Brief Reviews, Featured Reviews, Uncategorized, VOLUME 3

Review: VIRAL HOPE – J.R. Woodward, ed.

A Brief Review of

Viral Hope: Good News from the Urbs
to the Burbs (and Everything in Between).
J.R. Woodward, editor

Foreword by Scot McKnight.
Paperback: Ecclesia Press, 2010.


Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith

VIRAL HOPE, a new collection of mini-essays edited by J.R. Woodward and the first book published by Ecclesia Press, is a fabulous companion volume to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s The Wisdom of Stability (see our review above).  In the Spring of 2009, Woodward invited 50 friends to write a brief blog post about what the Good News looks like in their respective places, “as if their local newspaper had asked them to write an article about it.”  These posts, which originally spanned the 50 days from Easter to Pentecost have now been published together in this new volume.  There are a few names  here that readers will recognize (e.g., Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove), and more that will be familiar to those who frequent the blogosphere, but mainly the common thread that all the authors here share is that they are members of church communities seeking to embody the good news of Jesus Christ in particular places around the globe (though the overwhleming majority of entries are from North America).   On the whole, VIRAL HOPE is lively collection of stories that remind us that following in the way of Christ is indeed good news for our neighbors as well as ourselves.  It serves as a powerful reminder that the Kingdom of God is taking root and sprouting in communities all over the globe, and in so doing the good news is spread — hence the “viral” descriptor in the book’s title.   Chris Backert’s concluding essay sums it the book beautifully in four brief points:

  1. Something in the world is terribly wrong.
  2. Something better is coming.
  3. We get to participate in this great story of God’s restoration
  4. [All of these points are] mysteriously related to what happened to Jesus between the days we call Good Friday and Easter.  (169-170)

Indeed, this is the heart of the Gospel and this wonderfully good news is taking root and flourishing in all kinds of places around the globe.  This book, I imagine, will be an encouragement to many Christ-followers in the generation to come; I recommend finding and reading it, especially if you find ourself near or beyond the point of giving up on our faith in Christ — a dose of Viral Hope will do you good, and just might ignite even more stories of this sort of locally-emboded faithfulness in your place, in my place and beyond.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

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Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
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