The Gospel Next Door

Marty Troyer, The Gospel Next Door: Following Jesus Right Where You Are (Herald Press 2016).

This epistle challenges conservative American Christian sensibilities. In an era of retrenchment when many want to build walls and militarize borders, Marty Troyer links the gospel to shalom. More than an absence of violence, he seeks wholeness and human flourishing.

This is not an abstract notion. Troyer, who writes out of his experience as a Mennonite pastor, does not seek an ethereal gospel. This is a particular gospel that plays out in real life. It takes concrete shape across the world, in our cities, even next door. It also plays out in time: ancient Palestine and Egypt, the Karankawa peoples that once inhabited modern-day Southeast Texas, and now in the land of a global superpower.

These were—and are—places of extreme depravity. Houston, the place the author knows best, is home to human trafficking, astounding corporate greed, stifling pollution, wounded soldiers afflicted with PTSD, and the excesses of a market economy. How, Troyer asks, are we living out the gospel amidst these troubles?

But Houston is also home to a gospel that heals both people and cities. In Project Curate, Habitat for Humanity, the Fifth Ward Redevelopment Corporation, Troyer sees glimpses of a coming kingdom. In artist Robert Hodge; Julie Waters, founder of Free the Captives Houston; and Betty and Jim Herrington, who invite the homeless into their home, he sees modern-day saints. If we have eyes to see, the gospel is almost certainly at work next door.

The genius of The Gospel Next Door is that it brings together things perceived as fundamentally different: evangelism and peace, social justice and salvation, Black Lives Matter and theology. To a church and society riven by culture wars, this book is a profound gift of public theology.

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