Jesus Manifesto

May 28, 2010

Jesus Manifesto

It is so easy to get caught up in stuff about Jesus, or for Jesus. The more of a “leader” you are, the easier it is to get excited about stuff. From doctrines to interpretations, from models to methods…

We have made faith and practice into so many things, burdening them with layers of complexity. One of the things I am learning about “church planting movements” is that for something to go viral, the message must be so focused and simple that it can be caught and passed on by anyone.

This book is a wake-up call to return to your first love. It has infected my thinking, my meditation, my conversations… Here’s a teaser from the introduction:

So what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the “good news” that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person.

A word about style: I happen to enjoy the word games that Len Sweet plays, because they tweak my brain to go beyond the words. But some people don’t. Whether you love or hate his wordplay, you should know that this collaboration with Frank Viola adopts a much simpler tone. This kind of simple writing is easy to grasp, but is easy to rush through and say, “Yeah, yeah, it’s all about Jesus, I get it already.” I recommend that you treat this book as a devotional, reading it prayerfully.

Actually, if you’re like me, you have no choice but to read it prayerfully. Every few paragraphs, I hit a “zinger” that stops me in my tracks, reframes my thinking, and throws me into meditation. Like, “When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power.” Chew on that. This book is increasing my love for Jesus …and how often does one get to say that?

Are you curious to learn about a simple Christianity? A faith that rises above its divisions? A Person who asks that you give yourself completely to him, because he gives himself completely to you? Then you owe it to yourself to get this book. …But wait, don’t place your order until Tuesday, June 1st when it will be on special discount for its release date.

(Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.)

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

5 responses to Jesus Manifesto

  1. Oh bro!
    Don’t get me started on CPMs! I spent numerous years in an environment where CPMs were the prize to be had for missionaries. When I sat in meetings with people who’s job it was to develop strategies to reach their focus people, I heard struggles to define and categorize the various groupings of people they were engaging… “is this group a church or a bible study or a fellowship or what?…” As I heard them struggle to accurately fill out their annual statistical reports I thought they might not be asking to define the right terms or ask the right questions. In my church formation class I never found myself satisfied with the definition of what constitutes a church. There seem to be some fairly solid guidelines but they have more to do with what a church is to be doing and not so much how to define it. It’s like that court case where US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about hard-core porn “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it” Sorry for the crass comparison but, I think being able to know a church when we see one (and I’m NOT talking about buildings…) is more important than trying to define one when there seem to be so few visibly impacting our culture.
    So, I’ll ask the question here that I have yet to get a response directly from scripture. Where in the Bible does it tell us to make our primary focus about church panting movements, and I’ll take it a step further and ask where in scripture it tells us to even focus on planting a church at all? Jesus’ commission to us was as clear as His summation to the entire law. The law is now “Love God with everything we are, and love our neighbors as ourselves” Can’t get any simpler or clear. Then the task to individuals and His body is to go make disciples. No where in there does it say our primary focus is to be about planting churches…
    What do you think? I know I’m a heretic…

  2. Guy,
    Eh? Did you mean to comment here, or possibly here?
    In any case, I agree that church planting is not our job. The best CPM folks out there seem to agree (though they continue to use the term). One has suggested that “gospel planting” would be more accurate and helpful.

  3. LOL… Looking back after I clicked “Post” I realized that the words “church planting movement” were like a shiny object to a raccoon and couldn’t let go! I got sidetracked and ranted a bit… sorry!
    I’d like to just use the words “make disciples” since those were the words Jesus used. But, before diving into it, we need make sure we know what that means… The reason people seem to react with such emotion to my comments about church planting not being in scripture as a focus is, I believe, because they think discipleship is just teaching scriptural truths and gathering info to regurgitate upon demand. Be it from man or the devil. Discipleship is more than something learned from a study or even the Bible. It is about living and following someone else who is following Jesus. It’s messy, time consuming and often not fun and something we can’t just walk away from once class-time is over.
    In regards to a term we make up to refer to the result of making several disciples in a given geographical area where they can meet in fellowship and live in community, I’d like to use the term church “birthing”. But only as a result and not as a focus. The Church is the Body of Christ yet we say we “plant” it. I say expressions of the Body of Christ, Churches, are “birthed”. Using this term even carries with it the notion of mobility rather than immobility… “Gospel planting” though, is way better than church planting to me.
    I’ll work on ignoring shiny things on your blog from now on so I can stay on topic.

  4. Ooh, shiny!
    I totally agree: Jesus never told us to plant churches. If you make disciples, churches will result. If you plant churches, disciples may or may not result. Let’s get it right.