I recently had the privilege of connecting with missional church planter and man of many hats,  J.R. Woodward (aka dream awakener) when he happened to be in Central Virginia. While I did not record our conversation that day (I’m sorry you missed it too!) I did ask J.R. a few questions via email afterward about the new book he put together entitled ‘Viral Hope: Good News From the Urbs to the Burbs (and everything in between)‘.

Viral Hope (the book) edited by JR Woodward

How do you incarnate the Good News of GOD's kingdom where you live?

It’s a fascinating read featuring short entries from many incarnational church leaders (around 50 in all) who are engaged in the roots and soil of their local areas to cultivate the Gospel of Jesus’ kingdom in their context. Some of the voices include: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Mark Van Steenwyk, Bob Hyatt, our friend Christine Sine (of Mustard Seed Associates) and many others. The forward by Scot McNight starts the book out:

“The Church has always been tempted to establish Jesus’ viral kingdom through institutional organizations, through power, and even at times, through violence. These don’t work because they betray what the viral kingdom vision of Jesus is all about: a saving cross that morphs through it’s cross-ness into a crown through the resurrection…Because the kingdom vision of Jesus is viral, it will be local…” [p. 15]

And a brief summary on the book from Ecclesia Press:

“…In ViralHope: Good News from the Urbs to the Burbs, fifty authors take on the task of sharing the good news for their city, together weaving a beautiful tapestry of the gospel in all its depth and complexity. These essays reveal how the gospel lives and breathes in neighborhoods around the world.”

ST: Tell us a little about yourself. Briefly give us a little background.

JR: I’m a disciple maker that plants churches. I am co-founder of Kairos Los Angeles starting churches in the heart of LA. I live on the rougher end of Hollywood Blvd, though I have a beautiful view of the city from my apartment.  I love my neighborhood and am seeking to join God in bringing His full renewal to the city of angels. My calling is to help people and communities live up to their sacred potential.I’m finishing my Masters at Fuller Theological Seminary and loving every minute of it. I’m also the executive director with the Solis Foundation,where we give micro grants to help fund entrepreneurs in Lodwar, Kenya. The first church I planted was at Virginia Tech, called [nlcf], which by God’s grace continues to go strong, even after my departure. I love meeting new people as well as nourishing my close friendships. I enjoy reading, skateboarding, exploring new cities, surfing, blogging, watching films and engaging in photography. If you want to learn more about me, you can visit my website – jrwoodward.com or my blog jrwoodward.net, or follow me on Twitter @dreamawakener.

ST: What is your new book ‘Viral Hope’ all about, and why did you choose a collective, multi-author format?

JR: ViralHope is all about a robust gospel, a gospel big enough to redeem the world. From the skyscrapers of New York to the streets of LA, people are talking about the Good News and seeking to discern just what the Good News is, so instead of just having a book about how one person sees the Good News, I thought it would be meaningful to hear the Good News from a variety of people in different places around the world. Another reason I took a multi-author format for this book was I wanted to encourage people through the entire season of Easter – the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost. I thought it would be great to hear how various professors, practitioners, bloggers and authors articulate the Good News for their city, suburb or village.

ST: One of the intriguing things about Viral Hope is that the contributors to the book offer their view of the Gospel in the context of their own geographic region and locality. Why did you make this ‘hyper-local’ context a major theme of the book?

JR: Great question. I chose the different writers for the book because I wanted to hear from people who are embodying the Good News in their city and neighborhood. The Good News took on flesh and blood and grew up in a particular town, and the greatest need in our day is to have living, breathing, communities of faith, that enflesh the good news in specific localities. To follow Jesus is to incarnate the Good News in the real places that we live.  Each neighborhood and city is quite different. One question that I like to ask that brings out the importance of incarnating the Good News locally is: If God’s kingdom would be fully realized in our neighborhood, what would be different? This question would be answered different if I lived in Beverly Hills or if I lived in Compton. So the Good News lives and breathes in the local context, even though its message is for the entire world.

ST: Are the ‘grassroots’ and institutional forms of church life at odds? Do you think the future viability of the Christian faith in the Western world will depend on one or the other more heavily?

JR: My prayer is that all of us who self-identify as Christian would grow in our experiential understanding of God’s love for us. For those who know are loved by God, love others. I also pray that each of us individually and collectively would live by faith in the promise that “God is making all things new” and that we would learn to love one another as Christ has loved us, which means that we love those living in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan as much as we love those in our own families. For when we live by faith in God’s promises for the world, and love one another from the heart, we can then be a voice of hope for our neighborhood and the world with a hope worth spreading – a ViralHope!

ST: Where can folks buy the new book?

JR: People can ask for the book at their local bookstore or order it on Amazon. One of the things that a lot of house churches and local churches are doing is buying the book in bulk so that they can all read through it together and enter into some meaningful dialogue about the good news. You can get a good deal on these bulk orders by directly ordering from the Ecclesia Press. Thank you for your questions and continue to spread the hope.

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What does the Gospel look like in your town?

[video: DJ OfficialMissio Dei, on the album: EnterMission from Reach Records]

J. Fowler

J. Fowler is the website editor and co-founder, along with his wife Pamela, of the Sustainable Traditions project. The Fowlers live with their seven children on a farm near the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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