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.


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.

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