Would it shock the American evangelical church to know that, according to recent Barna Research surveys, 84% of Christians today don't even understand the basic tenets of the faith?
In his newest title, author/pastor Chris Seay offers Christ followers and those who are simply curious or skeptical about matters of faith a both-sided look at the church today. Seay isn't shy about pointing out today's failings that fall within the four walls of Christendom. Yet his love for Jesus and His people reads strong on every page, thus making this stinging indictment against pharisaical religion palatable and even more unlikely, transforming what could have been a diatribe against the organized church system into an impetus for growth and change. Seay tells readers that it's all about Jesus, and when a Christian's relationship with Christ isn't front and center, no amount of "do-gooding" or "sin-avoidance" will cut it.
Throughout nine cutting-edge chapters, Seay's thoughtful and biblically sound text will cut through the misnomers, the misunderstandings, the misguided and the misleading. Rather than swing hard from one extreme or another, Seay --- along with other prominent evangelical voices like Gabe Lyons, Shane Claiborne, Rick McKinley, Alan Hirsch, Mark Batterson and Dan Kimball --- discusses principles and pathways taken by the church while trying to negotiate a kinder, more balanced (yet radical) and active mode of discipleship. After Seay offers up a subject and discusses it, his colleagues then participate in brief end-of-chapter Q&As that will help readers process what they've just ingested.
As the title suggests, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS takes an extensive look at basic Christian beliefs and studies these foundational principles through the lens of Scripture and how the church historically and currently responds and understands such teachings. Seay dissects overused --- but widely misunderstood and misapplied --- terms such as righteousness (restorative justice); kingdom living amongst broken people; Imago Dei (we are beautifully made in God's image); sin and its ongoing battle against all that is good; setting the heart (on Christ alone); justification (through Christ alone, no works cut it); Shalom (peace inside and out); and the Ten Commandments of a Shalom Life.
Especially telling is Seay's chapter on sin as it pertains to our relationships with others. He shares how humans are meant to reflect God but that sin obstructs this purpose. Explains Seay, "If we fail to see sin as a splinter that severs a relationship that was robust, healthy, and whole, then we are able to minimize sin. Sin is relational." In every way, when we embrace sin rather than God, we erect barriers to reflecting Christ's love to others. Even the avoiding of sin can get Christians "sinning" if they fall into religious pride, a trait Jesus denounced time and again in the Gospels. Seay's emphasis, then, is the essentiality of keeping our eyes focused on Jesus. End (and beginning) of story.
Read this important book to understand what Christians believe and why, and then read it again to start practicing the precepts.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on September 28, 2010