Jonathan Martin is the pastor of Renovatus, a Church for People Under Renovation. In the acknowledgment section he writes that this book is not a memoir, but it is his story and the story of his people at Renovatus. It is the story of what he has learned thus far about God and life. The subtitle asks a question that seems too lofty to answer in such a short book: What happens when you discover you’re more like Jesus than you think? Thankfully, Jonathan Martin has not bitten off more than he can chew with this book. This is definitely a worthwhile read.
I loved this book. I wanted to focus on and discuss my favorite chapter, but several chapters were my favorite. Jonathan Martin writes with a lot of wisdom. He also makes connections and references that are not the same old, same old. I mean, who references Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, U2, and Nickelback? His writing is prophetic and poetic in the best ways. He writes about his upbringing and his childhood wonder. He writes about identity and calling. He writes it all with an overarching theme of how being God’s beloved should change the way you live. He writes with the theme of the love of God and the freedom we find from God, and this impacts the way we live in community.
What I generally don’t like about Christian books are their lack of call to action (that and their lame “Christian fortune cookie” feel, but you won’t find that in this book either). Fortunately, this is a book with a benediction. You walk away from this book not just with compelling stories, but you walk away thinking about your own story–your own relationship with God and the Church.
The main thing I didn’t like about this book was that it went too quickly. There was a lot of information inside, and it was a quick read so it was easy to rush through it. However, this is more the kind of book you need to read slow and savor.
Jonathan Martin does not think coming to God answers all your questions. I appreciate that he leaves space for questions and uncertainty. In the chapter titled “Obscurity,” he writes:
“Obscurity is where God sends all His favorite sons and daughters. Our society tells us that if and when we get ‘there’—the job or position or degree we’ve always wanted, the notoriety we’ve always dreamed of—that’s when all the important stuff will start happening. Not so. All the good stuff happens in obscurity.”
He is able to articulate areas of thought that are difficult to articulate. He does so in an incredibly beautiful way.
“The earth itself is longing for its intended beauty to be fully restored. When we see the ways in which the world is disjointed from the way it was intended to be, we enter into the dissonant dirge of the creation crying out. For me, I want to go back to the tabernacle where I first met with God, or I want to experience the joy and beauty of my grandmother’s house. We long for restoration, not escape. We long for a world renewed and restored. The longing of God Himself to make the creation whole lingers in our dreams, pulling us forward, drawing us toward the good future He has in store for us and for the world.”
Benedictions send us out into the world, and Jonathan Martin sends us out recognizing we have a story to tell. It’s a story within the greater story of God, but if we don’t tell our part in the story, the world is missing out on something.
“I believe you, too, have a story to tell: a story of your belovedness. It’s a story of how your scars and wounds and death fit into the story of the death of Jesus, of how your victories fit into the victory of God’s love over the power of death.”
I would recommend this book to new believers and to anyone who has been in the church for years. It provides knowledge to help you even if you haven’t been in the church long enough to learn the lingo and it can re-energize those who feel tired from years in the church.
To accompany the book, there has been a DVD curriculum released. The curriculum is divided into six sessions, each about fifteen minutes long. Each of the videos consists of Jonathan Martin recapping the particular chapters in the book. I think they would be very useful in a small group setting. The DVD also includes a Leader’s Guide. I think this Leader’s Guide is incredibly helpful. The guide suggests the sessions follow this format: warm up, video, discussion (the guide provides some questions, activities, and Scripture on which to focus), and finally, a wrap up.
Honestly, I probably would not use the DVD curriculum for youth ministry, but I think it would be really great in a young adult small group. I think it goes a little deeper than those in youth group could benefit from (with the exception of some senior high schoolers), so I think young adults or older adults would benefit the most from this study.
I received a complimentary copy of the book and DVD for review purposes from Tyndale House.