Sunday, August 15, 2010

Review - The Jesus Manifesto

The "Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Christ" is a new book by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, by Thomas Nelson Publishers. I was initially hesitant about reading the Jesus Manifesto, simply because the main thesis of the book seems so obvious to evangelical Christians. Was there more to say about this that required more than a short booklet? I've enjoyed some other books by Leonard Sweet and enjoy his unique style of writing, so when I was able to get a free copy via Amazon's Vine program, I decided to see which reviews were closer to the truth - those that found it a wonderful and inspirational book, or those that found 'nothing new' here. (Honestly, both sides have a point.)

Sweet and Viola do indeed make a very strong case for a need to really put the focus on Christ - not His mission, not the Great Commission, neither on doing nor on being, but on Christ Himself. The book succeeds in getting far beyond the 'surface level' agreement most readers would find about the supremacy of Christ. The authors point out the subtle but important distinction between being person driven and purpose driven, between imitating Christ and having more of Christ living in us, and they point out the great mystery naturally inherent in truth. If you look inside the cover at the reviewers' praise comments, you'll see quite a diversity of pastors and theologians represented - including mainline churches, evangelicals, emerging, and missional leaders. That itself speaks well for the authors.

I also liked that the book pulled no punches. In several places I found myself saying "Amen!" while in others it was more of an "Ouch!" (like some comments unfavorable about another author I like, John Ortberg). The following concepts were particularly interesting, and worth getting and reading the book:
  • Lambasting the idea that there is something "deeper" we must graduate to become more mature. Instead, "Is there anything deeper than Christ?" Depth in Christ is our goal, not deeper teaching.
  • A wonderful and devotional look at Colossians, the supremacy of Christ and the incredible marvel of "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
  • The need to proclaim Christ, to teach the gospel, to both the lost and the found.
  • A caution about several popular trends today (like 'missional' thinking) that take a good thing but if not careful can exalt mission over Master
  • An extremely interesting and thought-provoking discussion of the question - 'Is developing Christlikeness a valid goal for disciples?' (Their answer might well surprise you!)
While I did find some parts obvious, and at one point wished the book were shorter, overall there really was a lot to think about and some very good points made in the Jesus Manifesto. I would recommend it for all Christian pastors and leaders. It is a necessary and lucid call for the church to soak in and preach the supremacy of Christ.

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