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Last summer, an almost unnoticeable essay was published on the web. It was a simple and straight-forward essay trying to reframe an issue that has been complexified (is that a word?) beyond comprehension to some. Over the last year, that essay by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet has taken on a life of its own — and in its latest iteration has been released today in book form: Jesus Manifesto.  I was excited to get an advance copy to read and more so when I had a chance to interview both Frank and Len about the Manifesto and what they claim in the book regarding the state of the Church.  Enjoy!



Q) The essay you both wrote last year – A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century, which was the precursor to your new book Jesus Manifesto (Thomas Nelson) – seems to be a holistic critique against how Christianity is “being done” today, at least in North America. Can you share a little about how this project should be received with respect to this and is your book about the same thing?

A) Frank: I think it was more of a clarion call pointing out that Jesus Christ has been dethroned and devalued in many quarters of the Christian faith, being replaced by so many other things. Jesus has often been boiled down to a footnote or a stamp of approval to some other issue or topic. Our book expands what was in the original essay and seeks to re-present Christ in a fresh and powerful way, showing why He is worthy of having the preeminence in all things. Its aim is to wipe everything else off the table and glorify Jesus beyond the stratosphere. One of the endorsers of the book wrote the following, which I think answers your question pretty well:

“Gandhi once said, ‘Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’ Maybe if we actually knew Christ, we would reflect Him more. Sweet and Viola’s Jesus Manifesto is the quintessential re-introduction.”

Len: One of the most important developmental tasks of every human being is to find their voice, and to speak out of their unique voice. One of the worst things that can happen to each of us is to lose our voice, or to speak out of other voices than our own. Frank and I are saying that the true voice of the church is Christ, and when other voices take over, the church is rendered voiceless.

I am a big fan of Wendell Berry’s writings. I think this farmer/poet/essayist is USAmerica’s greatest living poet. What makes Wendell Berry so special is that his writings are simply the land given voice. The Bible is the Spirit given voice, but the Spirit’s voice is a unique, one-of-a-kind, once-for-all-time voice. It’s not a propositional voice, but a story-telling, poetic voice that carries a unique register and timber and tone: it is the voice of Jesus the Christ. It’s time the church spoke again in its original, true voice.
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Q) The subtitle of your book is “Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ” – pointing to an assumption that Christ’s sovereignty has been “lost” or “misplaced.” For me, there seems to be a bit of a difference between seeing the problem as Christ’s Supremacy and Sovereignty being “lost” and one where the is not being acknowledged. Is there difference between the two positions from your point of view?

A) Len: I don’t see a difference. British scholar Gabriel Josipovici shows how the name of God disclosed to Moses, ehyeh asher ehyeh, with its repeated “h” and “sh” sounds, “is as near as we can get in language to pure breath, non-articulation, non-division.”* In other words, with every breath we take, we invoke God’s name. Every child’s first breath, mouths God’s name. Every last breath, utters God’s name. Every word spoken, for words are carried aloft on breath-wings, is an attempt to speak God’s name. Frank and I are saying that God sent us Jesus to tell us the name of God: the name above all names.

Over 300 years ago a German pastor wrote a hymn that built around the Name above all names. I love to sing this song, although it’s seldom sung anymore, because the lyrics are posed in question and answer format. It’s an antiphonal song that comes across as a confession of faith:

Ask ye what great thing I know, that delights and stirs me so? What the high reward I win? Whose the name I glory in?

Jesus Christ, the crucified.

This is that great thing I know; this delights and stirs me so: faith in him who died to save, Him who triumphed o’er the grave:

Jesus Christ, the crucified.

*Gabriel Josipovici, The Book of God, 74

Frank: I think this is merely semantics. We are saying that the supremacy and headship of Christ has been “lost sight of” hence it must be “restored” or “brought back into view,” and more accurately, “restored as a living experience.”
There is a principle in God that He never gives anything, but that He first allows it to be lost. The Lord Jesus said that until you lose something, you can’t really have it. This appears to be a divine principle. God gives something first, then allows it to be taken away, that it may be given again. It’s the principle of death and resurrection, and it’s a recurring truth throughout the Scriptures. Ever notice all of those re- terms in the Bible: Restoration (Acts 1:6; 15:17), regeneration, restitution, recreation, rebirth, renewal, resurrection, revive, etc.

Our Lord is a God of restoration.

For this reason, church historians have used the “restoration” motif for a long time. It’s been said that God used the Reformers to restore justification by faith when it was lost sight of. God used the Holiness movement to restore personal holiness when it was lost sight of. God used the Moravians to restore missionary outreach when it was lost sight of. He used the Pentecostals to restore the power of the Spirit when it was lost sight of. Right or wrong, we feel that we are living in a day when the supremacy and headship of Jesus Christ needs to be restored in the life of the church.

Q) A central part of the argument for how we are to re-center our faith is found in the statements, “Knowing Christ is Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.” I agree that the Christian religion has dangerously become more about things that really should be subordinate to Christ or on the periphery as a result of knowing Christ. But I wonder if defining the “chief pursuit of our lives” in the way that is being presented and/or seeing God’s purpose as restoring our fallenness still keeps us – humanity – erroneously at the center of the story, and not God. North American Christianity has surely become consumeristic, but your article individually-focused emphasis on Christ seems vulnerable to similar outcomes. Would you be willing to put these claims in the proper context according to the lens you are seeing the issues at hand?

A) Frank: My books Reimagining Church and From Eternity to Here take dead aim at the individualism, independence, and consumerism that seem to be in the drinking water of Christianity today. This is not just a Western problem; it’s quite universal as Western Christianity has spread just about everywhere.

I don’t know what version of the manifesto essay you’ve read, but there’s an entire section on how that the pursuit of Jesus Christ is not an individualistic pursuit. But rather, it’s a corporate journey (see below). We dedicate an entire chapter to this point in our book, Jesus Manifesto. Here is point 9 of the essay:

“Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his church. While Jesus is distinct from his Bride, he is not separate from her. She is in fact his very own Body in the earth. God has chosen to vest all of power, authority, and life in the living Christ. And God in Christ is only known fully in and through his church. (As Paul said, “The manifold wisdom of God – which is Christ – is known through the ekklesia.”) The Christian life, therefore, is not an individual pursuit. It’s a corporate journey. Knowing Christ and making him known is not an individual prospect. Those who insist on flying life solo will be brought to earth, with a crash. Thus Christ and his church are intimately joined and connected. What God has joined together, let no person put asunder.”

Len Sweet Jesus Manifesto BookLen: The relationship of the WE and the ME is one of the most important subjects we can talk about. Like Frank, I have addressed this in a couple of books before: The Three Hardest Words to Get Right, 11 Indispensable Relationships You Can’t Live Without, and Jesus Drives Me Crazy. Part of that unique “voice” of Jesus I referenced earlier is that Jesus always is heard in surround sound (I used to say “stereo”). If you only hear one thing, it’s likely not to be Jesus (Alpha/Omega, Lamb/Lion, Prince of Peace/Sword of Truth, etc.). It’s like the body of Christ has two lungs, and two brains (left/right), and . . . The Gutenberg world majored in the ME, the I, the left-brain, partly because the book is the most anti-social technology ever invented by the human imagination. The Google word is WE or right-brain dominant. We need both brains. God gave us two brains for a reason.

Q) Separate from the actual content of your essay, it is curious that both of you as authors who embrace technology and the Internet, chose to pursue a printed book which is a commercially sold medium opposed to releasing a free, viral-friendly electronic document such as an Seth Godin idea virus. If this Manifesto is a prophetic wake up call for the Christian community at large, doesn’t this go against the movement’s objectives or potential toward mass exposure and adoption to require the purchase of a book?

A) Len: Media is not a zero sum game. How’s your “paperless office” doing? Almost every website seems to be selling books, a bookstore (even churches are bookstores through their websites, thanks partly to Amazon.com’s franchise program as well). Books will flourish even in this iPad, Kindle future, but our experiences of books and the books we keep will change. When my original publisher refused to break up the text with inserted quotes and use background images on some pages, I pulled one of my first books, Quantum Spirituality, and set up my own publishing company (Whaleprints). I also do a weekly podcast called Napkin Scribbles, am one of the “Twitter Elite,” have a top-ranked Facebook site, post a sermon a week on sermons.com—there’s always a Sunday coming for me—and am writing more books than ever before. By the way, Frank and I “posted” the Jesus Manifesto first on the web—partly inspired by the German word that is used to describe what Luther did with his 95 Theses: not “nailed” or “mailed” but “posted” on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church in 1517.

Frank: Many years ago I started self-publishing my books. For the first two years, I gave them away free of charge. When the time came that I could no longer afford to pay for them (it costs a pretty penny to print a book), we started to sell them to cover our expenses. Believe it or not, once we began to sell the books, a lot more people were interested in reading them.

Right now on my website, most of my writings are available free of charge. This includes two free eBooks at the moment. One would think that an electronic book that’s free of charge would disseminate more widely than a book sold by a publisher. The truth is, it doesn’t. Not even close. For whatever reasons, published books are read by far more people than free eBooks or give away copies. (That’s been my experience anyway, and we’ve been tracking it for years.) I don’t understand why, but it just is. I wrote about this recently on my blog in fact. And that’s why I’ve agreed to have my books published.

Thomas Nelson is the largest Christian publisher in the world right now. And they are getting behind the book in a huge way. So right or wrong, we felt it was best to go with them to get the full message of the Jesus Manifesto to as many people as possible. They have allowed us to make available free sample chapters and I suspect the same will be true for the audio version.

Q) Finally, what is the best case scenario if this call is heard properly by the Christian community? What does the hope that the both of you have after writing this book actually look like?

A) Frank: Calvin Miller (author of The Singer and many other works) wrote this just after he read the book:
Jesus Manifesto is the most powerful work on Christ I have read in recent years. The Christ of the Empty Tomb is back among us. Sweet and Viola have beckoned us to return back to Olivet and renew our souls. I was hushed by its welcome authority. I found a lump in my throat as I read through page after page of Biblical witness to the one and only, incomparable Christ in whom alone is our Salvation. You must read this book. All of us must, and then we must believe in this book, rise and advance on our culture with the truth we have lately backed away from in our faulty attempt to play fair at the cost of our God-given mission.

My hope is that this same sort of response will become so widespread that we will all drop the religious “stuff” we are chasing and fall down on our faces in the presence of the greatness of Jesus Christ, making Him central and supreme in our lives, our ministries, and our churches. In a word, my hope is that Paul’s statement in Colossians 1 will become a living, breathing reality instead of black letters on a page – “that He might have the first place in everything.” It’s one thing to parrot that sentence; it’s another to be so captured by Jesus that it becomes our biography. But this will never happen unless our eyes are opened to see His greatness. And with the Holy Spirit as our help, that’s what we are seeking to do with our book.

Len: What can I say but “Amen” to Frank.

Kenny: Thank you both for taking the time out to share some of your thoughts behind Jesus Manifesto.  I’m looking forward to seeing the conversations that will undoubtedly emerge from the book release!


Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ (Thomas Nelson) releases Tuesday, June 1st and will be available on discount from Amazon.com that day.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. The opinions I have expressed 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.

Beyond the first secret weapon that should be employed while doing ministry, there are a couple of other important things to bring to your work IMHO. . .

The second one is a direct assault against the notion that church is plain boring, predictable and outdated.

Church does haven’t to be.  Nope, not at all if you care about it.

God is creator and creative.  So should you.

Our world has changed enough where the “normal” isn’t normal anymore.  You have freedom to change the rules in almost every corner of life these days.  You just have to decide to do it yourself.

And the only way to do it is to embrace creativity.

Are you thinking outside the box?  Are you taking what’s black and white and flipping it, turning it upside down?

I love how this video captures something that is a mundane as black and white line drawings and escalating it to something moving, beautiful, imaginative, and inspiring.

QUESTION: If you’re as reckless as you can be with your imagination, what’s the one area in your ministry that could use some creative injection? Take the risk and leave a comment below!

So many people view church as strict, boring, hard, perfectionist, etc.

Sometimes the best tactic for effective ministry is a smile and learning (yes, learning!) how to laugh.

Are you enjoying what you’re doing?  Are you enjoying the time you spend with others?

Church can be fun.

Church should be fun.

Church is fun — if you let it be.

One of my long time axioms is: Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously!

QUESTION: When was the last time you have a serious bout of laughter in church or while doing a ministry activity with others?

[I don’t know about you, but at about 1:00 min and 2:10 into the video are some really “different” approaches to laughing I’ve never heard of before!]

Are you a liar?

NO!  Of course not…not at least to others!

But what about to yourself?   According to Dave Ramsey, most people are being dishonest. . . with themselvesabout money and finances.

Financial honesty is something that many people — including Christians — need to face up to.   The good news is that the transformation to a life of integrity regarding money is something that can be learned. 10% knowledge, 90% behavior!

This past year, I had the chance to experience the Dave Ramsey in-your-face-no-holds-barred approach to bringing financial peace back into the picture for upright Christian living.  I led about 50 people through his 3-month Financial Peace University program locally.  For anyone that is struggling financially, hiding from their own debt, or just plainly confused about how to manage their finances, Dave Ramsey’s message is pretty solid.  After going through it all, it really was amazing to see that the life changes are real and for some, completely transformational.

dave-ramsey-money-answer-bookThe key to Ramsey’s teaching is a very concrete simplified system – that doesn’t assume you are debt free.  It is very practical and fully of direct commands for participants to do or not do.  Follow the formula, and you will become debt free. Seriously.

One of the tools I wish I had available when teaching the Ramsey system would have been a big fat compilation of FAQ’s regarding the various topics covered.

Voila.  It exists!  And this year, an updated version of the same title book has been released.  Dave Ramsey’s The Money Answer Book offers quick 1-page answers to the most common questions he gets from  participants and followers on his TV, Radio and FPU programs.

It is organized into the various categories Dave Ramsey focuses on in his overall teaching, including budget planning, saving for retirement or student tuition, or personal buying matters — even building wealth and charitable giving.  Each section has dozens of specific questions that are answered in a simple, succinct manner.

You won’t get the full picture reading this book cover to cover, but you will gain a better understanding of his view of personal finance management.  It’s an easy read because you can pick up the book and start at any chapter, any question.

Anyone that has been exposed to Ramsey’s mantras, whether in person at an FPU event, or through his various multimedia offerings, will immediately like this book.  It is easy to read and easy to understand.

If you are currently going through Ramsey’s envelope system or any other part of his money model, or need a quick refresher as a form of encouragement, I recommend The Money Answer Book for you.

QUESTION: Do you believe the Church should be teaching people how to manage their money?


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as a review copy. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed 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.

If you’re in the midst of planting a church you’re probably:

A) in need of sleep

B) in need of funds

C) in need of a website to tell the world

Sorry pastors, I can’t do anything about your dreams for being able to actually find time to have dream aren’t real just yet! haha!

But here’s a generous offer to help you with the the last item on this list above — a free website to spread the word about your new ministry in town. . .

One of the better known church website companies is Site Organic, which offers a very dynamic content management system for church websites.  They ain’t super cheap if you are looking at absolute dollar figures, so most church plants can’t benefit from services from companies like SiteOrganic.  For example, their pricing ranges from $1,200 — $3,000 per year on a recurring basis.  That’s A BIG CHECK to write for most new church plants.

But what you do get is a very rich content management system that is capable of all the bells and whistles you see on the largest church and ministry websites on the web today.  Even their most affordable packages provide aesthetically pleasing designs — ones where you certainly won’t be embarrassed about in representing your church to the community you are investing in.

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The GOOD NEWS here is that Site Oragnic is giving away their services for free to church planters.

As long as you have less than 300 people adults attending your church to date, and it’s been less than a year (or even before you launch your official first worship gathering), you’re all set to benefit from the free offer.

The fine print is that it’s technically not completely free.  You do have to pay a $99 start-up fee, which is basically aimed to weed out the freewheelers and anyone that isn’t seriously planting a church right now.  But the rest is really free.  You’ll get over $2,500 in free services with no obligation to continue at that package rate, nor at all period after the first year.

If you’re planting a church, this gives you some breathing room to establish your core community.

Assumably, if you’re church plant is even semi-successful, you will have gotten some sort of financial stability after another year of existence — at least enough to to have the beginnings of financial options so that you can decide what to do about your web presence.  If you’re church plant’s time is not meant to be in the here and now, you’ll know that too after another year from now and you won’t be in need of web services much longer at that point.

Having personally seen SiteOrganic being used live in the church website setting, I can say that you won’t be disappointed by this offer.  It’s one less thing to think about so you can focus on the more important tasks at hand in launching your ministry.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: Does your church currently use a 3rd party website service like Site Organic, or do an internally owned and managed website?

Please share your experience with other ministry leaders and leave a comment below!

God’s Brand

godvertiser —  2010/04/27 — 1 Comment

This past week, a large group of Christian entrepreneurs gathered again to discuss what Gospel Entrepreneurship looks like.

The Entrepreneurship Initiative, a part of Redeemer‘s Center for Faith and Work hosted the event up high above NYC at the new 7 World Trade Center.  It was the perfect site to engage in discussions about new creation, especially as we could see Ground Zero coming to life on one side of the building while the hustle and bustle of the city was alive and well on the other side.

The best part was hearing Tim Keller speak about “God’s Brand” .  . .

God’s brand is weakness and humility, and nothing can go up against it.

Dr. Keller has been a long time pillar for me in my own faith development and it is always good to be able to struggle with issues such as Gospel Entrepreneurship with Tim Keller in the same room.

tim-keller-kenny-jahng-ei-forum-redeemer-presbyterian-church

I love the way in which Dr. Keller sees the identity of Redeemer must avoid the selfishness of secular culture but at the same time, the tribal nature of mainline denominational churches which can dominate any church’s DNA.

Check out this short video interview clip of Dr. Keller:

QUESTION: Are the stories and images your church projects trying to promote its own brand or God’s brand?

It seems like it has been awhile, yet it happened just months ago.

For those of us that have forgotten, the Haiti earthquake struck on January 12, 2010 at about 5pm.

While our memories and the news media have taken Haiti off the front burners, Hell sill exists in Haiti for millions of survivors.

Perhaps the next time you pay $1.85 for your Starbucks Grande Pike Peak Light and Sweet, you’ll remember that the average Haiti lives on less then $2 a day.

Do you remember Haiti?

A brother in Christ that I am privileged to know has not forgotten . . . Here’s a video from his mission team that just returned in April 2010. . .

Here’s 3 ways you can help Haiti right now, from right where you’re sitting:

The following organizations are accepting SMS donations in the US only. You text now, and it will be added to your cell phone bill the next month — almost all major carriers in the US support these one-time donations as of now:

Some other ways to help Haiti are available online as well.

QUESTION: Would you be willing to lift up a 30 second prayer for the people in Haiti, RIGHT NOW?

I changed my Twitter profile background graphic the other day again.

I have two dozen or so Christian themed Twitter backgrounds that I’m preparing to release via the Tweeteratti Tuesday Free Christian Background Series here on Godvertiser.com.

It got me thinking about how more Xtians are starting to witness their faith to the Twitterverse and beyond with the simple effort of putting up Christ’s name out there for everyone to see via Twitter backgrounds.

King of Kings.

The One & Only.

Peacemaker.

Prince of Peace.

There are so many names for Jesus Christ.

What is the proper way to introduce Him to the world?

Here’s one suggestion that I have fallen in love with since Leonard Sweet put me onto it a couple of years ago.  Hope you are inspired too by it (and the response of the crowd is equally inspiring) – turn up the volume, play the video full screen . . . sit back and enjoy, unless you want to stand up and cheer:

QUESTION: THUMBS UP or THUMBS DOWN?

Whenever I am doing exegetical work on Scripture passages, it becomes painfully aware how short my bookshelves are in length.  It makes you want to go to one of those massive theological book sales and buy out the whole place – especially when books are only $5/all you can fit into a box.  But I wouldn’t even have a place for all those books to live in my home library.

The other alternative is to repeat the back and forth and back and forth to the library where they house complete collections of commentary series, Bible encyclopedias and dictionaries.   But sometimes you find yourself playing hide and seek when you find that the one volume you need is missing from the shelf – either being used by someone, or waiting in a lonely corner of the library, waiting to be picked up and re-shelved.

digital-bible-resourcesI recently decided to take the Google-generation approach to initial research and have tried out the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary on CD-ROM (yes people, software is still published on CD-ROMs in some parts of this world).

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. . . Continue Reading…

It’s been awhile since we posted a freebie twitter background. . .since Valentine’s Day.

If you’ve been on Twitter for a bit, you’re background probably hasn’t been changed recently.

Here’s your chance to throw up a fresh look for your Twitter backgdrop.

Just download the free Tweetback image and follow the instructions below to install it on your profile.

If you don’t like this one, there’s plenty of other free Christian Twitter Backgrounds available in our Twitteratti Tuesday Series. . .

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free-christian-twitter-background-14

RIGHT-CLICK>SAVE LINK AS… to DOWNLOAD this free background image

How to upload a custom background to your Twitter account:

  1. Log in
  2. In top navigation bar, click Settings (or go to http://twitter.com/account/settings)
  3. Click the last settings tab, Design change-twitter-background
  4. Select a template, change your text and background colors, or upload your new background image
  5. Save your changes!


QUESTION: HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR TWITTER BACKGROUND MORE THAN ONCE IN THE PAST YEAR?