I casually entered some type of drawing for a book through a missions newsletter. One day I received a book in the mail that I didn't remember ordering. It reminds me of the dad in "A Christmas Story" who won a lower tier prize and was beyond excitement about it. "Amazing! I won something!"
I won something I wasn't expecting. The bigger surprise was my delight in reading the book.
The book and the author
The book is called, "Speaking of Jesus," and is written by Carl Medearis. He is an expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations. His expertise comes from experience as a missionary on the field in Lebanon for twelve years, and he continues to work with international leaders to promote cultural, political, and religious dialogue in the Middle East (taken from the back cover of the book).
The book was sent by the author in a manila-colored envelope with his return address. Since I didn't know the author, nor remember why I received the book, I contacted him. I set it aside until I could commit to reading it through.
I'm glad I read it. It was refreshing. (Click to Tweet) The author expresses many things I'm in complete agreement about regarding Jesus and Christianity.
As with other books and blog posts I've read on this subject, the author challenges the use of Christian terminology (Christianese), and the representation of Christianity, in general. Much of it I agree with, though at times, it seems a bit overboard to me. Perhaps I'm just not that dogmatic about it... yet.
But I am passionate about not using Christianese and focusing on Jesus rather than theology. Here, I am in complete agreement with the author, as you might gather from some of my own posts.
It's all about Jesus
The chapter titled "Unfair Advantage" sums up what I like most about the book. Carl tells the story of his involvement with an interfaith dialogue in his hometown of Colorado Springs, CO. He portrays himself as someone who doesn't quite fit on the panel.
When asked, "How do you get to heaven?" His answer was, "Well, it's Jesus. He didn't start a new religion.... Believing in Him and following Him is the way. He takes us to heaven, not a religion." I couldn't agree more.
Carl does a great job of bringing the reader back to the central issue, over and over. Jesus. It's refreshing to see this point made in so many ways without being redundant. He does this with stories from his own experience, and is honest about his own shortcomings.
The book begins with what is missing from typical presentations of the gospel. I'm big on this, as anyone who's read my posts and my book (The Mystery of the Gospel) will know.
Carl tells of a discussion with students in a missions school of a large church. He asked them "what is the gospel?" After about five minutes of responses, and some moments of silence, one student asked, "How come none of us mentioned Jesus?" Carl's response. "Exactly."
I've had similar experiences in classrooms and small group discussions. This is a real issue with Christian believers in America. A big issue.
The book's value and purpose
I see the value and purpose of the book as a big poke. Not in the eye, but in the heart.
There are some things that are likely to offend some, well, many. But that's a good thing. We need to be shaken at times.
Christian believers need to consider what they believe and why they believe it. (Click to Tweet) This won't happen without a fresh processing of what is often too familiar, but not well understood.
Some of my favorite chapter titles are— "What's Missing in This Gospel?", "Unfair Advantage," "Speak of Jesus... Not about Jesus," "You're Under Arrest... for Speaking Christianese," and "Gays, Liberals, and Muslims." That last one should catch your attention, and its content may surprise you.
The book kills some sacred cows that American Christians hold dear. It stirs things up about matters of faith and belief. Even the subtitle sounds almost sacrilegious, "the art of not-evangelism."
Carl takes an honest look at how we (Christians) go about evangelism and portraying Christianity. I hope you'll read it, ponder it, and allow him and what he says to move you towards speaking of Jesus in a way that attracts others to following Him.
After all, it is all about Jesus and following Him! (Click to Tweet)