Book Review – “ReJesus”

Today I am going to start another dimension to this blog experience.  Not another dimension in the sense that we are going to explore alternative realities of existence, although I did watch the new STAR TREK last night and it was absolutely phenomenal!  (ok, I’m an old school trekkie, I admit it).

star-trek-movieBut, I have been reading my eyeballs out for the past few years and have come across some excellent books that have helped re-shape my thinking about God, humanity, church and life in general.

Often now I as I talk with people someone will say, “wow, that’s crazy!  I never thought of it like that… How did you come to that conclusion?”

Now, on the one hand, I like those questions because it gives me an opportunity to address a whole system of thought that I think needs voiced.  But, on the other hand, so much has shaped me, I sometimes wonder where to begin.

Many of you have also wanted to do some thinking and reading on your own about these same topics and I have tried to recommend some good resources to you as I come across them.

page30_4Along this line, about a month or so ago, I agreed to join a viral-blog group for TheOOZE.com to read and write reviews for new books.   If you have never stopped by TheOOZE.com, I would encourage you to become a regular visitor.

Those of you who really know me know that I love to read and write and so it seemed like the natural thing to do.
As I have been reading, I have found several books to be not only interesting for me personally, but the type of thing I’d love to pass on to you, if you have the same desire to continually rethink your relationship with God and this life.

So, today is my first real review.  My hope is that I will be able to convey some of the content and purpose of these works in a way that might help you decide whether it might be a helpful read for you as well.

I sincerely believe that we are in the midst of great transition in the life of humanity on this planet and in the church, especially in the West.  The more of us that are rethinking the issues of what it means to follow in the life of Jesus in this context, the better.

So happy reading and thinking!  And as you read and think, please leave a comment and contribute your own “review” to the rest of our community.

Oh, and do yourself a favor and go watch STAR TREK!

Buy your STAR TREK tickets on Fandango here!

Buy your STAR TREK tickets on Fandango here!

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Today, I want to look briefly at a book called, “ReJesus” by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost.

rejesusFor those of you who are unfamiliar with these names, you should definitely pick this book up because they are among the most articulate and well-thought-out voices in the “missional theology” discussion today.  I would highly recommend nearly anything from either of these two authors to give perspective and depth to whatever you have heard called, “missional”.

At under 200-pages, I expected ReJesus to be a rather quick read.  I expected to find a popularized, easy-to-read summary of what it means to be missional.

But, while the book is clearly written and very understandable, it was anything but a quick read.  I found myself reading paragraphs over and over, not because the authors didn’t write clearly, but because there were so many thoughts to explore and rethink in every sentence.

This work is clearly more than a popularized summary of what it means to be missional.  This is a concisely written missional theology manifesto.  It has depth of thought and intentionality that went beyond my expectations.

ReJesus is a book aimed at redeveloping Christology as the center of the modern church.   Or as they state it,

“to reinstate the central role of Jesus in the ongoing spiritual life of the faith and in the life and mission of God’s people… it is an attempt to recalibrate the mission of the church around the person and work of Jesus.”

Michael Frost

Michael Frost

The critique of the writers is that the church has, over many centuries, gotten sidetracked from the person of Jesus to a system of morality, liturgy, ritual and theology/philosophy.   Hirsch and Frost both argue that though these other things may not be necessarily bad, that our first call is to follow the life pattern of Jesus.

In this return to making Jesus central they challenge us to re-evaluate how our personal relationship to Jesus should look, how our church organization should function and work, what our preaching should focus on, and the type of things we teach and model that should prized.  It is a call to ACT and LIVE like Christ, not simply WORSHIP and THEOLOGIZE about him.

In one very excellent chapter, they even challenge our personal picture of Jesus in light of the gospels.  We are taken on a journey through the art that has depicted Jesus over the many centuries to see the impact that it has had on forming our perception of him.

Alan Hirsch

Alan Hirsch

This is an excellent book.  It draws heavily on critiques of Christendom from Soren Kierkegaard and Jacques Ellul (who wrote another excellent book titled, “The Subversion of Christianity”).   It is full of quotes from both of these excellent thinkers  and is obviously heavily influenced by their work.  Both Kierkegaard and Ellul are brilliant but difficult to read, so this book may be a good source to make sense of their ideas without the extra effort.

In the end, this is a book I would highly recommend for anyone wanting to seriously wrestle with the issues that church faces in today’s culture.  I would caution that it is not an “easy read,” so if you’re looking for something a little more popular, look elsewhere.  But, for those of you who wanna dig in, get dirty and start thinking, this is the book for you.

MY RATING:  3.5 out of 5 stars

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ReThinking Religion

I just finished reading a book, “ReJesus” by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost.  I will be doing a full book review tomorrow, however, there was a great quote that I thought I would post today.   The quote comes as a bit of a “side-note” in the greater context of the book, but is well worth the space re-typing it  here.

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“For many suburban, middle-class churches, niceness is the supreme expression of discipleship.  But any cursory reading of the Gospels will serve to remind you that Jesus wasn’t always nice.  He was good.  He was loving.  He was compassionate.  But he wasn’t always nice.  The church must abandon its preference for good-manners piety and adopt again the kingdom values as taught by Jesus.

rejesusAllow us to give you an example.  Some time ago Michael wrote an article for a Sydney newspaper, commenting on the influence of Sydney’s largest church, Hillsong.  In the article, he defended the church against various attacks in the media, but he also gently raised his concerns about Hillsong’s emphasis on prosperity doctrine (the so-called health and wealth gospel).  He received an avalanche of letters and emails berating him for daring to be publicly critical of another church.  A significant number of these angry correspondents claimed that it was un-Christlike to criticize the church in any way.

Now, whether you agree with Michael’s decision to write such a thing in the media or not is beside the point.  But the point is that somehow these people, most of them ministers, failed to recognize that Jesus was regularly and scathingly critical of the religious leaders of his faith community.  Furthermore, Jesus’ seven messages to the seven churches in the book of Revelation (Rev. 2:1-3:22) contain plenty of harsh critical comments directed at the church!

To claim that it is un-Christlike to criticize the church is to disregard the example of Jesus.”

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Wow!  Nicely said.  In the Spirit of Jesus and the personality of those like yesterday’s Soren Kierkegaard, maybe the call is for at least a few to become this new voice of reformation in the church today.   Could it be that what is needed is not so much a voice that is critical of unbelievers, but an “inner-voice” within the church that is critical of what we have created out of Jesus’ teachings and life?

Of course there is no room for a spirit of meanness, disrespect and destruction, but maybe as much as any time in history, the church needs the new voices of Luther, Kierkegaard, Calvin and even Jesus Himself to be heard.

Rather than reacting with anger towards these voices calling us to reform, perhaps it is time to evaluate the merit of what is being said and look again with a critical eye at the static religion we have created out of the wild and beautiful revolution Jesus initiated.

Possibly we are due for a total re-calibration and re-centering on the person of Jesus in our organizational churches.

For a great start to this discussion, consider picking up a copy of “ReJesus“.

Think about it…

Personality Highlight – Soren Kierkegaard

“My mission is to introduce Christianity into Christendom.”

kierkegaardLike Jesus attacking Pharisaism, Soren Kierkegaard came out swinging against every phoney form of institutionalized Christianity.

“An apostle proclaims truth, an auditor is responsible for discovering counterfeits,” wrote this nineteenth-century Danish philosopher and theologian.  He saw it as his mission to be an auditor of Christendom, an institution he charged with sanitizing Jesus and makeing light of his message.

Denmark’s state church, he wrote, was “just about as genuine as tea made from a bit of paper which once lay in a drawer beside another bit of paper which had once been used to wrap up a few dried tea leaves from which tea had already been made three times.”

One of the fathers of existentialism, this remarkably complex and intelligent man underwent a profound spiritual transformation at the age of thirty-five and thereafter sought to apply some of his existential ideas to Christianity and thus reintroduce his nation to Jesus.  Individuals, not the state, Kierkegaard argued, needed to make a “leap of faith” in order to enter into authentic Christianity.

As a little Jesus, he hoped that his attacks against the banality of institutional religion would anger Danish Christians enough to make them re-examine their relationship to Jesus.

(taken from “ReJesus” by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost)

While I don’t agree with everything that Kierkegaard wrote and said, I love his spirit and passion for reform.  One wonders if we could use a few more people to take up his mantle in this culture and at this time to call us away from our religious idolatry and back to Jesus.

Think about it….