Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

An Interview with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove about his new book “God’s Economy”

God's Economy Book CoverI’ve been in the process of reading Jonathan-Wilson Hartrgove’s recent book God’s Economy: Redefining the Health & Weath Gospel and have found it meaningful and challenging, so I emailed him and he agreed to do a four-part interview with me.  Today is the first part of the interview and serves as a basic introduction.  Each part of the interview gets a bit deeper.  I will be posting the second part this Thursday and parts three and four next week on Tuesday and Thursday respectively.  I have put a short bio of Jonathan’s at the end of each post in case you want to learn more about Jonathan.  With that said,  let’s jump on in to the interview.

JR: Why did you decide to write your most recent book God’s Economy?

Jonathan: We live in the richest nation that has ever existed in the history of the world. So money is a force in all of our lives. For those of us who follow Jesus, we can’t forget that he said, “You cannot serve God and Money.” Money isn’t just there for us to use; it demands our allegiance. But then a global financial crisis comes along and exposes money’s impotence. When your 401(k) turns into a 101(k), you know it ain’t going to save you. This can lead to despair and desperate action. But it can also bring us to a place where we’re ready to hear Jesus anew: what is God’s economy and how does Jesus invite us to enjoy its abundance now.

JR: Why do you subtitle the book “Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel”?

Jonathan: When the woman who heads up Christian education at our church goes to the Christian bookstore to get something on money, she has to choose between Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes. I wanted to put another option on the shelf. The health and wealth gospel is popular because it recognizes that people are not satisfied with pie in the sky or a warm feeling in their heart. They want to know what God offers here and now. But so much of what’s out there is just the American dream wrapped in Bible verses. God’s economy is more radical than that. This world’s economy is passing away–and boy can we see it right now–but Jesus teaches tactics for a good life here and now. I’ve learned to live in a whole new world by experimenting with these tactics. I want to reintroduce them to the church.

JR: In the book, you talk about living the abundant life, what does it mean to live the abundant life in a rich country like the United States, and how does it differ from how many Christians in the states live today?

Jonathan: Abundant life is life in community with people who trust God for our daily bread. It means becoming friends with beggars instead of dodging them, learning from the poor instead of “helping” them, investing in people rather than abstract financial instruments, and pledging allegiance to God alone. So much of the American way of life is driven by fear–fear of the enemy, fear of not having enough. Abundant life is the gift of receiveing a love that drives out fear and becoming part of God’s beloved community in the world here and now.

JR: In God’s Economy, you write about an encounter you had with a homeless man outside of Union Station.  How did this change the route your life was taking?

Jonathan: Well, at 16 I was racing to the White House for Jesus, trying to use America’s resources for good in the world. But I almost tripped over Jesus outside Union Station. This got me thinking that maybe I had missed something. So I sat down on the streets and got to know the homeless. I opened my Bible and started re-reading the Scriptures with them. It turned out that most of the Palestinian peasants living under occupation that Jesus talked to, looked more like my homeless friends than they looked like me. And I started to realize that Jesus was telling us how to receive the kingdom when you can’t drive the Romans out. I didn’t need to get the White House to put God’s Economy into effect. I could start right where I was.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a graduate of Eastern University and Duke Divinity School. An associate minister at the historically black St. Johns Baptist Church, Jonathan is engaged in peacemaking and reconciliation efforts in Durham, North Carolina, and directs the School for Conversion, an alternative seminary that hosts courses around the country. He is a sought-after speaker and the author of several books including New Monasticism. The Rutba House, where Jonathan lives with his wife, Leah, their son, JaiMichael, and other friends, is a new monastic community that prays, eats, and lives together, welcoming neighbors and the homeless. Take a minute tocheck out his website. Feel free to order God’s Economy, you will be enriched and challenged.

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