Yesterday, I posted a conversation with Michael Frost about his recent book with Alan Hirsch, ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church. Today, I’ll share my impressions about the book.
I was immediately interested in reading this book because I’d read Hirsch & Frost’s previous book, The Shaping of Things to Come, which has had a lasting impact on me. ReJesus was also an impacting book, but in a much different way. While the first book was filled with a lot of information and practical ideas about how the church should be shaped (and re-shaped) to engage our world, this book was more about where the church–and believers as part of the church–should be focused in their faith: upon Jesus as the center, rather than the institutions of church. Not the skewed pictures of Jesus, the many ways we re-make Him in our image, but the authentic Jesus that the Bible actually describes. To phrase it as Michael Frost would, Shaping was about ecclesiology (the structure/function of church), while ReJesus is about Christology. Here is another way of looking at it. In emergent/missional circles we often hear about the “ancient-future” approach. While Shaping was focused on the “future” part–ReJesus is more about the “ancient” part. But even beyond focusing on ancient traditions of the church, Hirsch and Frost go all the way back to the Founder of our faith as the necessary anchor, expressing our need as the church to sort of “reboot”, to return to Jesus as foundational to all “re-shaping” that must take place.
Because of this focus, while the first book really engaged my mind and confirmed a lot of what I was thinking and feeling about the church itself–reading this book was more of a spiritual experience for me personally. I could feel myself adjusting and shifting in the soul as I read–hungering to engage this real Jesus in a deeper way. In a way, it felt like each chapter was its own experience, and God encountered me in a different way within each one. I realize that’s subjective, and I’m not suggesting this will happen to you if you read the book; I’m just saying that’s how I responded as I read it.
If you approach this book with the expectation that Frost and Hirsch are going to simply debunk the inaccurate images of Jesus and replace them with the “real” historical one, you will probably be disappointed, because that really isn’t the point. Yes, the Biblical Jesus is described here at some level, but more importantly, the reader is invited to engage Jesus rather than just study about Him–to know Him not just by description, but by experience.
The only weakness I perceived in ReJesus is that Frost and Hirsch tend to make numerous references to their previous books to reinforce what they are saying in this one–to the point that on a couple of occasions, had I not already been familiar with those books, the point might have been lost on me. I realize this was probably to keep from repeating too much information, but in some cases it might have been better to be redundant for the benefit of people who were reading these authors for the first time–even if it made the book a bit longer.
I blog often about the need for the church to function like an organism rather than an institution, and how we need to adapt as an organism to our environment (not changing our principles, but our methods). Once a reader asked me what would happen to the church if, in our “adapting”, we adapted ourselves away from Jesus and the gospel. My answer was, “It would no longer be the church.” And the reality is, over centuries of institutionalizing the church, we have drifted from Jesus–not completely, but in framing Him according to the parts of Him that appeal to us, and in distorting the image of who He really was/is. There is a great need in all our expressions of church to recalibrate back to our founding principles, and to our Founder Himself–to recover our focus on Jesus and truly be His disciples again, as the starting point for all that we do. And this is why the discussion in ReJesus is so important.
BOTTOM LINE REVIEW: Highly recommended.
This review is posted as part of TheOOZE Viral Bloggers network.