ViralHope & What is the Good News to Suburbia?
I am honored to have been able to contribute to a really exciting book project called ViralHope: Good News from the Urbs to the Suburbs. This is exciting for a few reasons, it is the first time I’ve been published so that’s pretty fun. But more importantly, its a a fantastic book and that goes well beyond my small contribution. Fifty pastors and practitioners each wrote short essays on the “good news” of the gospel. The assignment was to write something that would be publishable in the writers local newspaper. The entries are short and make for some very deep, light reading. The book was edited by JR Woodward and published by Ecclesia Press, the new publishing arm of our church network, The Ecclesia Network.
I wrote my entry in light of the suburbs of Philadelphia. I sense that most people living in suburbia live in very small worlds. While we have the more access to global information than anyone on the planet, I think we generally live in small worlds that revolve around us and our homes and our families. So, in my entry I tried to help us see that the good news was global in scale. My desire was for the reader to look beyond their own small world and see what God was doing on a global scale. Of course, this doesn’t mean that God is not for us personally. I just think we tend to get that part of the story and miss the wider implications of the gospel.
Below, you can find my entry. If you want to read the rest of the entries you’ll have to purchase a copy. (By the way, I can sell you a copy at a reduced price. I still have a bunch of copies to sell in my office – just let me know and I can get one to you).
Here is my entry:
Six months ago my six-year old son and I were playing with his matchbox cars. Without being provoked, he looked up and asked, “Daddy, why did Jesus have to die?” I was in the midst of trying to get my Porsche to out run his Jeep so I wasn’t completely ready for his question. But, I stopped myself before giving the answer. How did I want my son to understand the answer to this question? Why did Jesus have to die? What really happened at the cross? In essence, he was asking me this question, “Daddy, what’s the good news?” It’s questions everyone is asking.
Two years ago I found myself at the front of my church, standing in front of 300 people from my local community, the town of Feasterville, PA. More than three quarters of those present hadn’t been to my church before. For all I knew, most of them hadn’t been to church in years. So as a pastor, this would usually be something to be pretty excited about. But on that night, it was the last place I wanted to be. On that night, I was standing in front of the friends and family of a young man, barely 23 years old, who had just taken his own life. So there I stood as “pastor.” It was my job to bring comfort and a sense of hope to a devastating situation. I have no doubt that many of those people did not expect much from a pastor, but even those most skeptical seemed to be asking me this question, “Pastor, what is the good news?”
In the summer of 2008 I spent three weeks in the heart of Zambia. Zambia is a beautiful place and home to beautiful people. But life in Zambia can be gut-wrenchingly tragic. During my visit I met a mother of four who lived in a slum. . One of her children was already dead, two were almost starving to death, and her oldest daughter couldn’t go to school because she couldn’t afford to buy the proper uniform. My Zambian friend I was with predicted the daughter would be HIV positive before her 15th birthday. So, in the midst of this reality I could hear this mother asking me, “Dear friend, what is the good news?”
So what is the good news?
How do you answer this question for a five year old?
How do you answer this question for a room full of grieving friends and family?
How do you answer this question for a mother who is watching her family waste away in a slum in Zambia?
To state the obvious, in all three situations the answer needs to be news that is actually good news.
Through these and many other experiences I have found that the best way I can answer this question is to say that the good news is that Jesus came, died and rose again to fix the problems of the world.
I believe it’s important that we start there.
Far too often we Christians envision the “good news” too narrowly. The heart of the good news is the reality that God makes all things new. The Bible talks about a future day when there will be no more mourning, no more crying, no more death, no more pain. All the problems of the world will be fixed.
Lesslie Newbign writes the following, paraphrasing Revelation 21 and Isaiah 56,
“All nations and tribes and people shall be gathered together in one fellowship to worship God; all war and hatred shall cease; there shall be no more sorrow nor sighing, death itself shall be done away; even the wild creatures shall learn to live at peace – the wolf with the lamb and the bear with the ox; all the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of God; God himself shall dwell with them and be their God; all the glory and honor of the nations shall be gathered into God’s holy city, and nothing unclean or impure shall ever enter. It is in such words that the Bible describes to us the fulfillment of God’s saving purpose. All mankind shall live together in one holy family, as children of the Father, in new-created earth and heaven. This is salvation. Because we have received the first-fruits of it, we long for its completion. We know something of salvation now, because God has given us the earnest of it; we shall not know it fully until He has completed what He has begun.”
You see, the good news we Christians carry is global in scale. From this starting point it moves down into all other spheres of life.
We believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection came to bring peace and justice to our broken world.
We believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection came to bring peace and justice to our broken cities.
We believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection came to bring peace and justice to our broken neighborhoods.
We believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection came to bring peace and justice to our broken homes.
And, yes, we definitely believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection came to bring peace and justice to our broken lives.
All of our deepest longings are met in the words of Jesus himself, “I am making all things new…”
My hope is that you’ll realize the global scale of the good news and that Jesus longs to include you in His plan of Salvation. He longs to make you new just as much as He longs to have you be part of the work he is doing here on earth today.