Len Sweet on ‘So Beautiful’ and the ‘Jesus Manifesto’: Homebrewed Christianity 54

Len Sweet joins us this week for another outstanding podcast.  The first half of the podcast focuses on his new book ‘So Beautiful’ in which you get Len being Sweet as he discusses the DNA of the church.  In doing so you get some refined and focused reflection on over-used and under-utilized buzz words in many church circles, MISSIONAL, RELATIONAL, and INCARNATIONAL.  Beyond the buzz lie the secret three-fold strand that moves the life of the church. (Other blog reviews of the book: 1,2,3,4,5)

In the second half of the interview Len breaks some big news about an upcoming partnership he has with Frank Viola called ‘a Jesus Manifesto.’ (No relation to the Jesus Manifesto blog) I don’t want to steal his thunder, but let’s say that it revolves a shared Christological concern of Frank and his that is directed at a number of pomo Christian provocateurs.  Len also explains his concern about the ‘Red Letter Christians’ and the recent focus on ‘Social Justice’ in the emerging church conversation.  And if that wasn’t enough reason to listen, dig, and share this episode we conclude the conversation with a little bit we borrowed from Conan O’Brien, In the Year 3000 2020.

Thanks to Len for joining us and to you all for listening.  Until next time deacons….brew on!


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18 comments
Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

Thanks for the love Jeff. The echo was from Len not having his ear phones in. I didn't hear when we were talking but there it was in playback.

Jeff Goins
Jeff Goins

Enjoying So Beautiful right now - never read a Sweet book before. Thanks for the podcast, guys. Good to hear Len's thoughts in his own voice. Btw, what's up with the connection? Lots of echo and whatnot. Bad Skype connection?

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

Hey Mark. I imagine your responses aren't similar from many who read the Jesus manifesto or listened to the podcast. There is a great post and responses (including a wonderfully clarifying response by Len Sweet) here: http://tinyurl.com/l2rf4h I hope that helps. If you have a particular question post it and Chad will ask Frank Viola in a follow up interview in a bit.

MarkE
MarkE

I had trouble with the ragging on red letter Christians. What was his point? He said Paul didn't give a flip about the teachings of Jesus. Does he mean that, therefore, we shouldn't? Jesus was just teaching good judism? I have lots of reactions to some of the podcast, not many of them good. Something doesn't line up. Can anyone help me out here?

deacon burrley
deacon burrley

I think part of Lens problem is with all the emergent excitement about Obama. He wants more libertarian emergents.

Chad Crawford
Chad Crawford

Yeah I definitely would have liked to hear him elaborate on his thoughts about liberation theology, and I will be asking Frank Viola about it when I interview him. So Frank if you're reading this, get ready! Feel free to add any questions you have for Frank re: "A Jesus Manifesto" or From Eternity to Here.

Richard
Richard

Tripp, Thank you for the reply. I was actually directing that particular comment (#6) towards JoAnn. I realize you didn't make the distinction. I guess I sort of assumed they were basically the same thing. Obviously we're not wearing robes. Obviously we're not Jewish. But if following Jesus doesn't mean following the way of life he taught and lived.....how do you even do it? I wouldn't even know where to start! Sorry if I'm posting too much. Great job on the podcasts by the way. I'm looking forward to Robert Wright, hopeless liberal that I am. :)

Blake Huggins
Blake Huggins

The liberation theology comment was, well, odd. Not that I don't agree that mainlines are dangerously close to flatlining (and I say that as a United Methodist), but I seriously doubt that liberation theology is the culprit. But then again I'm a bit of a hybrid liberationist. So who knows. I'm a fan of Len's work but I'm a little confused by this as well. Not the push for a high Christology. I get that. It's a conversation that has been lacking in the larger emerging conversation, I think. I guess I just don't understand the need for his seemingly rigid bifurcation of imitating Jesus on the one hand (teachings, social justice, etc.) and following him on the other. To me, those are two side of the same coin, and they are inextricably intertwined with one another. I agree with Brent -- if one is to truly be relational it seems that both components are necessary. Maybe it was just the informal, off-the-cuff nature of the conversation, but it seemed me like an unnecessary binary was created. I'd much rather see the two present together, working in tandem. Hmm. Maybe I'll blog about this too. I need to let it percolate more.

Mike Morrell
Mike Morrell

"Oddly enough, being a radical follower of Jesus is a little more difficult if you have demythologized easter." Is that sarcasm I detect from you, Mr. Fuller? Looking forward to your own thoughts/reflections on this manifesto - I'll be penning my own too, hopefully this week.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

Just to be clear to everyone. Len brought up the Jesus Manifesto and it wasn't part of a plan so if you want to know what myself or Chad thinks about it you will have to wait until VBS is over for me so I can blog about it. I agree with @Brent. I think Len is part of the larger emerging conversation. I also think there are plenty of people in the conversation who will resonate with what he and Frank are doing. I have a pretty high Christology for a progressive theologian and am pretty leftist when it comes to politics, so who knows exactly what I will think. I do know that I don't think liberation theology killed mainline protestantism. Mainliners have been good at preaching parts of liberation theology, but I imagine that if they had taken the theology more seriously - as in serious enough to alter their patterns of life and community significantly - then things would have been different. Oddly enough, being a radical follower of Jesus is a little more difficult if you have demythologized easter.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@ Jo Ann The sound of my voice echoed because Len didn't have ear phones on during the interview. I didn't hear the echo during the conversation or I would have mentioned it. Try not to have it happen again.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@ richard. I can't answer for sweet and not sure I have ever intentionally drawn that distinction before, but I guess I would say something similar to what Jo Ann mentioned in her comment. Jesus had a particular vocation that was his alone - being the Christ. I can't share that vocation, but I am called to share in his pattern of passionate fidelity to the Motherly Father as he did.

Richard
Richard

What do you (and Leonard) mean by following Jesus without imitating him? Obviously you can be too literal in "imitating", but I'm not really sure how you follow Jesus without living out his way as demonstrated by his life and message. Please don't take this the wrong way - I'm not pointing a finger at you. It just seems like a strange thing to say. I'm not sure about what you mean on a practical level, or what distinction you're trying to make here.

Jo Ann W. Goodson
Jo Ann W. Goodson

Wow !!! I'm also blown away with Leonard Sweets thoughts. Some I totally agree with and others I need more time to think through. What I need to think through is his thoughts on the teachings of Jesus. I agree with his thinking on being incarnational. God is in us and with us and we become Christ followers (being incarnational) rather than imitaters of Jesus. He says it is not imitation but implementation and I agree with that. It goes along with my idea that I cannot BE Jesus. God created me Jo Ann and I must be the best Jo Ann that I can be. That means to me that I am in a relationship with God, through The Holdy Spirit, and not just imitating Jesus. Jesus was The Word and Leonard Sweet said Truth is a person, Jesus not the sayings or teachings of Jesus. He says if this is not true then we are "doing" Jesus. Missional - relational - incarnational, we must take all three together not separate them. He stated he was a "follower" of Jesus not a leader. For the future Leonard says we must communicate like Jesus. We think in image and speak in story. It was stated also that in the future we must become "tribal" and not denomiational. Would love to learn more about that concept. The "new" church will be more relational and not merely spectators as now. So much to ponder !!! I intend to purchase his book ""So Beautiful." One comment on the sound quality of the podcase. When Leonard Sweet was talking everything was perfect but when you, Tripp, were talking there was a lot of echo and interference. Do not know why. Thanks again for a great job well done Tripp and Chad.

Brent
Brent

I agree with Ken. I liked most of what he had to say, and agreed with it too. I have to admit though, I was a little mystified by his disdain for justice oriented living. It seems to me that living for social justice doesn't necessarily mean throwing following Jesus out the window. In my mind it is actually following Jesus. If, as Leonard emphasized, we need to live relationally, then I think we will be worried about the pain of other people, and in my mind that is exactly what a lot of people who are seeking justice are doing. I don't think that people who are emphasizing social justice are emphasizing it as important to get into heaven or to use as leverage to get God to give us Justice. Isn't it possible that they are doing it out of love for the people that they want to help? Also, maybe my view of what the emergent Christianity is is warped, but I couldn't help but feel that what Leonard was talking about is what a lot of people who associate with emergent are talking about as well. So, in my mind Leonard Sweet is actually part of the emergent church. So, as I said, I was a little confused by his challenge, but all in all liked what he had to say. breNt

Ken Bussell
Ken Bussell

Yeah, what's up with the social justice issue? A score to settle? As a postmoderny person, I like that he challenges the "build it and they will come" church model... mri vs apc... but why attack social justice?

deacon burrley
deacon burrley

That was a sweet interview. Tripp I know you had to have played along a bit when he went to cracking on the justice people given you are one.

Richard
Richard

I'm just asking, so please don't take me too seriously - I'll admit I often don't know what I'm talking about... I don't understand how he seems to emphasize "blood" and bringing Christ to people but seems to deemphasize social justice and Jesus' actual mission. Jesus' blood was shed as a result of his passion for justice, right? I don't see how liberals (many of them anyway) are trying to take Jesus out of the church. It seems like they're often doing the opposite, although I'll admit that "liberal" is a huge umbrella term. Perhaps they may be deconstructive to a fault, I don't know, but I see their message as often more loyal to Jesus than the far right conservatives.

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