Jesus > Religion, or I no longer need to write a book about the church

A friend has been on my case to write a book about the church, since I apparently have a lot to say on the topic. Makes sense, considering my upbringing as a pastor’s kid, my view of church as the people not the building, and my overall frustration at the people for being immobile and silent in a world that is dying.

But after reading Jefferson Bethke’s Jesus > Religion: Why he is so much better than trying harder, doing more, and being good enough, I have nothing to say. In ten chapters, Bethke speaks the truth on what differentiates true Christianity from any other religion (even faux Christianity). And in speaking—er, writing—his mind, he puts my thoughts on church (those knocking around in my brain and occasionally spilling out in conversation) into words.

I bought this book on sale for Kindle some time in the last few weeks, and I flew through it, reading it when I felt like reading (but not Fitzgerald). It’s jam-packed with metaphors and analogies from Bethke’s life experience, literature and mythology, and of course Scripture. Bethke expounds the truth of the Gospel and God’s unbelievable grace toward us, sinners. It’s a book of theology, biblical truth, and testimony as Bethke weaves the story of his Christian walk throughout each chapter.

Bethke writes honestly about sin and grace and doesn’t beat around any bushes. His straight-forward writing style makes him exceptionally quotable, and I, for one, scribbled down and shared quite a few of his words as I read. Here are a few of my favorites:

Sometimes people will hate us because we preach the gospel Jesus preached, and sometimes people will hate us because were jerks: Lets not do the second one and blame it on the first.

The biggest difference between religious people and gospel-loving people is that religious people see certain people as the enemies, when Jesus-followers see sin as the enemy.

Avoiding sin isn’t about us not getting in trouble; it is about us trusting that the Creator knows his creation best and has designed the world to work in a certain way. Everything outside of his creative order is a distortion, and when we follow that fractured path, we are implying we are our own gods and know better than he does.

Jesus didn’t come to lower the standard; he actually came to raise it. He took the issue from external to internal. If we are honest, we realize our hearts, our minds, and our actions are in direct opposition to our Creator. 

And that’s just a taste. Honestly, I can’t say much about this book because it’s one that speaks for itself and does so well. I do, however, recommend that you pick up a copy and read it—whether you’re a Christian or not.

Prepare yourself for a wakeup call, because books like this shouldn’t just prep you for engaging conversations, they should ready you for real-life action where you actually do love your neighbor as yourself and have an answer ready when they ask about the hope within you. Where you actually do engage the world around you—its good, bad, and ugly—seeking to redeem it for the glory of God. Where you don’t shy away from the person whom Scripture condemns, but embrace them and share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Because ultimately, that’s what the church—and Christianity—is about. Not Sunday morning worship and flannel graph Bible stories.

For a taste of what you’ll find in the book, check out Bethke’s video, the precursor to him writing the book:

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