Saturday, July 3, 2010

Q&A: Restoring the supremacy of Jesus

A July 2nd article posted on the United Methodist Reporter Facebook portal really caught my eye yesterday. In the article, a staff writer is asking the co-author of a new book, Jesus Maifesto, a series of questions which in turn elicits a number of very interesting responses. While I've selected just a few of the questions and answers for the sake of brevity the entire article can be found @

Let’s talk about the title. Interesting word choice—“Jesus,” which usually has positive connotations, paired with “manifesto,” a much heavier word often associated with upheaval and revolution. Why those choices?
There are a couple of reasons. The theme of the book is that Jesus wants to manifest his presence to each one of us. So that word “manifest” is a very important word to us. And also, that word is misused in a lot of different circles. The word manifesto is a call for the church to move away from a lot of the things it’s been talking about.

We’ve been trying to do every kind of church imaginable—whether it’s a program-driven church, a purpose-driven church, a seeker-sensitive church, an NCD [Natural Church Development] church, an organic church or a missional church. We try every kind of church under the sun, but what if we were what the church is intended to be—the body of Christ living his resurrection, presence and power on this planet?

So the power of the word manifesto had two meanings—it’s a call to action, a call to summons, a call to regroup and at the same time, it’s a call to be a Jesus manifest in the world.

The book points out that the Old Testament is all about Jesus, the New Testament is all about Jesus, Paul was all about Jesus, the Holy Spirit was all about Jesus and the early church was all about Jesus. But you say that’s not so much the case today. What happened?
I think we went down a lot of very interesting rabbit holes, and each one was kind of fun and interesting to explore, but in going down those we lost sight of the journey we’re really on, which is to follow Christ.

Another place we went wrong is the Protestant Reformation, and I thank God for that because I’m here today because of it—we all are—but in some ways the Protestant Reformation was the triumph of the left brain in the history of Christianity. God gave us two sides of the brain for a reason. We’re suppose to live out of both brains, but by and large, the Protestant Reformation forced us to live out of the left side of our brain—the logical, rational, sequential, consecutive, word-based side.

The right brain is a very different world. It’s much more about the wholes, relations, images and the arts—all the things like music and reverence, love, affection and companionship. So the Protestant Reformation was kind of “the revenge of the left brain,” and from that came questions like, “What do you think?”

My argument is that the real question is not “What do you think?” but “Who do you love?” Thinking is important too, but on Judgment Day, you’ll be asked not “What did you think?” but “Who did you love?” The church has only half a brain right now, and it’s the wrong half. We really need a whole-brain faith. This book is really calling the church to a whole brain.

What has replaced Jesus as the focus of many churches?
Success—defined by a consumer culture. I call it the ABCs: attendance, buildings, cash. The biblical metaphor for this is bigger barns. We want bigger barns. The real question for us is not the bigger-barn question, but how well are you manifesting Christ in the world? How well are you being Jesus for the world?

There are three great transcendentals of being that our ancestors developed, and Thomas Aquinas is the one who really brought it forth. How do you know Christ is present? He said show me beauty, truth and goodness. I don’t know many churches that submit beauty, truth and goodness stories in their annual reports. We’re asked to submit statistics—and that’s the left brain’s work.

If you want a real annual report to the bishop and district superintendent, it ought to be: What are your beauty stories? How’d you beautify your neighborhood? What are your goodness and truth stories? I think we’ve really gone awry. The most creative, the most imaginative, missional, entrepreneurial system in the world ought to be the United Methodist connection, and often that is not the case.