The church has lost sight of Jesus. It is time for the church to restore Christ to His rightful place within Christianity.
I recently received a review copy of Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. I have previously read some of Sweet’s books, but this was my first experience with Viola. Because I have read some of Sweet’s other books, it was fairly easy for me to see his influence in the book. I was not at the same advantage with Viola.
My first thought as I read the first few pages flashed to The Naked Gospel (see my review here) which the author has the tagline “Jesus plus nothing.” (I have nothing against the this tagline).
Sweet and Viola make the following claim:
Christians have made the gospel about so many things-things other than Christ. Religious concepts, ideas, doctrines, strategies, methods, techniques, and formulas 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. (Back Cover)
Sweet and Viola state that there is a “massive disconnect in the church today, and…the major disease of today’s church is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder.” (xvi) I couldn’t agree more. I consistently hear all this talk about getting out of the pews and doing things, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if one has the right focus. In this book, Sweet and Viola aim to get rid of the the church’s Jesus Deficit Disorder and get the church to re-focus on Christ.
The real eye opener for me was Chapter 5, A Ditch on Either Side. It was here that I saw the problem. Sweet and Viola state there are two popular approached for following Jesus today, theological rationalism and theological ethics. Theological rationalism focuses on doctrine, theological ethics on ethical behavior. The authors state,
According to Scripture, Jesus Christ (and not some doctrine about Him) is the truth. In addition, Jesus Christ, and not an ethic derived from His teaching) is the way. In other words, both God’s truth and God’s way are embodied in a living, breathing person-Christ. (80)
This statement is going to offend a lot of Christians, but that doesn’t take away from the truth of the statement. Many times, we reduce Christianity to the right doctrine (as defined by man) or the right ethic (as defined by man) and fail to look to Christ.
Overall, I was fairly impressed with the book. The book was a relatively easy read and was written for the average pew sitter. 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. There were several times as I read this book that I stood accused of the very behaviors they were describing. This book is a great resource to pastors and lay leaders, to help get them back on course. Through the leadership, the church can right its Jesus Deficit Disorder. In other words, this book is written for anyone looking to forge a deeper relationship with Christ.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.
I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expresses in this review 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.”