I love how John Howard Yoder described evangelism: “When we preach the Christian gospel we are not talking about ideas; we are reporting events.” The evangelists who are captivating the imagination of a new generation get this. They’re not offering neatly packaged answers to life’s persistent questions. They’re telling stories about how God is stirring in movements for justice and peace, about how lives are being transformed by a relationship with God in a new kind of community.
At least, I know this is the message that gets my attention.
Because I’m both an American and an evangelical, I grew up praying for another Great Awakening—for a renewal of the fire and glory that burned through the South in the early 19th century or that fueled the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and so much more in our history. The past decade of work with School for Conversion has taught me that an awakening is indeed aflame in North America, but it’s not happening under the Big Tent. In so many ways, it’s a movement against the logic of Big Tents. The event that I have to report is a movement of people gathering together in small communities that are asking one defining question: “What if we tried to live the good way Jesus taught and practiced?”
I’m delighted this week to announce the release of The Awakening of Hope, a project designed to resource evangelists of hope. A couple of years ago, Shane Claiborne, Enuma Okoro, and I published Common Prayer as an invitation for a movement of people who are both loving God and loving their neighbors to join together in prayer, drawing on the ancient practice of liturgy. It’s been a incredible gift to see tens of thousands of people who didn’t know they were connected praying and singing the same songs, echoing eternity’s praise. For us, Common Prayer has confirmed that God is doing a new thing that’s deeply rooted in God’s old, old story.
And so, The Awakening of Hope is an invitation for you to become an evangelist of hope in the place where you are–to share the stories that are springing up in your own corner of the kingdom and to know that those signs are rooted in God’s Movement. The ancient practice we’re drawing on here is catechism. Literally, it means “sounding down.” It’s the way our faith has always been passed from one generation to the next–by one person breathing it to the another, spreading it like a virus. To fan the flames of your fire, we’ve interviewed some of the saints who’ve most inspired us–people whose lives are signs that hope is alive in our world.You can check out a little trailer for the project here:
Beginning with the practices of an embodied faith that inspires hope, this project asks why Christians do the things we do. It’s an invitation for us to both share the “reason for the hope that is within us” and grow deeper in that understanding ourselves.
Because, at its best, this is what theology always is: a conversation that invites all of us deeper into the life of God.
I’m delighted to share The Awakening of Hope with you. I hope you’ll get the book and read it. I hope you’ll get the DVD or download the videos and invite some friends over to start a conversation about why you do what you do. But, more than anything, I hope you become an evangelist of hope.
Because the world is hungry for good news. And we have news to report.
Patheos Book Club is hosting a roundtable discussion on The Awakening of Hope this month. Read excerpts and reviews, see more video, and share your own stories of hope for a chance to win a free copy of the book.