Originally posted on 10 August 2009 at deTheos.com.
A new book arrived a month or so ago [July 2009]: Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior by Jared C. Wilson (Kregel Publications). With an advance copy in hand, I was happy to participate in the Your Jesus is Too Safe Blog Tour. It’s a great book — read on! [Book review here.]
About the Author
Jared Wilson is a faithful husband and devoted father, plus the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. He blogs at The Gospel-Driven Church, and is on Twitter, Facebook (become a fan of the book), and MySpace (why MySpace?). Anyway, he’s connected and has a bent for all things literary (more at The Thinklings, a group writing project) and is a top researcher with the Docent Group — more about Jared can be found on his site here.
My thoughts and a short review will follow in the next post (here).
Read on as Jared answers questions about Your Jesus is Too Safe and life and ministry.
Interview Questions with Jared Wilson
Jeff Patterson: It was hard to pick a favorite chapter—each one was somehow better than the previous—and almost equally difficult to choose a favorite footnote. Those are hilarious (e.g., p. 79, fn. 7, about asking telemarketers for their home phone numbers so you can call them at their home at your convenience; you do that too?). So, what’s @theBecky’s favorite chapter or footnote/anecdote?
Jared Wilson: Beck says her favorite chapter is Jesus the Provision. She’s an optimistic, hopeful, always-expecting-the-miracle person, though, and that chapter deals more with Jesus’ miracles then others do.
She says her favorite snarky footnote is in Chapter 6, footnote #3, related to Jeroboam getting his arm shrunk. It reads, “If you don’t think this is awesome, something is wrong with you.”
[Editor’s note: theBecky is obviously Jared’s wife Becky (or Beck, as he calls her).]
JP: You seem to assume the reader has “a Jesus” in mind, that is of course “too safe,” and needs to be outgrown. You’re real tough on the American Jesus as “ATM Jesus.” Do you think he’s the primary version you confront into in the south, the Bible Belt? (Other than perhaps “get-out-of-hell-free Jesus.”)
JW: I think the safe Jesus plaguing the Bible Belt is sort of a “friendly legalist” Jesus. I have long thought that most of our churches are dealing in legalism without even knowing it. We get around this, it sneaks in, because most of us think of legalism or Pharisaism as stuffy, traditional, judgmental, arrogant, etc. But legalism is just making the message of God one about doing things and not doing other things. No gospel. And that’s what we’re dealing with when our messages are about practical, relevant steps to victory, change, success, or better what-have-you. It’s casual and hip and happy and comes with a rock band and a speaker with a fauxhawk, but it’s still legalism. And consequently there’s lots of people who are starving for Jesus even as they think they’re getting closer to God through their behavior.
JP: Tell us a bit about the subtitle, “Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior.”
JW: Well, that’s one of those marketing things. I don’t even know if I came up with that. Was part of the titling process, I believe. But I like it. It speaks to both the consumeristic and the therapeutic that comes through in our modern alternative Jesuses.
JP: In the first paragraph of chapter 8, “Jesus is King,” you write, “His kingship is perhaps the primary thing we must know about Jesus, the primary way to see him.” Do you think our Jesus is too safe primarily because we see him as an add-on to our lives, and not as our lives—calling all the shots as King of All?
JW: I think our Jesus is too safe whenever it turns out he looks, thinks, or acts like us. Or when he likes and dislikes the same people and things we do. And when all that starts happening, then, yes, Jesus turns out to be our reflection, a sidekick helping us but really doing the bidding of our hopes and dreams like a genie for our self esteem or something.
JP: I concur with Michael Spencer (iMonk) that your book is like a “mini-biblical theology.” So rich, so full of insights that thread the whole revelation from Genesis—Revelation. If you had to choose, which of the 12 portraits of Jesus from Your Jesus is Too Safe does your church need to know the most? (Knowing of course we need Him in His fullness!)
JW: I think Jesus the King may be the most important chapter. It sets up Jesus as the sovereign Lord of all, so it gets at some core theology. And then it teases that out into the reality of the kingdom and kingdom living, so it gets at eschatology, and in tandem with that, ecclesiology. In other words, if Jesus is king of the kingdom of heaven, and if that kingdom is present now in him and his reign, what does it mean to be citizens of that kingdom and how do we do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven so that others see the kingdom’s coming as good news? So that chapter more than others covers the gamut of belief and practice for churches.
JP: I’m 31, continually seeking to be a faithful husband and loving father, and have been called by God to serve as a pastor (associate), in the suburbs. What is the greatest emphases a suburban pastor should have, particularly in shepherding and leading believers in community?
JW: You will have to fight idolatry tooth and nail. The idolatry of comfort and convenience, which are in abundance in the suburbs. It messes with our brains. We go from “Oh, this is neat that this Kroger is right here” to “I can’t believe I have to drive 8 minutes to Kroger and wait in this 5 minute line!”
The suburbs can make idiotic babies of all of us. But they don’t have to. Preach the gospel hard at them so they know the universe doesn’t revolve around us. (The “six steps to a better you” stuff is huge in suburban churches.) And keep reminding them of life outside the suburbs and in the third world and what-not. And take them there, if you can.
JP: Theo-dork here: Has Kregel thought about making the book available in PDF form (for those who have purchased it in print)? I think it could be valuable for missionary pastors who have their libraries on a PC.
JW: I am getting info on this. I know Kindle is a strong possibility. I am waiting on answer to the PDF question.
JP: What’s one piece of advice you have for young, aspiring, God-centered authors?
JW: Write well. There’s a lot of guys who are smart and good speakers and have interesting things to say but can’t write worth a darn. And then there’s guys who write really well but don’t say anything helpful or edifying.
If you don’t know if you write well, ask somebody who’s not related to you to read your work and tell them to be honest.
Jeff, good questions!
JP: I know you tweet (@jaredcwilson). Who is Jesus in 140 characters or less? (Who must we say He is?)
Jared didn’t answer this one, but perhaps I can make an educated take on it, borrowing from the table of contents:
Jesus is God’s Promise, Prophet, Forgiver, The Man, our Shepherd, Judge, Redeemer, King, Sacrifice, Provision, Lord and Savior. He is all!
Your Jesus is Too Safe is organized around twelve “portraits” of Jesus, each one illustrating one awesome aspect of His Person (the 12 being listed above: Jesus is the Promise … the Prophet … the Forgiver … etc.). As you read, you’ll be challenged, excited, perhaps become angry (in chapter 4, probably), and in the end want to throw “your” Jesus away for the Real One — who is far edgier, deeper, and awesome than any person you’ve ever known. He’s not drive-thru (consumeristic) nor feel-good (therapeutic), but I don’t we want those for all eternity. He’s the King of the Universe, come to die in our place in order to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).
Editor’s note: A copy of Your Jesus is Too Safe was sent to me at no cost, in exchange for my review as part of the blog tour. I was not obligated to provide a positive review. I genuinely like the book — recommend it heartily without reservation — and am thankful for Jared’s time in answering these questions.