Wineskins Archive

January 21, 2014

Book Review: ReJesus by Frost & Hirsch (Mar – Apr 2009)

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by Adam Metz
March – April, 2009

ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church
Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch
Hendrickson Publishers. 2009

This book available for purchase at ZOE LifeStore

It seems that churches and pastors are being asked to “re-imagine” just about everything these days. We should be Re-Imagining Evangelism as Rick Richardson proposes in his 2006 book (IVP Press), and Re-Imagining Church as Frank Viola sets forth in his 2008 work (David C. Cook Publishers). At the 2004 Emergent Conference in Nashville, TN the now deceased Robert Webber encouraged the Christian leaders in attendance there to “re-think everything.” The message from contemporary church leaders is loud and clear, “We need a redo!”

While a “redo” might be overstating their call a bit, there’s no denying that a great deal of re-thinking is going on in Christian circles these days. Innovation and creativity seem to be the advertised byline for a majority of the current books littering the shelves in Christian bookstores. Search engines are overflowing with “emergent/ing church,” “postmodern church,” etc. websites and blogs. Even a cursory glance of recent resources for Christian leaders promise cutting-edge thought and novel approaches to church. Essentially, a majority of the discussion currently taking place in churches is rooted in ecclesiology. The title of Viola’s book can be seen as a summary for what is taking place today. In the midst of the proliferation of books, blogs, and upstart-ministry aides currently flooding the market, they all seem to be saying the same thing.

In their latest offering of significant contributions, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch have once again shaken the landscape of Western Christian thought in a way that few of the emergent/missional smorgasbord of offerings have. On the heels of their widely-acclaimed missional church book, The Shaping of Things to Come, Frost and Hirsch have challenged the Western church to take their “re-thinking” message to a deeper, more penetrating level. In a climate rich in re-thinking “church,” Frost and Hirsch suggest that a more core element of the Christian faith demands attention.

ReJesus is a brief, yet poignant, proposal for reconsidering the Jesus of the Gospels. In assessing the current state of the church, perhaps we have pulled the cart before the horse, Frost and Hirsch suggest. The “wild messiah” referred to in the subtitle of the book, has been domesticated and made safe in our churches. “Re-thinking” church will scarcely get us far until we spend time “re-thinking” Jesus (or, more to the point “re-doing” Jesus). Weaving together sources as eclectic as Soren Kierkergaard, N. T. Wright, Bono, Dan Kimball, Ricky Bobby, Jacques Ellul, and Sinead O’Connor, ReJesus is at the same time deeply theological and sharply practical and relevant.

Wrestling with the concept that Jesus begs to be followed and not instituted and mechanized, the authors propose a missional Christology that demands, not to be studied ad nauseum, but rather to be put into vital, life-altering action. Frost and Hirsch offer sidebar illustrations throughout the book of people they believe exemplify what Jesus demands in his followers (their term is “little Jesuses”). From well-known heroes like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. to the lesser-known Damien of Molokai, a priest who requested the assignment of the leper colony on Hawaiian island no one else would go to, the authors put flesh and bones on their Christological proposal.

Throughout the book, the reader empathizes with the authors’ struggle for loving the church, but also as seeing her so often in the way. “In other words, it’s just plain hard to create a religion out of the way of Jesus” (p. 8). They use the image of a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy to illustrate the difficult task entrusted to the church. We are to take the vibrant, “wild’ life of the messiah and copy that down through the ages, handing it down from one generation to the next. Just like a photocopy fades with the copies, so does the church’s vibrancy and life over time. The only way of revival is to once again find the original – an original untainted of misuse and misunderstanding (like the “bearded-lady Jesus” and “spooky Jesus” pictured in so many of the portraits of Jesus).

Frost and Hirsch come full-circle, in the end, emphasizing the need for a revival, a renewal, and a re-thinking of church. However, lest we pull the cart before the horse, “The renewal of the church in our time is dependent on the renewal of the gospel. And the renewal of the gospel requires the recovery of the centrality of Jesus for faith and thought” (p. 168).

Frost and Hirsch have once again offered the Christian community a serious work of literature demanding acute attention, study, and, above all else, this book calls the reader to action.New Wineskins

Adam Metz

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