Over the next year, Leadership, along with sister publications Christianity Today and Books & Culture, will feature articles that explore the relationship between church and culture, specifically the question: How can the church be a counterculture for the common good? This effort, funded in part by the Pew Charitable Trust, is called The Christian Vision Project. Mark Buchanan provides the first article in this series.

Jonah is my favorite prophet, and for no better reason than our uncanny resemblance. I'm bald and I figure him bald—why else his emotional tumult over how shade-dappled or sun-scorched his head? I'm short and I imagine him short: a stumpy, wiry guy, all that peevishness compacted tight as a nail bomb. He loved comfort and resented interruption, and that runs pretty close to my own bias. He was possessive, evasive, defensive, obsessive. Things not unknown to me.

Jonah is my least favorite prophet, and for exactly the same reason. He reminds me too much of me. I long to be Daniel-like in wisdom, Isaiah-like in righteousness, Ezekiel-like in faithfulness. I want the courage of Elijah, the endurance of Jeremiah, the long-view of Zechariah. I dream of standing down kings and outrunning horses, commanding drought and deluge with a word, calling down woe like thunderbolts and blessing like manna.

But I'm plagued with Jonah-likeness.

And here's a deeper worry: so is the church. Not just my church, but the church—especially the church in North America. We're evasive with God, resentful toward outsiders, smug about our own goodness. Prudish, hawkish, lovers of comfort, and nursing a giant grudge against anyone and anything that threatens it.

Just like Jonah.

That's half the story, anyhow.

The other half is that ...

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