Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost have contributed immensely in the past to a contemporary articulation of Christian missiology and ecclesiology, all the while insisting that Christlogy precedes missiology precedes ecclesiology.
In ReJesus, they do more than insist on that priority-- they spell out what Christology is and why it is the priority in compelling theological and eminently practical ways. Jesus, revealed particularly (though not, as they show, by any means ONLY in the gospels-- yes, the positively explode the classic Paul-Jesus dichotomy that has been embraced by "modernist" NT scholars for well over a century), is the center, the image of the Triune God, and so true pattern for what we do, how we live, and how we understand who God is if we are following in his way.
This book includes several charts raising questions and offering direct implications for what it means to follow Jesus as church which are worth the purchase price of the book alone. No-- I'm not being paid or asked by anyone to promote this. I just think it's important enough to talk about here and encourage you to read.
Do I agree with everything in this book? No. For example, I think it either downplays or misunderstands the ongoing positive role that the existing congregational format of the church can still have in a larger network of expressions we might call "body of Christ." I still see LOTS of good that congregations as such can do as signs of Christian witness-- though I agree with the authors that what they can do is pretty limited when it comes to being effective at helping people follow Jesus entirely. I'd argue the congregational format, as we know it, remains necessary as one viable form of the public face of the Christian faith... but is far from sufficient to embody what following Jesus looks like fully. For that, one really does need the "band of brothers and sisters" level of "communitas" that is likely only to take place in the context of deeply committed, accountable and small missional groups whose ethos is NOT set by the congregational format.
Similarly, I think the authors may use "ritual" in an unnecessarily negative way... as if ritual expression is somehow less than appropriate or authentic. I would argue that ritual done well is in fact an authentic expression of the faith of the most faithful, but again that doing ritual simply does not stand in for actually living what the ritual symbolizes. Along similar lines, I find the "deritualization" of communion offered in this book more than a little unsatisfying-- as the authors seem to propose what is actually historically false (or at least not quite as they portray it)... that somehow the communion ritual as ritual was always from the earliest days NOT a ritual but rather a meal like all others. Well, what we actually know from one of the earliest Christian documents that describes communion (Didache-- dated as early as 65 AD by some scholars, which actually puts it earlier than any of the gospel accounts!) would clearly argue otherwise. On this point, however, I might forgive what appears to me, at least, to be an excess of a sola scriptura approach.
In short, what I find a bit flawed in their argument is what I find to be, at least historically, an anti-institutional and anti-ritual bias.
With those as caveats, however, I would gladly commend this book to any person or group ready to consider seriously what it means to be part of a real community that follows Jesus and is commited to letting him send them into God's mission in his name.
Have any of you read it yet? What do you think?
Peace in Christ,