Monday, May 31, 2010

A Review of Jesus Manifesto, by Viola and Sweet

Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet are on a mission. The title of their now book, Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ, describes that mission perfectly.

Jesus Manifesto seems to have been written in a white heat. Taking its place in a string of recent books that have attempted to reorient the church back to Jesus (Michael Horton's Christless Christianity, Jared Wilson's Your Jesus is Too Safe and Frost and Hirsch's ReJesus, for example), the authors argue that the church suffers from "Jesus Deficit Disorder." The prescribed treatment, then, is a "fresh Christology." Their mission here is to re-introduce Jesus to the church.

What I love about this book is the sense of excitement the author's bring. Despite the prominence of words like "sovereignty" and " Christology," this is not a theological textbook for seminarians. It seems to have been written in a white heat. Sweet and Viola would startle us back to wakefulness, shaking us from our slumber, shouting, "Look, look, you're missing it! Jesus!"

In an early chapter, they argue that Jesus is the "occupation" not only of the Old and New Testaments, but also the creation itself. To know Jesus, then, is to get understanding. "Never forget," they say, "there is much more to Christ than we have ever imagined."
The greatest work of Jesus' friends (remember his words in John 15, "I no longer call you servants, I call you friends"?) is to cultivate an appetite, a hunger, in God's people for the Lord Jesus. The world awaits those who can present such a rich gospel that it leaves people spellbound, filled with awe, and desperate to know their inimitable Lord.
Sweet and Viola are attempting, with Jesus Manifesto, to cultivate that hunger in their readers. Their chapter entitled, "If God Wrote Your Biography," is quite wonderful. Their chapter on the church, entitled "A House of Figs," is also hunger-producing. That's where you'll find this little nugget of truth:
[Jesus] is more significant than any ministry, no matter how good or noble. It is possible to worship the the god of "ministry" in place of Christ.
The great strength of this book is the sense of excitement about Jesus that streams through its pages. It steers clear of many of the various raging debates in the Christian gabfest and instead simply rings the Jesus bell over and over. I hesitate to criticize any aspect of such a necessary project, but I will say that a minor problem here is the sheer repetitiveness that such a bell-ringing entails. The book is filled with perorations on the wonder and grandeur of Jesus, like an excited conversationalist who is so in love with his main point that he makes it over and over again.

Nevertheless, each time it inspires, and each time I'm tempted to climb to the rooftop and read their words through a megaphone. Here's just one example from near the close of the book:
Today we stand at the edge of a new frontier--one of exploration, not fortification. One of discovery, not contentment. In this new frontier we will navigate the uncharted waters of Jesus Christ, our all-sufficient Lord. there is so much more of Christ to sail than we could ever imagine.
Viola is known for his books on "organic church" (he blogs at Reimagining Church), and Jesus Manifesto might well have been intended as a simple primer on Christology for the organic church movement (although obviously intended for a much wider audience than that). Much of what they have to say here is founded on the idea that believers have Christ living his life in and through them. I personally believe this is a truth that needs greater focus even than this book brings. And Viola and Sweet may be just the authors to write that book.

[Disclaimer: I received a "reader's copy" of this book in return for which I agreed to review it here at Wilderness Fandango.]


For more information, here's the book's website:

And here's the official "blurb":
Thomas Nelson has just released the new book Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola and it is presently discounted under $9 from You can learn more by going to Endorsements by Rowan Williams, Matt Chandler, Calvin Miller, Ed Young, Jack Hayford, Shane Claiborne, Ed Stetzer, Reggie McNeal, Mark Batterson, Gregory Boyd, David Fitch, Steve Brown, Dan Kimball, Margaret Feinberg, Mark Chironna, Francis Frangipane, Todd Hunter, Alan Hirsch, Chris Seay, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Anne Jackson, Craig Keener, Ken Ulmer, Tommy Barnett, Sally Morgenthaler, and others.

And the Amazon page. Note, the book is selling for only $8.24 right now.

1 comment:

Nate said...

I see the book made Amazon's top 10 this week. Has the revival begun?