While we connected at concerts and music festivals, I never did get around to seeing Jesus People USA‘s operation in inner city Chicago. Long after Cornerstone — both the festival and the magazine — had faded from memory, my interest was piqued again listening to Shane Claiborne talk about The Simple Way in Philadelphia.
But nothing demonstrates the essence of living in Christian community like a read through Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s latest book, The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith (Zondervan, paperback). Wilson-Hartgrove’s name be familiar to those of you who invested in Common Prayer, a sort of devotional on steroids which offers a complete liturgy for each day of the year. He’s an associate minister at St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, NC, but is probably best known as a leading spokesperson for a movement usually referred to as The New Monasticism, and his blog The Everyday Awakening.
The Awakening of Hope should not surprise anyone by being a type of apologetic for Christian community. Chapter subjects include:
1. Why We Eat Together
2. Why We Make Promises
3. Why It Matters Where We Live
4. Why We Live Together
5. Why We Would Rather Die Than Kill
6. Why We Share Good News
which are also covered in a 6-part DVD. (The print version also includes a chapter on fasting.)
But there’s something here that has a much, much broader application to all of us. You don’t need to have lived in community, toured one, or even known anyone who chose to spend any amount of time in one in order to appreciate the implications of what he writes on those of us who call the suburbs (with 2.4 children and 2.0 vehicles) home.
This book will make you rethink your current expression of faith.
But as I read this book, I could not help notice an uncanny similarity to another Zondervan writer, Philip Yancey. As I wrote for a book trade review these similarities include:
- written from experiences made possible by extensive world travel in that present-tense voice used by travel writers
- honest and personal and engaging
- rich text — any one paragraph could stand on its own for study and further consideration
- relevant to the situation we find ourselves in, which probably isn’t a monastic community
- healthy doses of scripture verses that are somewhat cross-indexed or juxtaposed
So we have (a) challenging subject matter that is foreign to the Christian experience of many of us, (b) a writer who knows this subject with great intimacy, (c) a writer who delivers a quality product.
In other words, this is a powerful book.
I’d especially recommend Awakening to anyone who read Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution, the aging rockers who well remember Chicago’s JPUSA, anyone who lived in community at YWAM or some similar training mission, anyone who spent the summer on staff at a Christian camp, anyone who spent time in a mission station overseas, and anyone who has ever wondered what it might mean to sell the house and the SUV and live out their Christian life in a new way.
For a very brief excerpt from the book, click here.