerge after the credits with new eyes, a new awareness and a new sense of hope’ i so recognize as in a good friendship, a good teaching, a theater dance or play etc..
    This is what the goodnews series left me with too.So are you going to continue with this to have one every now and then or has it stopped here?

    Great questions you posed about what story we live by or choose to start participate.
    ‘we learn to follow the Liberater of those who have been oppressed by the system,
    the lover of those who have been rejected by society and
    the Deliverer of those who have been seduced by consumerism’ i found beautiful well- expressed.
    ‘If the story of God were a fifth-act play’ it reminded me of an example used in a past teaching like creating a new chapter play by William Shakespeare.

    ” what’s in a name? that we call a rose
    by any other name would smell as sweet”..(W.Shakespeare)

    How can hope be found if despair be out of the picture….

  4. JR Woodward says:

    @Ian, – I’m glad to see that the post has kindled a passion for the scripture and that you have enjoyed this series. I have enjoyed it as well.

    @Jon – Thanks bro. Thanks for living the story in NYC. Hope to see you soon. Peace.

    @Sonja – I’m glad you enjoyed the post and the series. As far as will I have another series like this. That is a good question. I hope to have one in the future, but maybe not until advent or lent. I will have to see. I certainly enjoyed hosting it, but it takes a little work and I need to look at my schedule. One thing that is coming up this week is a short series by Wil Hernandez who got his Phd on Henri Nouwen. He will be a guest blogger having a couple of entries this next week and the following. It should be rich. I will always have something interesting happening. Thanks for participating so richly in this past series even though English is not your first language.

  5. Chris Marlow says:

    Hey bro,I really enjoyed this series. Good to hear from so many folks trying to live out the kingdom in tangible ways. Thx for taking the time and effort!
    Shalom from Austin

  6. JR Woodward says:

    Chris,

    Yeah, its been a bit of work, but it has been well worth it. There have been so many rich entries. Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed it. We need to connect sometime about what you are doing in regard to poverty. Please say hi to my friends in Austin. Peace.

  7. Sonja says:

    Jr,
    Hey,You’re welcome and thanks for your thoughts of my add to be ‘richly’, Thank u for always make me feel accepted and my imperfections.
    I sure do look forwards to check out the entries on Henri Nouwen by your new guest blogger.Do you miss blogging at all? Don’t you have more sparetime now?lol
    Stay in the Spirit…

  8. JR Woodward says:

    Sonja,

    I will be blogging over the next couple of weeks even during Wil’s guest blog posts. I will be bringing back some of the regulars like the weekly Henri Nouwen quotes, Sunday Prayers, Monday Morning Medicine (starting next week), and book reviews. I haven’t really had more spare time because it takes a while to collect the various entries, do minor editing and putting them up, but it has been well worth the effort. I think you will enjoy the up coming series on Soul Care.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I don’t think Jose would agree that LA Making It To The Finals constitutes Good News.

  10. jrwoodward says:

    Jennifer,

    I don’t know, he seemed to enjoy the Laker’s game that we went to. You are funny. Hope your new baby is doing well. I will see you sometime this week. Peace.

  11. Kathy says:

    Thanks for this series. Your post is a fitting finale.

    It just so happens that Iowa State University hosted World finals for Odyssey of the Mind this weekend, so that event, along with your post, sparked an idea. Maybe the gospel is not just a story we inhabit, or a play God scripted that we enact. Perhaps it’s more like the Odyssey of the Mind challenges. The challenges come with certain constraints and non-negotiable elements, but the participants write the script. And as long as they follow the basic rules, their solutions to the embedded problems can, and should be, as creative as possible.

    I appreciate your focus on the story that shapes us. If God’s future is true because of Jesus, our creative challenge is to enact God’s future according to the elements of the gospel.

  12. jrwoodward says:

    Kathy,

    Yeah, a friend of mine and I were talking a bit about how we understand narrative, God’s role, our role, reality, truth, our script, God’s script …. It was and is a fascinating conversation. It is something that I am still wrestling through.

    It helps me to think about how God gives us help to see reality through the scriptures (Act 1-IV & Final Chapter of Act V) as well as enough space to live improvisational lives where we use our imagination, understanding (as incomplete as it is) and creativity to write our script, play our part, to plant, water and cultivate and then see what God does. For me the calling of the people of God is, in the words of Newbigin, to be a sign, foretaste and instrument of his coming kingdom. It seems to me that God the Father, Son and Spirit on a mission and he has invited us to take an active part in it. I love your last line “our creative challenge is to enact God’s future according to the elements of the gospel.”

    I’m glad you have enjoyed this series and I loved your entry and found the whole experience quite enriching. Thanks for your participation and encouragement.

  13. Sonja says:

    jr,
    Yeah, sunday prayer and the weekly Henri Nouwen quotes,soo great to hear.
    It sound like there was some work ‘behind the scene’ going on…what kept you bisy.
    I’m glad to hear you enjoyed. I’m looking forwards to the series on ‘soul care’.
    just to know i got inspired to try write a small good news entry for myself,i found really hard to do.Not as easy i thought it would be.lol
    I’d rather interact by writing a comment.

  14. Ben Sternke says:

    Thanks JR, for doing the series, and for your final post. Spot on, really great stuff. I especially appreciated the questions that got me thinking practically: “If God’s future is the elimination of hunger and thirst, how are our economic practices…, etc.”

    I also appreciated the carefully nuanced nature of your final paragraph, that God IS going to do this new creation thing, but that we also are invited to take part. I’ve always felt a danger to missional theology would be that we somehow start to think that it’s all up to us. So I liked that last paragraph. Well spoken.

  15. Kerry Whalen says:

    Hi JR,

    Nothing “deep” to add here – Just wanted to say thank you for this series – I stumbled on it quite by accident, & have really found it enriching – such a good feed!! I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what comes next…

    Kerry

  16. billy williams says:

    JR,
    Great ending to a great series. I heard a great message from Donald Miller about the kind of story we are choosing to live out. His challenge was for each of us to consider the defining narrative of our life and ask ourselves if it had the endearing elements of a good story. Would people find our story engaging or are we living boring plots.

    Thanks again for your blog and your engagement with the good news!

  17. JR Woodward says:

    @Sonja, I think you will like the Soul Care series. You should send me your good news entry, love to see it.

    @Ben, Thanks man. Yeah, it is God’s mission and we get to go along for the ride, yet he seems to like to let use drive sometimes, in our own little way.

    @Kerry, I’m glad to hear you stumbled on to my blog and that you enjoyed the series. I think you will like the different stuff coming up so stayed tuned.

    @Billy, Hey buddy. It is good to “hear” your voice through your written words. I miss you. Love that thought in regard to an engaging or boring plot. We definitely have been given quite a story to live in and live out. Thanks for your encouragement. Let me know when you are in town the next time.

  18. Dustin says:

    JR, it’s been enjoyable hearing all the different voices contextualizing the Good News in their cities. This was an excellent idea and I hope it continues to bear fruit beyond the blogosphere. Thanks for your diligent service!

  19. John Santic says:

    JR, the good news you describe has the strength to tear the false script of material consumption (our hallowed western tale) to shreds and the power to weave those shreds into a great tapestry of reconciliation saving and dignifying those willing to be recycled and renewed.

    Thanks for the series. It is by far the most intriguing blog project I have been a part of. I look forward to more great news from this url.

    Also, beneath your words I hear a little prodding from NT Wright. Who better to prod, huh?

  20. jrwoodward says:

    @Dustin, I’m with you man and I trust it will bear fruit in many cities as well. Thanks for your encouragement as well as your contribution to the series.

    @John, your words are a great encouragement and rich, thanks. Also I want to thank you for your participation in the series. And yeah, you rightly hear the echos of N.T. Wright in this post.

  21. Great finale to the series. I enjoyed the focus on your LA context and the invitation to inhabit God’s story.

  22. Thank you JR for your challenge of reflecting those Good News througout all Easter, we surely had great moments to be remembered.
    Let’s now live the story.
    Blessings!

  23. jrwoodward says:

    @Brian, Thanks man.

    @Luis, Amen.

  24. PJ Tibayan says:

    JR,

    Thanks for the post. As I began reading I was thankful for the LA reflections since we live in the same city. It naturally draws me in.

    Thanks for your straightforward statement: “The good news is that because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can live as forgiven and forgiving people and join God in writing a new future for LA and for the world.”

    The strengths of your explanation of the good news is that it anticipates the new creation and points toward action in our life/story based on who Jesus was/is what Jesus did/does. This is surely a New Testament exhortation and one my stream of evangelicalism ignored as I grew up. I also enjoyed the way repentance is described as switching stories or as Tom Wright says, leaving one’s agenda for the agenda of the Lord Jesus. The pointed question at the end is also an excellent way to communicate that the good news is not simply to be admired as good information but as a personal message from a personal God to persons expected to affect their personal lives/stories initially by making a choice.

    Weaknesses/deficiencies (from what I understand God says in the Scriptures): what Christ’s death means (even in the simplest of terms “died for our sins”), or how to switch stories. Also, when you describe the good news about Jesus AND how we can live based on that I think your article’s emphasis is on the latter where the New Testament writers always include the former with some explanation and sometimes include the latter when they’re thinking about the “whole” good news. If you explain aspects of the whole good news without clearly explaining the fountainhead of the good news (the meaning of Christ’s death and how we receive it in terms people in LA could understand) then I believe the good news isn’t faithfully explained.

    Questions: What is a Christian and what does that have to do with the good news? What do people need to be forgiven from and why? You assert above what the good news is in italics, so why does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus enable us to live as forgiven and forgiving people and join God in writing a new future for LA and for the world?

    Here’s my friendly perspective that is trying to understand what you’re saying, the nature of the newspaper article, the audience of LA, and the Scriptures words as illuminated by the Spirit. Please push back and rebuke and correct me where God has given you insight into his Word through his Spirit (which can be online or when we meet up). Thanks JR!

    For the good news in LA and around the world,
    PJ

  25. JR Woodward says:

    PJ,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I appreciate you taking the time to share what you consider to be the strengths of this particular post and the weaknesses, for that shows me you are sharing with a good heart.

    In regard to the deficiencies, I’m sure that my article has plenty of deficiencies, which is why I had fifty different authors sharing the good news from various angles and contexts during this series. Part of what I was trying to accomplish in my particular article was to talk about the gospel in a broad way, by inviting people into God’s story and sharing some of the central parts of that story, namely Jesus. The questions you pose would be the kind of questions I would hope would pop up in the minds of the readers of this article. If fact, my sense is that an effective gospel presentation to people in LA would need to be one that caused them to ask a lot of good questions. If the kind of questions you posed came to people who are unfamiliar with God’s story then I would be extremely satisfied. I think it is something that the Holy Spirit could work with to bring people toward a life giving faith.

    We can talk more when we meet up. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I look forward to seeing you Friday. Peace.

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