Moving Forward in Exploration of Christ
A Book Review of “Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ” by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola
I can hear it now, “Do we really need another book about Jesus?” Apparently so, considering that as we entered the twenty-first century only 4 books out of the top 100 were about Jesus (Christian Book Association).
In Jesus Manifesto, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola combine their voices to trumpet a resounding reminder that we never “graduate beyond Christ” in the Christian faith. And Christ isn’t found only in the center of things, but along the “corners and on the edges” as well.
Sweet and Viola believe we have created a “narcissistic” and a “best-seller” Christianity which is “self-centeredness wrapped up as ‘spirituality,’ which has become the latest fashion accessory for the person who has everything” (p. 100).
There is indeed much to be disheartened with in Christianity today. Yet, there is a growing number of evangelicals that are discovering that pop-culture Christianity is leaving them high and dry. “Whether they realize it or not,” says Sweet and Viola, “people are looking for a fresh alternative—a third way” (p. xiii).
As I look across the present post-modern landscape of Christianity, I see several camps of believers pushing their way through the crowd to stand on the rooftop of evangelicalism with their megaphone in hand (i.e. books, magazines, blogs, etc.) proclaiming the “real” gospel.
There are several current groups and “movements” that are all trying to highlight the neglected sides of historic Christianity. We have the reformed “defenders of orthodoxy,” the emerging brand, the missional-minded, and the organic house church folk, just to name a few.
I do believe that most of the people in these groups truly love the Lord and his church, but many of them are in danger of becoming preoccupied with some thing else other than Christ.
Sweet and Viola believe there are three features present in every spiritual awakening in the Christian church: (1) a rediscovery of the “living Word,” or the Scriptures and its authority; (2) a rediscovery of the living Christ and His supremacy; and (3) a rediscovery of the living Spirit and the Spirit’s gifts and power to manifest Christ in the context of that culture. (p. xvii)
We’re living in some hot times economically, politically, and socially. Christians are engaging in an exchange of ideas (not without some name-calling and finger-pointing). It’s evident that even those who have been the most outspoken for the “supremacy of Christ” and right “doctrine” have succumbed to rhetorically burning people at the stake in the name of Jesus.
Where is Christ in word and deed? Sweet and Viola write, “Whatever you are occupied with comes out of your mouth. It’s what you talk about most of the time” (p.19). And we should not just be hearers of Jesus only, but doers of Him.
Is “mission” our center? Is it community? Some say it’s preaching and others… ministry. If we say that Christ is central and supreme, what does that mean concerning justice? What does His universe look like when we are first seeking Christ and His Kingdom?
When Christ is not central and supreme in our lives, everything about life shifts out of orbit and moves out of kilter. So for Christians, our first task is to know Jesus. And out of that knowing, we will come to love Him, adore Him, proclaim Him, and manifest Him. (p. 2)
That’s why this book has been written. It addresses the present challenges we face as many “things” compete for the centrality and supremacy of the person Jesus Christ. We are called to be “living epistles” or “Jesus Manifestos” in our world. It’s about being true to Christianity.
So what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person. (p. xvi)
Finally, Jesus Manifesto has been purposely written in an “ancient devotional tone” of writing. In the spirit of Watchman Nee, Jeanne Guyon, Andrew Murray, and T. Austin-Sparks, this book is a fresh call to the post-modern church: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2).
And let us move forward in exploration of Christ Jesus our Lord.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Paul, Colossians 2:6,7
Can we, as the Christian church, agree upon the person of Christ? “Receiving Christ also means receiving all who belong to Him” (p. 147).
Will you sign the Jesus Manifesto?
Others who have signed
“One more sign of a Christianity that is beginning to look like Jesus again. Our great challenge over the past few decades has not been one of right believing but of right living. Viola and Sweet create a harmony here that invites you to give the world a Christianity worth believing in … after all they will know we are Christians, not by our bumper stickers and t-shirts — but by our love.” Shane Claiborne—author, activist, and recovering sinner http://www.simpleway.org
“From beginning to end, authentic Christianity is all about Jesus and, ultimately, nothing but Jesus. No one has proclaimed this more clearly and persuasively than Viola and Sweet. Jesus Manifesto is an important and powerful prophetic call for the Martha-like Church to get back to doing “the one thing that is needful.” Gregory A. Boyd—Senior Pastor, Woodland Hills Church, Maplewood, MN; Author, Present Perfect, The Myth of a Christian Nation, and The Jesus Legend.
“This is a really exhilarating reintroduction to a Jesus who seems sometimes to have become a stranger to the Church; a passionate and joyful celebration of God with us, which cuts right through churchy quarrelling and brings us back to wonder, love and praise – and the urgent desire to make Him known to all.” Rowan Williams—Archbishop of Canterbury
“I look for books that call us to love Jesus and make His name more widely known. In Jesus Manifesto, Sweet and Viola ask us to step away out of the “Youniverse” (their word) of narcissistic religion and away from the pop-culture Jesus who is just a nice man. Throughout the book, they exalt Jesus as the divine Savior and ask the church to do the same. I believe this book will spark a renewed love for Christ by pointing us to the deep mystery of His person. You will be motivated to love and serve more deeply as your life is focused on Jesus the Messiah.” Ed Stetzer—President of LifeWay Research http://www.edstetzer.com
Read more endorsements at: www.thejesusmanifesto.org
Buy Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy & Sovereignty of Jesus Christ (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2010) on discount today (6/1/10) at: www.amazon.com
And please take a few seconds to give this review a helpful vote at amazon. Thanks!
Len Sweet & Frank Viola
Leonard Sweet occupies the Chair of Evangelism at Drew University in New Jersey and contributes weekly to sermons.com and a podcast, “Napkin Scribbles.” He has authored numerous articles, sermons, and forty books. www.LeonardSweet.com
Frank Viola is a best-selling author, international conference speaker, and a personal friend. His books include Finding Organic Church, Reimagining Church, The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, and the best-selling From Eternity to Here. www.FrankViola.com
June 1st, 2010 at 9:30 am
May we finally all be through our creating “a ‘narcissistic’ and a ‘best-seller’ Christianity”, even to set aside “Christianity” for Christ Supreme and Only.
“Jesus Manifesto” is a work in reformation; a portion in attempts to restore Christianity to Christ. The “elephant” inside the “rabbit hole”: Full supremacy of Christ will include casting off the label/paradigm “Christianity” that has long fostered so many diverse things other than Christ. (It’s simply not His label or His rule; His opposition cast it.)
JM reflects a change of course for Frank, who didn’t start out a reformer; and his brothers would be unkind to celebrate today an inspiring but albeit dead-end street for Christ in him. As with Martin Luther and hundreds more… What happens to a man who freely or inadvertently submits himself to institutional sourcing, whether bitter or “sweet”: from the highway of Transformation, down the off-ramp of Reformation?
June 1st, 2010 at 9:42 am
Marshall, casting off the word “Christianity” sounds nice, but is it realistic? Even if it is… I’m not too sure that’s the key to unlocking the door or casting off restraint.
June 1st, 2010 at 10:35 pm
Looking forward to reading this — thanks for the review, David. 🙂
June 3rd, 2010 at 6:58 pm
I was really confused on hearing about the Jesus Manifesto. I still don’t know why anyone needs to sign a manifesto. But then I was pleasantly surprised to read some of the things that Viola said about himself and was relieved that here is a man who isn’t sold out to the movement that claims him. He is sold out to the Lord!
Loved the quotes that came forth in this post, David. Beautiful.
June 11th, 2010 at 7:17 pm
My book is well on its way and so looking forward to reading it. I must say I was a little disappointed with all of the “reviews” that were written that predated its official release. I love seeing a new book go to print and watching the reviews pour in. In this case, there were already about 70 postings from people who had been sent the book in advance. I was pretty excited about writing a review myself, but all of the other postings kinda bludgeons my desire to contribute. We’ll see after I read it.
And brother, I started a little blog spot of my own:
Just for the record, it was your site here that influenced me to get on board and I have placed a spot on my blog where your site is prominently displayed. I don’t know how to put in all of the doo-dads and widgets and such but will eventually get around to learning how.
Your brother and His,
June 11th, 2010 at 9:23 pm
🙂 Yeah, some of us bloggers got a jump on those reviews. They kindly send us books ahead of time.
That’s cool about you starting your own blog. I’ll check it out!