Challenging book. Shows us ways of thinking out of our comfortable box & comfort zones. shares his perspective on Christianity, being a Christian, following Jesus & being a follower of Jesus. He shares his experience, insight, wisdom & perspective. Definitely something to think about & questions to ask yourself. I do not want to turn people away from Jesus, so how do I speak of Jesus, how do I share the gospel, the good news? Carl Medearis offers some suggestions.
Medeiris has some extremely good points in this book. One is his description of arguing with someone over whether they are "in" or "out" of your circle of beliefs. It is a really good word picture and one that invokes conviction. We should be pointing to Jesus and not criticizing other people's beliefs or telling them they're "out" because of what they believe. His favorite question to ask unbelievers is, "If Jesus were physically here in person, who would He want to spend time with?" Invariably most would answer incorrectly, and he points out that Jesus spent time with sinners and with the lost. This question he poses caused me to think about that a lot! But, he fails to mention or account for the amount of time invested in His disciples and His friends whom were so dear to Him, such as Mary and Martha. On the whole, Medeiris seems to think he's discovered a new way of reaching people for Christ and dances around the issues if someone asks him a question about his beliefs or tries to label or peg him.
Does Medearis really want to get rid of "evangelism" (p.125)? His answer is "yes"! In addition he advocates getting rid of "Christianity" (p.47), the word "Christian" (p.121), along with the word "church" (p.123), and the "Bible" (p.124), and let's not forget "missionary" (p.127). These terms, to him, are one's that turn people off and are a hindrance to the real gospel of Jesus. He calls these westernized terms that have morphed into objectionable ideas to people. In some respects, he's right, however my own experience as a missionary kid observing what really happened was NOT what he calls "people who want to spread capitalism and democracy and political idealism and Westernism and import a new religion." (p.127). His glasses through which he sees and perceives these distorted definitions became more clear to me after he claimed to be (in his words) "from Beirut". (Although I think what he meant to say is that he lived there for 12 years.) The Beirut claim comes much later in the book after the reader is convinced he's an American from Colorado Springs where he's been affiliated with the Vineyard church teachings.
He advocates reading the four gospels and trying to follow Jesus' example, but he downplays the death and resurrection of Jesus without which our faith would be worthless. Paul said in I Cor. 15:14 "And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless." (NLT) He seems to criticize Paul by saying, "Paul suffers from a case of mistaken identity." (p.81). I'm not sure what he meant by that because he does go on to say that Paul was all about Jesus in the New Testament. But, he does criticize Westerners in that they seem to "make Paul the linchpin" of the church instead of Jesus. He claims that most churches don't preach Jesus but get wrapped up in doctrine, etc. I don't know what church Medearis attends or has had experiences with, but the churches I enjoy and attend are all about Jesus, whether it's Paul speaking from his letters or whether the message is from the gospels or the Old Testament. To me, Medeiris downplays all of Scripture except for the 4 gospels in order to point to Jesus. However, II Timothy 3:16 says, "All of Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives." (NLT) The Old Testament points to the Messiah just about everywhere you look!
Strictly adhering to his philosophy of only pointing to Jesus, his stories, his life, his love, etc., he again leaves out the death and resurrection of Christ. What I found most interesting is that the author doesn't mention or allude to God the Father in this book. A few excerpts from John will reveal what Jesus thought about His Father and who He claimed to be, "I have come to you representing my Father." (John 5:43). "I know Him because I have come from Him, and He sent me to you." (7:29). "I am one witness, and my Father who sent me is the other." (8:18). "If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God." (8:42). "The Father and I are one." (10:30). "_the Father is in me and I am in the Father." (10:38). "_when you see me, you are seeing the One who sent me." (12:44). ""If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know Him and have seen Him!" (14:7). "This message is from the Father who sent me." (14:24). Anyone who hates me hates my Father too." (15:23). "Yes, I came from the Father into the world_" (16:28). Jesus was all about His Father, and the reason He was put death was that He claimed to be God, one and the same!
Medeiris claims that people respond better if we don't label ourselves as Christians, but that we just tell them of Jesus and His love. It's been my experience and the experience of others that "Jesus" is a taboo subject, so I don't know where he's getting the idea that people like to talk about Him. They don't! Josh McDowell in his book "More Than a Carpenter" echoes loudly, "The very name Jesus seems to bother people. It embarrasses them, makes them angry, or makes them want to change the subject. You can talk about God, and people don't necessarily get upset, but mention Jesus, and people want to stop the conversation." (p.9) While he claims inroads and relationships with people by only wanting to talk about Jesus, he rarely says or gives examples of what the conversation was. In addition, after having had a one-time contact with someone and talking about Jesus, he leaves without ever knowing if they've come to see the truth of Jesus or if their lives have been changed for eternity. What I don't think Medeiris sees or wants to talk about is that a great deal of Scripture is devoted to judgment and ultimate punishment for those that reject the Truth (Jesus). Even Jesus said that you're either for Him or against Him.
While I do not agree with Medeiris in total, the book is worth the read, and I would encourage people to read it if only for a refreshing look and reminder that the gospel message IS about Jesus. We can get carried away with dogma, arguing, doctrine, and a host of perhaps inconsequential things that detract from the real meaning of the gospel that is the Good News of Jesus Christ. It will prod your relationships with people "_and if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way." (I Pet. 3:15&16 NLT)
As someone who came to Jesus after reading the New Testament (specifically, the book of Matthew) and realizing that what Jesus taught was not like what most Christians I knew at the time lived, I love this book. After spending years in a really great church, I still got sidetracked by "Christianese" and all the other things I found confusing at first. I now know the lingo, know all the doctrine, have sound theology (as far as I am able), and have read most of my Bible more than once.
I have verses memorized; I have learned to submit more and more to the Holy Spirit's leading in my life. But I have always remained uneasy with the thought of evangelism in the traditional sense. My stomach would clench up, and I wouldn't know what to say.
Reading this book has reminded me of why I became a Christ follower in the first place: Jesus Himself. I was blown away by the things He said; by the Sermon on the Mount; by how He treated women and children. I resolved then and there that I would follow Him, but that I would do what He said instead of what hypocritical Christians did. (haha! I was so arrogant that I thought it would be easy. I have made many mistakes over the years.)
I sometimes forget that Jesus is still the one who draws us to Himself, and He is so patient with us that He does it "while we are yet sinners." Thanks, Carl, for pointing my eyes back to Him and giving me the freedom to just share Jesus, without having to defend all the horrible things that can exist in "Christianity" that I used to (and still do) hate.
This is a really great, engaging, funny read, with lots of challenging, paradigm-shifting remarks in it. Some are easy to swallow, and some are not, but they are all worth thinking on. This book has been a great tool to point me more fully towards Jesus again, and towards studying the Gospels some more.
I would also like to point out that Carl Medearis in no way says that the entire Bible is not important. He actually emphasizes that he does believe every word in it. He merely challenges the North American social paradigms that surround our Christian culture, and he suggests that there are ways to tell people about Jesus without giving them a whole theology lesson in one sitting. There is plenty of time for Jesus to speak to disciples as they walk the long road with Him.
What a great book for anyone who wants to share their faith with some effectiveness. The author is very self effacing in a disarming and humorous way. There are many truly great stories of changing lives by sharing Jesus rather than religion.
Although the author makes a few good points here and there, this book has so many problems that it will soon be forgotten.
The author says there is a place for theology, but he believes we shouldn't talk about doctrine or theology when we evangelize. (Stay away from Paul and his teachings, 4 Spiritual Laws, Roman's Road, etc. He says not everything in the Bible is of equal importance.) In fact he says we shouldn't evangelize; instead, we should just be real nice and talk about Jesus constantly.
It seems that when we talk about Jesus constantly we shouldn't talk about His teachings because that would be divisive. He also says the hard teachings of Jesus are "both misunderstood and overused". (He makes no attempt to provide a proper understanding.) We don't want to offend with words like sin or hell so we should just talk about how Jesus loved everyone, liked to party, and would always choose to hang out with an atheist rather than a follower of God. (He seems to have forgotten that Jesus hung out with 12 followers of God almost 24/7 for 3 years.)
The author doesn't like the words Christian or Christianity because he says they carry so much baggage (probably true) and because these terms fail to mention Jesus. However, since "Christ" means anointed one and is used over and over again throughout the New Testament to refer to Jesus, I find this a ridiculous argument.
The author also suggests we stop using the words "Bible" and "missionary"--He says "Bible" is an old word that turns people off and since missionaries typically "spread capitalism and democracy and political idealism and Westernism and import a new religion," we should avoid this word as well. (I wonder how many missionaries he's met?)
He's also not keen on the word "evangelize." He says that although the Greek word "evangel" is used 118 times in the New Testament, it is better and "more biblical" to instead talk about making disciples, which he admits is a phrase used only once.
Nowhere in this book does the author even mention the effects of the fall and spiritual forces of darkness which blind us in our natural state and cause us to view the gospel as foolishness.
While I agree with the author that we should talk about Jesus (and I would add "His kingdom") constantly, his desire to remove everything that could be offensive from his conversations with unbelievers will achieve little more than making him more popular with sinners than those who teach from the whole Bible. Nobody is offended by Carl Medearis' Jesus; in fact EVERYBODY likes him!