Back to Square One
Growing up in a missionary family that moved every few years, I experienced a spectrum of evangelical church life. While differing in some ways—contemporary and traditional worship, sanctuaries and high school gyms—each congregation shared one thing in common: Jesus was the priority. We heard stories about certain churches where the gospel was never presented, but given our zeal for Jesus and the need for personal salvation, I couldn't imagine what would be left if Jesus was left out.
At first glance the latest book from Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, ReJesus, seems to affirm the type of commitment to Jesus I grew up with. But it doesn't take long to see that their vision for a Jesus-centered church is much bigger than altar calls, gospel presentations, and personal salvation. In fact, their critique is wide enough to make all of us squirm.
Frost, professor of evangelism at mission at Morling College in Sydney, Australia, and Hirsch, director of Forge Mission Training Network, insist that Christology determines missiology, which in turn defines ecclesiology.
To re-Jesus a church means evaluating every aspect of church life, not just our language about Jesus. We must also look at organizational structures, programs, and hierarchies. Do these things reflect our Christology, or have they been birthed by worldviews such as individualism, consumerism, and nationalism that are generally at odds with the way of Jesus?
In their typically blunt manner, the authors claim that "we have never needed so desperately to rediscover the original genius of the Christian experience and to allow it to strip away all the unnecessary and cumbersome paraphernalia of Christendom."
Does this sound like a call to return to the early church—a call so many of us have heard before? It's not. ReJesus is less interested in an idealized model of the first century church than in evaluating the modern church in light of Jesus' life and teachings. And this evaluation leads to difficult questions, such as, "What are the unnecessary and cumbersome aspects of my church that could be stripped away?"
Rather than pushing a new ministry method, the authors challenge the underlying assumptions that have shaped Western Christianity. For example, they believe we have been heavily influenced by a Hellenistic worldview rather than the Hebraic worldview of Jesus. As a result we approach the Bible primarily to gather information, assuming that right information will lead to right belief and eventually right behavior. By contrast, a Hebraic perspective "requires obedience in order to truly comprehend what is being revealed." To re-Jesus our churches means addressing even the basics we take for granted—including how we read the Bible.
ReJesus is a frustrating book. The implications are significant, yet Frost and Hirsch rarely suggest how their ideas should be implemented. They paint broadly the themes in the life and teachings of Jesus, but the work of applying them to present-day ...