Jesus Manifesto Book Review

Earlier this month Thomas Nelson released Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.  A good deal of fanfare, (Facebook, Twitter, Blogosphere, etc.) preceded and accompanied  it’s release.  When books come to us this way, I find that many are disappointing, but that is not the case with this book — quite the opposite.

The title serves as a clarion call to the Church to make a course correction that provides an alternative path that is neither left or right, but forward with Christ.  From the introduction to conclusion, “Christ must be  ‘the ‘North Star’ or ‘Southern Cross’  in our exploration to know Him.   The point: the church is off course and nothing will bring her back on course, but “an inward revelation of Christ to our hearts by the Holy Spirit — “a progressive unveiling of the person who stands behind the sacred page and is the occupation of all things.” (p.19)

Throughout Sweet and Viola constantly and consistently make their call to course correction by providing their readers with fresh and needed correctives to our understanding of the person of Christ.

The serves as reminder that Christ is our chief occupation in both life and ministry.  Too often the Church occupies itself with secondary issues and doctrines (evangelism, missional ministry, social justice, praise and worship), relegating Christ to a mere side issue, or sub-point.  The reader is reminded in a fresh and culturally significant way that the route back is once again placing Christ as the end all and be all of all things.  The corrective is always found in the person of Christ – first and foremost.

Here is some of what I highlighted reading through this book:

  • God doesn’t lead you through phases or steps.  He draws you to Himself in continuous motion. p.69
  • In all the religions and philosophies of the world, a follower can follow the teachings of its founder with having a relationship with that founder.  But not so with Jesus Christ.  The teachings of Jesus cannot be separated from Jesus Himself.  Christ is still alive, and He embodies His teachings.  This is what separates Him from every great teacher and moral philosopher in history. p.82
  • Our problem is this: We have even created a narcissistic form of Christianity, in which “conversion” is less a turning toward to Christ than a turning turning toward success or fame or fortune.  Narcissus never had it so good than in best-seller Christianity, which has become self-centeredness wrapped up as “spirituality,” which has become the latest fashion accessory for the person who has everything.  p.100
  • The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to principles of justice or complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success; not wealth or health or anything else. Only love. p.117

If you are one who is dissatisfied with the present anemic condition of the western church, whether you are conservative or liberal, armenian or calvinist, reformed or pentecostal, whatever your theological ilk; this book is latent with Christological insight that all should agree on.  It serves as a timely corrective that will provide for the church a view and understanding of Christ that will aid it in an authentic embodiment of the Good News before the present postmodern world. Reading this book will engage many with a Christ they never knew and for others it will renew the “first love” they lost somewhere along the way.

If I were fashioning a curriculum for a “Christianity 101” class, this book would be at the top of my required reading list, it is extremely relevant, valuable, prophetic and timely.

A Statement Worth Living and Dying For

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father Amighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day he arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence he shall judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiving of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Amen.

At this particular time in my pilgrimage I find these words clarifying, inspiring and wonderfully encouraging.  My prayer is that you will as well.

4 Easy Ways to Kill a Church Plant

These were originated and posted by David Watson as Screwtape’s 4 Easy Ways to Kill a Church Plant, also posted by Leadership Journal online magazine and again on facebook.  They are definitely worthy of mention.

Ok, they are not from Screwtape, but they sure sound like they are.

1. Establish a “Come To” environment, instead of a “Go To” environment.

Many church-starts begin by going to a new community, but then set up a building for people “come to” in order to find God or Community or … you fill in the blank. Going doesn’t stop until we are staying in homes, transforming individuals, families and communities. See Matthew 10, Luke 9, and Luke 10.

2. Make Converts, instead of Disciples.

Most churches are concerned with convincing people to believe like they do and adopt the church’s peculiar doctrine – making converts. A disciple is one who believes like Jesus does and gives his or her life to be like Jesus and help others to find Jesus and become like Him. Converts are about a brand of church or denomination. Disciples are about obediently following the Master regardless of consequences.

No one wants our religion, or our style of worship, or our doctrines. Almost everyone wants to be a follower of God, a disciple of Jesus without the crud we have added in the modern church. Yes, there are some who will come to our churches. What about the 80-90% who will never darken the door of a traditional church? They will refuse to become converts. They may respond to the becoming disciples of the Creator of the Universe.

3. Grow Churches, instead of establishing new churches.

I am frequently asked to consult with churches who are interested in starting new work. The first question I ask is, “Are you interested in growing your church, or in reaching your community for Christ?” Many people see these as the same. They are not. Growing a church is about getting more people to come to the church. The reality is that no single church appeals to even a miniscule part of society. Churches have personalities, and these personalities click with only a few. So, if you start out to simply grow a church, there is a limit to how many people can be reached, simply because most people will have zero interest in the church.

On the other hand, if you start out to reach a community, regardless of whether or not the new believers will come to any particular church, numerous churches with just the right personalities for new believers will be initiated. In the course of all these new groups being starting, the catalytic church or churches will grow.

One can’t reach a community by trying to grow a church. But, if one reaches the community by all means available, the church that does this will grow.

4. Teach stuff, instead of obedience to all the commands of Christ.

One of the most misquoted and misunderstood passages of the Bible is Matthew 28:18-20. Ask people, sometime, what this passage tells us to teach.  I think you will be surprised by the number of people who will not say, “to obey.” Most of our churches, and most of our doctrines, are about teaching facts or knowledge about the Bible or theology or doctrine, or our own particular brand of church.

Will will not see significant church planting until and unless we are willing to teach everyone to obey all the commands of Christ, our Creator and God.  How does one tach obedience? by being consistently obedient in public and in private, in word and in thought.  Obedience is taught by an obedient life that supports daily life decisions from principles of God’s Word regardless of consequences. A faithful life is an obedient life in all situations and circumstances regardless of the consequences of being obedient.

The Great Commission is one commission with four parts or commands.  If any one of these commands is not obeyed, then the commission is broken and will not produce the fruit that God intended – obedient Disciples and Churches

Matthew 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

By David L. Watson

The Meeting of the Waters

The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents that will Propel the Future of the Church is a newly released book published by David C. Cook and written by Fritz Kling.  What follows is a short synopsis of the 7 Global Currents.

MERCY

Younger people of faith around the world increasingly demonstrate their piety and their love for others by serving–by feeding the hungry, addressing AIDS, rescuing girls sold into slavery, saving the earth, etc.

MUTUALITY

While Americans and the West had long been the leaders of worldwide “Christendom,” now Christians from countries all around the world have the education, access, resources, and confidence to share leadership with powerful countries like the US.

MIGRATION

People everywhere are on the move, to meet economic needs, flee repression or combat, seek freedom or asylum, enjoy tourism, etc.  While in the past Christian missionaries reached diverse people groups by ships or planes or trains, now everywhere in the world is more diverse.

MONOCULTURE

Focusing on helping individual people in the unique cultures and countries in which they live, the Christian church has trained and sent missionaries around the world for a long time.

MACHINES

The importance of technology is not news to anyone, but its impact on Christian communities around the world has its surprises. Studies on technology and evangelism abound, so I highlight examples of how technology is radically changing disaster relief efforts.

MEDIATION

Many people say that the world is “flattening,” and that we’re all coming closer together. But the internet and available media are actually providing more opportunities, tools, and points for polarization and division.  Who will mediate, and how?

MEMORY

In the shadow of so many game-changing trends, every country, region and village has its own “backstory” — those historical features, clues and codes that may be unseen but affect everything in those societies.

Looking forward to reading this book

Meaning of Post-Evangelical

I’ve been wrestling with this term Post-Evangelical for some time.  I continue to find resonance with this term within my own spiritual pilgrimage.  The Internet Monk in a post from 2006 clarified the meaning of the term, which more and more describes what I’m becoming: a Post-Evangelical.  Here are some of the Monk’s thoughts on the subject. He begins by defining the term ‘Evangelical.”

My son Clay asked me the other day, “What do you mean by post-evangelical?” That deserves a good answer.

Let’s start with this: By evangelical, I do not mean, as some on the Internet have labored to prove, a line of Christianity extending from the Reformation through Calvinism to a handful of modern day independent Baptist fundamentalists. Nor do I mean, as Lutherans have the perfect right to historically assert, that Lutheranism has the right to the term evangelicalism.

Instead, I mean evangelicalism as a twentieth century movement meeting the following qualifications:

1. Protestant, even strongly anti-Catholic
2. Baptistic, even in its non-Baptist form
3. Shaped by the influence of Billy Graham and his dominance as an symbol and leader
4. Shaped by the influence of Southern Baptist dominance in the conception of evangelism
5. Influenced by revivalism and the ethos of the Second Great Awakening
6. Open to the use of technology
7. Oriented around individualistic pietism and a vision of individualistic Christianity
8. Committed to church growth as the primary evidence of evangelism
9. Committed to missions as a concept and a calling, but less as a methodology
10. Asserting Sola scriptura, but largely unaware of the influence of its own traditions
11. Largely anti-intellectual and populist in its view of education
12. Traditionally conservative on social, political and cultural issues
13. Anti- Creedal, reluctantly confessional
14. Revisionist toward Christian history in order to establish its own historical legitimacy
15. Attempting, and largely failing, to establish a non-fundamentalist identity
16. A low view of the sacraments and sacramental theology
17. A dispensational eschatology, revolving around the rapture and apocalyptic views of immanent last days

For more on the subject go here

Admitting Your Fear as Your Biggest Problem

I’m making my way through Missing in America: Making an Eternal Difference in the World Next Door by Tom Clegg and Warren Bird.  The second chapter is titled Admitting Your Fear as Your Biggest Problem, relating to the fears we Christ followers have in our attempts to engage people in our culture.  On page 38 they list Five Fears Frequently Faced with Relational Solutions to each fear.

When we experience the fears below, here are some relationally rich ways we might reply to our friends that will minimize our own fears in the process:

FEAR OF REJECTION: I don’t want my friends to turn against me when I talk about the need for a relationship with God.

 RELATIONAL SOLUTION: Are my words about God so personal that they put a strain on our relationship?

FEAR OF IGNORANCE: I don’t want to look dumb, not having answers to their questions.

RELATIONAL SOLUTION: “That’s a great question and I haven’t got a clue! God brought you into my life to help sharpen my understanding, and I can’t wait to find the answer!”

FEAR OF OFFENDING:  I don’t want to hurt a friend.

RELATIONAL SOLUTION: “Am I being too pushy? Going too fast? Tell me if I do that!”

FEAR OF TRANSPARENCY: “I don’t want people to turn away from God because they see my flaws.

RELATIONAL SOLUTION:  “I’m really not perfect or even close, but I know the one  who is.”

FEAR OF STARTING WHAT I CAN’T FINISH:  I don’t want to blow it because I don’t know what to do next.

RELATIONAL SOLUTION:  :”Together you and I are going to learn to be more like Jesus!”

Simple Organic Leadership Synthesis

As the Spirit shapes the Simple Church, the primary task of leadership is not so much to lead as it is to “build a foundation—a place for the walls to rest.” Leadership in the organic paradigm facilitates the Spirit’s work of formation, and therefore it is crucial that it pattern itself after the style and function of the Holy Spirit.

Given the crucial nature of leadership and its potential for kingdom impact, either negative or positive, it is important that it be a leadership that empowers rather than exploits. The fivefold ministry of Ephesians 4:1-16 is the relevant leadership model for Simple Organic Church forms. This includes apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, which Alan Hirsch and Micheal Frost have termed an APEPT team (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher) and recently changed APEST team (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher). Ideally, this is team ministry where missing from this model are strategic planning and organizational charts common with more hierarchical forms.  

The framework for Simple Church leadership starts from a place different than that of traditional church paradigms.

Leadership Paradigm Starting Points

The lens through which one views the essential nature of the Church, is either institutional or organic, leading to divergent ecclesiological conceptions, specifically in regard to leadership. This divergence occurs at the outset by perceiving leadership emerging from two different starting points.  The below chart illustrates these distinct starting points and some of the results of each paradigm.

 Organic/Simple Church   Conventional/Institutional Church

 Starting point: The body of Christ.

 Starting point: Leadership
offices in the church. The true church is found where (a) the Word of God is
rightly proclaimed; (b) the sacraments are rightly administered.

Bottom up: The church’s ministry is
shaped by the gifts and callings distributed by the Holy Spirit to the whole
body of Christ.

 Top-down: The ministry is the province of the ordained offices of the church.

 All ministry is lay ministry lead.

Lay ministry supplements and is
secondary to ordained ministry.               

Conclusion: One people/one ministry.

Conclusion: Two people (clergy/laity)   [1]


Howard Snyder defines ‘hierarchical’ at its essential level as “a vertical structure of at least thee levels. Primary authority resides at the top, and each descending level is under the authority of the higher levels. Position in the hierarchy corresponds to rank within the whole.” [2]  From an organic perspective, the people of God are one people and, therefore, one ministry level.

In the organic or ecological realm is not hierarchical, because the principle of self-organization dominates leadership structures, not a vertical graduation, but one that evolves from a horizontal level. “An organic view of ministry begins with the people of God as the place where ministry resides, and it conceives of leadership from within the body.”  The image is not that of a vertical line, but a circle, not a pyramid, but a network or a living organism, which is entirely descriptive of an APEST team.

In contrast, an institutional view of leadership places ministry within the confines of an ordained clergy and attempts to add on the role of lay ministry. APEST leadership is understood to be non-hierarchical in structure, or using another term, in an “heirarchical” [3] arrangement. This term is taken from Paul’s words to the Romans, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”    If we are co-heirs with Christ, would it not be appropriate to assume that we are also heirs with other members of the Church?

Jesus alone is head of his Church. With Jesus as the head of his church, the modern clergy/laity distinctions are understood to be unnecessary. Jesus teaches against hierarchy at the last supper. He uses the last hours of his earthly ministry to teach something opposite—servant leadership:

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-4)

From Luke’s perspective, Jesus speaks to the issue of titles and servant leadership as the main feature for all who desire to lead.

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. (Luke 22:25-26)

Jesus contradicted all other models of influence and self-importance. “The one who makes the towel his or her badge is not the one who maneuvers for a place in the power structures of life.” [4]

Jesus’ intention was to impart a particular leadership model to his Church which could be implemented only through service. The leadership issue for Christ’s Church is one of servanthood, which is not mirrored in secular society. In God’s kingdom, the call is for an entirely new model, not merely a new definition.

The Early Church understood this dynamic. R. Paul Stevens, Associate Professor of Applied Theology at Regent College, states:

The Church in the New Testament has no “lay people” in the usual sense of that word, and is full of “clergy” in the true sense of that word. A biblical theology of the laity must communicate this. The church as a whole is the true ministerium, a community of prophets, priests, and princes/princesses serving God through Jesus in the power of the Spirit seven days a week. All are clergy in the sense of being appointed by God to service and dignified as God’s inheritance. All are laity in the sense of having their identity rooted in the people of God. All give ministry. All receive ministry. That is the constitution of the church. Not surprising, few business people, for example, think of themselves as full-time ministers in the marketplace. Fewer still are encouraged in this by their churches. Hardly anyone gets commissioned to their service in the world. Christians in the first century would have found such a state of affairs anachronistic—a throw-back to the situation before Christ came when only a few in Israel knew the Lord, when only one tribe was named as priests, when only a select few heard the call of God on their lives. Nothing but a Copernican revolution of the mind and heart can change this heretical state of affairs. The New Testament pattern of leadership allows for no institutional distinction between clergy and laity. The people of God comprise all Christians exercising their spiritual gifts in the work of ministry. To be biblical, all Christians are lay people—God’s people—and all are ministers.[4]

It is time we practiced leadership within the body of Christ as Jesus has instructed within the context of an heirarchical APEST team. 

 [1] Greg Ogden, Unfinished Business:Returning Ministry to the People of God, revised edition (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 2003), 76.

[2]Howard Snyder, Decoding the Church, 107. 

[3[ This term “heirarchical” has been coined by Dan Mayhew, who oversees Summit Fellowships, a Simple Church network in Portland, Oregon; italics are mineDel Birkey, The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church (Scottsdale: Herald Press, 1998), 87.

[3] Del Birkey, The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church (Scottsdale: Herald Press, 1998), 87.      

[4] R. Paul Stevens, Associate Professor of Applied Theology, Vocation, Work & Ministry Resource Binder, An Educational Initiatives Publication (Vancouver, B.C.: Regent College, 1996), 11-12.