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About The Very Good Gospel

God once declared everything in the world “very good.”
Can you imagine it?
 
A Vision of Hope for a Broken World
 
Shalom is what God declared. Shalom is what the Kingdom of God looks like.
Shalom is when all people have enough.
It’s when families are healed.
It’s when churches, schools, and public policies protect human dignity.
Shalom is when the image of God is recognized in every single human.
Shalom is our calling as followers of Jesus’s gospel. It is the vision God set forth in the Garden and the restoration God desires for every relationship.
 
 
What can we do to bring shalom to our nations, our communities, and our souls? Through a careful exploration of biblical text, particularly the first three chapters of Genesis, Lisa Sharon Harper shows us what “very good” can look like today, even after the Fall.
 
Because despite our anxious minds, despite division and threats of violence, God’s vision remains: Wholeness for a hurting world. Peace for a fearful soul. Shalom.

Praise

Praise for The Very Good Gospel

“Lisa Sharon Harper is so smart and interesting—she’s a wonderful leader. I respect her immensely and am passionate about the message of this book.”
-Jen Hatmaker, speaker and best-selling author of For the Love

“For anyone who has ever wondered if we were meant for more, Lisa Sharon Harper’s The Very Good Gospel provides a resounding ‘yes’ revealing God’s eternal vision of shalom for all creation—people, families, genders, races, and the nations. Our gospel has long been presented in a shallow way—and unattractive in its narrowness. The Very Good Gospel declares the breadth of God’s Word, reconciling social justice and personal salvation, and inviting readers to share the rich message of shalom for all people, as it was intended.”
—Michael Eric Dyson, political analyst, professor, and best-selling author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America

“Lisa Sharon Harper has presented the gospel, the good news, as it was meant to be—whole and complete. Our world has compromised so many elements of the good news that we are left with a divided gospel. We need to recover the whole Christian gospel, the wholeness of the church, the wholeness of relationships. Lisa has unleashed the whole-ism of shalom. Her application of the good news for America, for our culture, in the world, reminds us that God is bigger than our problems. My wish is that Christians and non-Christians alike read this book.”
Dr. John Perkins, co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association, founder of the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi, and author of Let Justice Roll Down

“For many decades, both mainline Christianity and the evangelical church have been captive to competing, shallow, and ‘thin’ understandings of what the good news of the gospel really is. In The Very Good Gospel, Lisa Sharon Harper masterfully presents the case that the very good news God brings to us is about the restoration of shalom—that is to say peace, well-being, wholeness, and abundance—which conquers the false dichotomy between social justice and personal salvation. Lisa shows us that God’s creation is emphatically, even forcefully, good, and it is the duty of every human being to responsibly steward God’s creation. Lisa’s clear, evocative prose blends scholarly theological insights with moving life experiences to show the clear applications of the gospel to our cross-gender relationships, our struggle against racism, how we care for the environment, our relationships with ourselves, and much more. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who seeks to understand God’s true purpose for the world and for our lives.”
Jim Wallis, New York Times best-selling author of America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, president of Sojourners, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine

“There are lots of ‘gospels’ out there competing for our affection—the gospel of the Kardashians, of Trump, of American exceptionalism—but Lisa Sharon Harper dives into the one true gospel, God’s very good news. On these pages, the Garden of Eden meets the world we live in. Harper stirs up an ancient, radical vision of shalom, whereby God heals all the wounds that sin has created—in our hearts, in our streets, and in our world.”
—Shane Claiborne, activist and author of Executing Grace


“To speak of the gospel as good news, it has to be good news for the oppressed, the impoverished, the brokenhearted. To embody God’s shalom is to embrace and restore the image of God in all humanity no matter who or where they are. Chapter by chapter Lisa Sharon Harper builds the case for reading, understanding, and living the gospel as the life-giving, freedom-bringing, shalom-infused reality it really is. There are new, exciting voices coming from a new, younger generation of evangelicals, and they are turning the traditional meaning of that word around. Lisa Sharon Harper is such a voice and well worth hearing.”
Allan Boesak, South African human-rights activist and the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation Studies at Christian Theological Seminary and Butler University

“Lisa Sharon Harper writes in a fresh and personal way, combining rich theology with deep experience working with contemporary issues to inspire us not to settle for a thin gospel but a thick gospel—the fullness of the good news of God’s reconciliation and shalom that touches all aspects of life. The Very Good Gospel is for all of us struggling with how the good news of Jesus should impact not just our own lives but also speak to the injustices in our world. This book brings all the threads together and weaves a glorious picture of God’s redemptive work in creation.”
Ken Wytsma, president of Kilns College and author of Pursuing Justice and Create vs. Copy

“Exposing racism, sexism, and exploitation as a direct assault on God, The Very Good Gospel weaves its wisdom around God’s shalom—the blessed web of creation, where the flourishing of one is a flourishing of all. It is beautiful and true. Thank you, Lisa!”
Dr. Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, www.cbeinternational.org

“Part mountaineer, part miner, Lisa Sharon Harper has somehow ascended the mountain of Scripture to survey its entirety while also digging deep into its core to extract raw truth of immense implication and conviction. Lisa’s revealing stories, scriptural depth, and prophetic voice make The Very Good Gospel a very good read—one you won’t want to miss.”
David Drury, chief of staff for the Wesleyan Church World Headquarters and author of nine books including Transforming Presence

“One can scan across the landscape of the church and not find a better articulator of the essence of the gospel in the twenty-first century. Lisa Sharon Harper follows a rich tradition of reformers and iconoclast theological practitioners who deeply love the gospel and God’s people. She has made it her life’s project to challenge lethargic and cynical people to live love and practice justice. Our world is richer and more vibrant because of her compassionate and strong voice.”
Reverend Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ and author of Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World

“In a world that has legitimate reasons to question the possibility of a good God, Lisa Sharon Harper reminds us what is in fact not only good but beautiful about the God who loves us more than we want to be loved. Her winsome words wash over the reader with gentleness, while simultaneously striking out with a fierce love that is corrective and healing. The Very Good Gospel is more than just a social activist’s field guide; it is a road map to a better world—one marked by faith, hope, and love.”
Christopher L. Heuertz, author, activist, and founding partner of Gravity: A Center for Contemplative Activism


"Christian social activist and public speaker at Sojourners in Washington, D.C., Lisa Sharon Harper (Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican ... or Democrat) releases a salient, provocative look at scripture through the lens of her own life. From the shalom offered by God to humanity in Genesis, through the "wreckage of the fall," and forward to Jesus' "very good" gospel, Harper mirrors scripture's long arc with contextual family drama, including information about her "third great-grandmother" who was "the last adult slave in [Harper's] family." In an engaging accessible voice, she interweaves the provocative history of 19th-century evangelical movements, 20th-century social gospel and civil rights movements, and the 21st-century Black Lives Matter movement with her own testimony of coming to Christ and her varied experiences as a progressive evangelical. Harper provides detailed history, statistics, and vibrant stories that reveal the possibility of America's redemption. The willing reader will be restored to a "very good" gospel, which sets free those who are broken, economically poor, abused, ashamed, and oppressed. Built on a foundation of solid biblical study, Harper provides a vital, effective contribution to the narrative theology movement. When systematic theologian James W. McClendon coined the phrase "biography as theology," he was advocating for this book: life stories that remake the way we think about God today. (June)" —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

About Lisa Sharon Harper

Lisa Sharon Harper is the chief church engagement officer at Sojourners, a nonprofit organization committed to putting Christian faith into action in the pursuit of social justice, peace, and environmental stewardship. She is the author of several books, including Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican...or Democrat and coauthor of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith. Harper has been recognized by The Huffington Post as one of “50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders” and is considered one of the nation’s most influential voices on a faith-rooted approach to advocacy. Harper speaks extensively, nationally and internationally, and lives in Washington, D.C.

Featured Videos

VIDEO: THE VERY GOOD GOSPEL by Lisa Sharon Harper

Product Details

240 pages | Published by WaterBrook

On Sale Date: Jun 7, 2016

Trim Size: 5-1/2 x 8-1/4

Carton Quantity: 12

Sneak Peek

A Vision of Hope for a Broken World Click here to download chapter one of The Very Good Gospel Shalom is what God declared. Shalom is what the Kingdom of God looks like.

Shalom is when all people have enough.

It’s when families are healed.

It’s when churches, schools, and public policies protect human dignity.

Shalom is when the image of God is recognized in every single human.

Shalom is our calling as followers of Jesus’s gospel. It is the vision God set forth in the Garden and the restoration God desires for every relationship.

What can we do to bring shalom to our nations, our communities, and our souls? Through a careful exploration of biblical text, particularly the first three chapters of Genesis, Lisa Sharon Harper shows us what “very good” can look like today, even after the Fall.

Because despite our anxious minds, despite division and threats of violence, God’s vision remains: Wholeness for a hurting world. Peace for a fearful soul. Shalom.

   

Press Release

For Immediate Release
from WaterBrook Press
a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

New Book by Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners Urges Christians to Restore God’s Vision of Shalom for a Broken World
 
Built on a foundation of solid biblical study, Harper provides a vital, effective contribution to the
narrative theology movement. When systematic theologian James W. McClendon coined the phrase ‘biography as theology,’ he was advocating for this book: life stories that remake the way we think about God today.” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review
 
For many Christians, the good news of the gospel doesn’t seem good enough. They’re missing out on hope of the biblical call to shalom, says Lisa Sharon Harper in her new book, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right (WaterBrook, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, $19.99 hardcover, June 7, 2016).
 
“At its heart the biblical concept of shalom is about God’s vision for the emphatic goodness of all relationships,” Harper says. Exploring the first three chapters of Genesis, she shows that “God’s mighty web of interconnected relationships” was not merely good, it was “forcefully, vehemently, abundantly good.”
 
Harper, chief church engagement office at Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization, is a nationally recognized leader on faith-based approaches to advocacy. The catalyst for her own search for a truly good news gospel was a pilgrimage during which she encountered the brutal history of the Cherokee Trail of Tears and the African American experience, from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement. Harper, an African-American woman with Native American ancestry, was confronted by a hard truth, she says: “My limited evangelical understanding of the gospel had nothing to say about 16,000 Cherokees and four other sovereign indigenous nations whose people were forcibly removed from their lands, and it had nothing to say to my own ancestors who were enslaved in South Carolina.”
 
Harper’s personal pilgrimage continued for thirteen years, as she worked out her understanding of shalom and its implications for the practice of the gospel and for her work as a justice advocate. “If one’s gospel falls mute when facing people who need good news the most—the impoverished, the oppressed, and the broken—then there’s no gospel at all,” she writes.
 
Many Christians lack the biblical foundation needed to comprehend kingdom theology. “To live in God’s Kingdom in the way of shalom requires that we discard our thin understanding of the gospel,” she says.
 
Harper points to the creation account in Genesis to show how “God’s governance transformed the world from a cesspool of overwhelming darkness... into a world where darkness is limited by the light.” She says it’s not hard to see where we need God to speak today, pointing to a world devastated by terrorist rampages, police shootings of unarmed black men and women, a rise in
the activities of white supremacist groups, economic inequality, and environmental devastation. She takes readers through nine areas where shalom is desperately needed, among them:  
 
• Shalom between Genders: “The doctrine of the image of God, established in Genesis 1:26-27, has profound implications for the relationship between men and women. All humans, male and female, are created in God’s image...It is time for the church to stand up and say no more to the subjugation of...half of the image of God in the world.”
Shalom for Broken Families: Harper’s parents divorced when she was young, so she knows the pain of broken family relationships firsthand. “Whether it is interpersonal dynamics of domination or systemic oppression that breaks families, God is committed to reconciling families.”
• Shalom and Race: “We have believed a lie whose roots run deep in Western thought. It has shaped Western worldview, structures, legal paradigms, and the church. To glimpse the way to shalom in the area of race, we must first understand the dimensions and outcomes of this lie,” Harper writes. “True witness of the reality of the Kingdom of God calls us all to embrace the very good news that black lives do matter and that there is a way to restore the dignity and repair the damage of centuries of degradation.”
• Shalom between Nations: “In a pluralistic democracy, we cannot impose our conceptions of God on our neighbors through the imposition of any sacred text on domestic or foreign policy. It is, though, necessary for all people of faith to draw from our principles to help us engage the world in a way that moves our nation and world toward God’s very goodness.”
 
Other chapters explore Shalom with God, Shalom with Self, Shalom and Creation, Shalom and Witnessing Peace, and Shalom and Death.
 
Harper weaves her personal story though the book: “Born black in a white world, a woman in a man’s world, I became a child survivor of bullying, sexual abuse, and divorce.” For years, she was lost, and trying her best to be okay. She writes of the transformative nature of her relationship with God, and her own search for shalom.
 
“There is a way back to shalom. It is the way of God demonstrated through the person of Jesus and made possible through his death and resurrection. This is the good news. This is the very good gospel,” Harper writes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lisa Sharon Harper
is the chief church engagement office at Sojourners, a nonprofit organization committed to putting Christian faith into action in the pursuit of social justice, peace, and environmental stewardship. She is the author of several books, including Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican...or Democrat and coauthor of Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith. Harper has been recognized by The Huffington Post as one of 50 Powerful Women Religious Leaders and is considered one of the nation’s most influential voices on a faith-rooted approach to advocacy. Harper speaks extensively, nationally and internationally, and lives in Washington, DC.

Contact Publicist

Beverly Rykerd, Publicity Director brykerd@penguinrandomhouse.com (719) 268-1935

By Bob Trube

Summary. Through a study of the early chapters of Genesis with application to contemporary life, Harper explores the theme of shalom and how this enlarges our understanding of the good news.Have you ever felt that there must be more to the gospel? This is a question that Lisa Sharon Harper has struggled with in her own life and for which she found profound answers as she explored the biblical theme of shalom as well as the early the early...

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By Jill Straw

I thought this book was very well written. I felt that the author was authentic in her writing. I would recommend it.I received this book for free from Blogging For Books in exchange for writing an honest review. I am under no obligation to write a favorable review.

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By Sandra Perry

This book begins with life in the Garden of Eden. Life the way God intended it to be. Everything and everyone in peace, harmony, and in right relationship: shalom. Then comes the snake with his insinuation that there's another, better way to be happy and to be as wise and powerful as God. Insinuating that perhaps God is holding out on us. And from that, separation and shame destroy paradise. The Very Good Gospel describes the...

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By Nick Highland

Lisa Sharon Harper's "The Very Good Gospel" is witty, humorous, and on point.  Harper makes a case for the Kingdom of God, arguing for the restoration to the created order rather than a vision of a disembodied heaven.  The good news isn't for someday.  It isn't for "after death."  The good news is for now.  The good news is shalom.This isn't anything groundbreaking or new, but it is very well expressed, and highly accessible.  It would make a...

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By Kim Wells

"Because of God's nearness, we are never alone." (p77)This book.  You guys.  I am so very glad I read this book.  Lisa Sharon Harper has such a firm and confident voice in The Very Good Gospel.  It felt like a lifetime of lessons learned spilled out on the pages of this book.  The first three chapters go back to the first few chapters of Genesis to tell the story of  creation and the fall.  At the very beginning of the book, Ms. Harper tells...

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