Monday, May 31, 2010

Review of Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Book Description 

Christians have made the gospel about so many things—things other than Christ.  Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, formulas, "its" and "things" have all eclipsed the beauty, the glory, and the reality of the Lord Jesus Himself.  On the whole, Christians today are starved for a real experience of the living Christ.  We know a lot about our Lord, but we don't know Him very well.  We know a lot about trying to be like Jesus, but very little about living by His indwelling life. 

JESUS MANIFESTO presents a fresh unveiling of Jesus as not only Savior and Lord, but as so much more.  It is a prophetic call to restore the supremacy and sovereignty of Christ in a world—and a church—that has lost sight of Him.

Every revival and restoration in the church has been a rediscovery of some aspect of Christ in the process of answering the ultimate question that Jesus put to His disciples: "Who do you say that I am?" 
Read this book and see your Lord like you've never seen Him before. 
Christians don’t follow Christianity; they follow Christ.  Christians don't proclaim themselves; they proclaim Christ.  Christians don’t point people to core values; they point people to the Cross.  Christians don't preach about Christ; they preach Christ.  What is presented is razor-sharp, cut-glass clarity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It has never been more valuable or more needed. 

My Thoughts:

Jesus Manifesto starts out very tedious and repetitive.  I understand the literary concept of repetition to drive home a point but the first few chapters are so repetitive it almost made me stop reading.  To their benefit however, Sweet and Viola mix in some very good points during the repetition and keep the reader involved.  

Rather than resting on human wisdom, Jesus Manifesto rests solidly on Scripture, the word that contains the Word.  Occasionally, Sweet and Viola will pull a verse from [not out of] context to make a point.  I was somewhat frustrated by their use of Scripture, with many bits and pieces from various parts of the Bible bulleted to prove a point without providing context for each.  They stretch the context in this regard but never out right use a verse to “win an argument.”  

Christ’s “crosswork” is given little attention provided en the magnitude of its implication.  Sweet and Viola make wonderful points about Christ’s supremacy and His “life” without paying much attention to what His death meant.  If this is truly a “manifesto” then adequate time should have been spent in Christ’s atonement.  

I think Sweet and Viola are accurate in their assessment of today’s church and the need to get back to the core of Christianity…Christ Himself.  Too often, we try to preach about how to do this or that.  We teach emulating Christ but do not teach Christ; which would make emulating Him all the more rational.  Sweet and Viola state that we often become tempted to, “. . . motivate people with lower things: principles, rules, regulations, religious duty, shame, fear, and guilt. . . . to preach on ‘things’ instead of Him.”  I believe they hit the nail on the head with this.  How many pastors or teachers lost sight of Christ and start dissecting Scripture to make a point or sway a political passion?    

Jesus Manifesto is refreshing in that it reminds us Christ lives within us if we have made Him our Lord and Savior.  Our focus is allowing Him to live in and through us; our lives being the very Spirit that indwells us.  We lose sight sometimes and try to serve Him and make serving our focus instead of getting to know Him and living for and with Him. 

Overall, Sweet and Viola have written a good book.  Jesus Manifesto is not quite a “manifesto” but it does bring us back to the root of Christianity.  There are several stimulating points made and enough real life examples for why we need to stop acting like Christ and experience Christ.  This book reinforces through the Bible What and Who Christ is.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review of ReChurch by Stephen Mansfield

Product Description

It seems that everyone who has ever been part of a church has suffered a “church hurt.” The pastor had an affair or the congregation fought over money or the leaders were disguising gossip as “prayer.” Stephen Mansfield has been there. Though he is now a New York Times best-selling author, he was a pastor for over 20 years, and he loved it—until he learned how much a church can hurt. Yet he also learned how to dig out of that hurt, break through the bitterness and anger, stop making excuses, and get back to where he ought to be with God and his people. If you’re ready to take the tough path to healing, Mansfield will walk you through it with brotherly love, showing you how you can be better than ever on the other side of this mess … if you’re willing to ReChurch.

My Thoughts

If you are or have been an involved member in a church, you most likely have experienced "church hurt."  Undoubtedly, you put your tail between your legs and left or you "fought the [not] good fight" and made the situation worse.  Whatever your story, ReChurch by Stephen Mansfield provides a way out from the hurt and bitterness in a rather direct, but loving manner.  Mansfield, a former victim of "church hurt," provides anecdotes for how he personally recovered from the hurt and details them in a way to help others recover from the same or similar issues.  Mansfield does not mince words in his book and I believe this approach is needed to make his points.  

Mansfield utilizes Koine Greek translations of Scripture to paint a better picture of what certain words mean.  This application and the examples following allow the reader to visualize forgiveness.  Mansfield backs up his solutions and statements with stories from the Bible that adds credence to his book.  Additionally, Mansfield notes Scripture to remind the reader that we are to act according to God's Word.  Inevitably, we are going to face tough circumstances, betrayal, and even "church hurt" [the place where we are programmed to think we are always safe].  Once we accept this truth and that humans are not infallible [yes, even church members], we can move on to the life we are called to live.

The greatest thing about this book in my eyes is that you can take Mansfield's suggestions and directions and apply them to any type of hurt, bitterness, or fragmented relationships in your life.  While primarily focused on getting over the "church hurt" and getting back into a church serving, Mansfield does wonders explaining our responsibility for how hurt negatively effects us and our relationship with God.  Ultimately, WE decide how to let the hurt or betrayal affect us and our lives.  We can "take the bait" and be caught in the "animal trap" of bitterness or we can learn how to forgive in a real and meaningful way that eliminates the negative.

ReChurch is a very liberating book that should be read by anyone trying to get over the forgiveness hump or "church hurt."  As Mansfield points out, "You have a destiny, but your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others."  This adequately summarizes every point that Mansfield makes in ReChurch.  Ultimately, we are gifted by God and called to fulfill a purpose much greater than sulking in our hurt.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy of this book.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to write a positive review.