JohnSWilson3 Blog

Review of “Christ Minimized?” by Jon Zens
January 24, 2012, 2:19 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is my review of Jon Zens new “booklet” titled “Christ Minimized? A Response to Rob Bell’s LOVE WINS.” This review comes from my conviction and I understand that there are a number of opinions on the subject. Many voices have shared their thoughts on the subject but really like Jon Zens and David Flowers articles on the subject.

When I read the title “Christ Minimized?” of Jon Zens response to Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” I immediately was captured again by Jon’s desire to see Jesus Christ made supreme and central to the ekkelsia of God, His body. How Christ desires to be Lord, Leader, and Life among His people and not a set of teachings or practices, but real food, real water, real life. How Christ desires to live supremely and centrally in His ekklesia, His body!

In “Christ Minimized?” Jon Zens again very astutely brings out the centrality of Christ as he reflects on the thoughts from Rob’s controversial book. Jon looks at what Bell writes and searches the Christ of scripture to give a more balanced view that neither those who ascribe to “eternal torment” or “universalism” wants to reconcile. Jon’s approach is to see what scripture really says and lay it before the body and let the ekklesia see the reality of what was written to the ekklesias in the first century. Jon comes with a heart, like all believers past and present, that all would know our Lord, but realizing that while God so loved the world that He sent His Son, not everyone would believe in Him. What is the fate of those who do not trust in Jesus Christ? Can we accept “eternal torment” as perpetrated by the institutional church or does scripture say something different, such as “perish.” I am more inclined to believe what scripture says.

As Jon points out, much of one’s opinions can often be masked by the dangers of reading our current modern and traditional practices into the interpretation of the Bible. Jon has been uniquely gifted of the Lord to help the body search the scripture and allow His Spirit to interpret it for us. His previous books are key benchmarks in the plethora of false teachings that have become the tradition of the institutional church for centuries, traditions that have been accepted without question and kept His people silent and blind to the reality of Christ in them. His response to Rob Bell’s book is just one more to add to the body to see what Christ really says. In “A Church Building Every ½ Mile” Jon asks God’s people to question the institutional church’s traditions and the “tragic shifts” that describe how far it has fallen from its organic roots in Christ. In “What’s With Paul and Women?” Jon asks God’s people to relook the role of women the institutional church has perpetrated and what Paul really said in his letters to the ekklesia. Just recently in “The Pastor Has No Clothes!” Jon asks God’s people to question and even challenge the heresy of the clergy-laity divide, perhaps the one tradition that has so robbed Christ of His full expression in His body.

We can too often focus on only one side of what scripture says to the limitation or silence of the rest of scripture. Perhaps this is the reason we are called to search the scripture together so that Christ in us can give us better sight as to what He really wants us to know, to see a more balanced teaching in the body and the fuller expression of the life of Christ in His people. Rob’s book is one more voice in the powder keg of emotion in the religious debates of history regarding eternal torment or universalism, debates that sadly have divided the body and left a trail of tears. Jon comes in though and brings out the voice of balance, the voice of insight, the voice of reality that can only be Christ in him. But Jon is not alone in this discussion as he points out numerous witnesses of those past and present who have expressed their portion of Christ Jesus, speaking the ultimate value of His incarnation, life, resurrection, ascension, and now His life in His ekkelsia. Christ is bigger than Rob Bell or any of us can imagine. In the end Jon humbly assents that “no position is airtight, and there are always a few Scriptures that seem to challenge every view…” In my own study and learning to hear Christ in me, the words Jon Zens shares are my own as well. In fact it is surprising how what I read are the same conclusions I have also come to acknowledge. Only the Spirit can do that. May the Father give us spiritual sight to see more of His Son in His body.

If you would like to get Jon’s book go to:

Book Review of “Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities” by Frank Viola
November 23, 2011, 4:27 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Book Review of “Finding Organic Church” by Frank Viola that I posted to on September 19, 2009.

I just finished reading Frank Viola’s latest book, “Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities.” What an awesome book! Of all of my books on the church and it’s purpose that are in my “library” (as my kids describe my study) this is by far the best of them all. Probably no other book lays out the actual way a New Testament church was started and sustained. Every person who calls themself a pastor, teacher, evangelist, preacher, prophet, apostle, whatever the title you want to call yourself, ought to prayerfully read this excellent book! It encapsulates the dream of Jesus, of removing everything that is religious and not of Christ, to have a place to dwell richly in a community that loves Him so much that they willingly deny themselves, take up their cross (they die to themselves, their religion, their giftings, their personality, etc.), and follow Jesus together! Totally scriptural and practical! Thanks Frank!

Book Review of “What’s With Paul and Women” by Jon Zens
November 23, 2011, 4:24 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is my book review of “What’s With Paul and Women” by Jon Zens that I posted to on July 14, 2010.

I really enjoyed reading “What’s With Paul and Women?” by Jon Zens! Discussed some of the parts with my wife and we are in agreement, guess that means this is a keeper! Jon Zens does an excellent job at describing some of the mistranslated words and the cultural context of what appears as a bias towards women in the Bible, when in fact he was addressing specific issues. Men and women were called to function freely in the body of Christ!

Book Review of “No Will Of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood” by Jon Zens
November 23, 2011, 4:21 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Below is my book review of “No Will Of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood” by Jon Zens from on May 29, 2011.

Finished reading “No Will of My Own” by Jon Zens. Very informative read about the Patriarchy Movement and the abuse and bondage it brings to Women and Girls. Heard of this movement only about a year or so ago. Wade Burleson mentions in his forward that “many of the girls who wind up in the sex trade come from patriarchal homes.” May we live by Christ’s life and not according to this world. Patriarchal or matriarchal families are of the world not of Christ, in Christ He is the only ruler and source.

Review of “Going to Church in the First Century” by Robert Banks
November 23, 2011, 2:08 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Here is my review of “Going to Church in the First Century” by Robert Banks. I wrote this back in June 15, 2010.

Robert Banks writes a historical fiction story of a gathering of 1st Century Christians at Aquila and Priscilla’s home in Rome. It is written from the perspective of a non-believer who attends the meeting with a Christian friend. Banks does a great job of providing a lot of contextual detail of 1st Century Rome into the story along with a typical organic form of gathering of believers which involved a meal and spending time together, living by the life of Christ. I love the story and helped me see better how the Lord’s Supper was part of a normal meal with believers and the informality of the gathering. May all of God’s churches, His body truly live by His life in face-to-face community under the Headship & Lordship of Jesus Christ! A must read!

Books to Read to Help Understand the Organic Nature of Church

Was asked to share a list of books that might be helpful to better understand the organic nature of church. Obviously there is much that could be listed but here is the list that I have read and that has greatly helped and influenced me. These have helped me to see the organic nature of the body of Christ that we see in the New Testament, God’s heart that the body of Christ, living in the freedom of Christ together, sharing His life out of that freedom in grace and truth with love, to the full expression of the Son.

I have listed them by author(s). Each have their pros and cons and each person who reads them will look at the pros and cons differently. As most will say, none have figured it all out, and much has been more in exploration and experimentation.

Frank Viola and Milt Rodriguez books tend to be more wholly organic and look at organic church from a more practical corporate basis. T. Austin-Sparks, Robert Banks, and Jon Zens books tend to look at organic church from a more theological basis. Neil Cole’s books tend to look at organic church from a cell like church movement perspective with a more individual disciple-making basis. Tony and Felicity Dale tend to look at organic church from a simple and house church perspective. Each author brings their own flavor of living by the life Christ together in His body and each have provided me many areas of edification and growth in understanding what it means to live by Christ in His body and to expressing Him outside of the body. There are many other authors out there with their own books such as Leonard Sweet and Wolfgang Simpson, I just haven’t gotten to reading them, hope you can forgive me, :).

Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet:
– Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ

Frank Viola and George Barna:
– Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (a deconstruction of the institutional church)

Frank Viola:
– From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God (mind blowing look at God’s eternal purpose from the entire Bible)
– Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity (a reconstructive look at living in organic church)
– The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament (great guide to reading the Bible, especially the New Testament in chronological order)
– Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities (very useful in looking at how Christ in His ekklesia grows and spreads organically from the book of Acts and today and useful helps for those looking at venturing into this kind of life organically)
– Revise Us Again: Living From a Renewed Christian Script (most practical of Frank’s books, really helpful at looking at different mindsets within the body of Christ and how to love one another despite our differences)

Milt Rodriguez:
– The Community Life of God: Seeing the Godhead As the Model for All Relationships (best book I have read on the subject)
– The Butterfly in You: Discovering Your True Identity in Christ (wonderful analogy of sanctification, living by the life of Christ)
– The Temple Within: Fellowship With An Indwelling Christ (really impacted me on learning to hear Christ, and am still learning)
– The Priesthood of All Believers: 1st Century Church Life in the 21st Century (important treatment of seeing life in the body where ALL participate not just a few)
– The Organic Church: Something New In case You Might Be Interested (great look at what organic church is and is not)

Jon Zens:
– A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? (similar to Pagan Christianity but focused more on American “church”)
– What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 (best commentary on the confusing passages by Paul related to women, must read!)
– No Will of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity and Personhood (group of essays on the false teaching of Patriarchalism)
– The Pastor Has No Clothes (great look at the hindrance that clergy-laity divide has in the full functioning of the ekklesia)
– Searching Together Magazine

Robert Banks:
– Going to Church in the First Century: An Eyewitness Account (a short and wonderful historical fiction story of an unbeliever visiting an organic church in the ancient city of Rome)
– Paul’s Idea of Community (Revised Edition) (the book that questions the institutional church and its practices that limit body life)
– The Church Comes Home (with Julia Roberts) (haven’t read this yet)

Neil Cole:
– Search and Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes A Difference
– Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens
– Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are

Tony & Felicity Dale:
– The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church

T. Austin-Sparks:
– The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
– God’s Spiritual House
– The School of Christ
– The Stewardship of the Mystery
(these are just some of his best works, as far as I’m concerned everything that Sparks wrote is probably the most edifying works I’ve ever read short of the Bible, :))

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
– The Cost of Discipleship
– Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Watchman Nee:
– The Normal Christian Life
– Christ The Sum of All Spiritual Things
– The Normal Christian Church Life: The New Testament Pattern of the Churches, the Ministry, and the Work (this is from a Chinese house church cultural perspective)

George Barna:
– Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary (more of a postchurch perspective)

Gene Edwards:
– The Divine Romance (wonderful story in the form of a play of God’s eternal purpose from an view of the angels in creation to the resurrection of Christ)

Larry Kreider:
– House Church Networks: A Church For A New Generation (this comes from a perspective that both large cell churches and house churches are both important, this is the first book God used to help me see the importance that hierarchy and church structures hampered more than helped the church, seeing that church was not about leaders but about functioning in the body, although the author doesn’t necessarily share this view)

Brother Lawrence:
– The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life (comes from the perspective of a monk but has many great truths about living by the life of Christ in every aspect of life)

Jeanne Guyon:
– Experiencing God Through Prayer (tends to appear to come from a programmed approach to prayer like most studies on prayer but has a more organic perspective than other)

I have many other books, devotionals, theological, commentaries, studying the Bible, church history, discipleship, leadership, counseling, worship, ministry, evangelism, etc but these in almost every case come from an institutional bias with a focus on individual Christianity, living the Christian life by your self in the world. These I still keep, I guess to help me remember that it is not about living an individual Christian life but about living by the life of Christ in and to His body and expressing Him through His body.

Book Review of “Margin” by Dr. Richard A. Swenson
July 3, 2011, 1:57 am
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is a book summary I completed on “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” back in September 2000. This obviously is over a decade old when I wrote it so take it in that light. While it does come from a counseling and an institutional church background it still provides some valuable advice to help those who struggle emotionally, physically, financially, and with time management. You may not necessarily agree with his premise but given today’s society it is definitely worth considering. A critical element that I think he overlooks is the New Testament principle of living by Christ’s life in a shared life community with those who are in Christ. Perhaps many in the church today struggle with these issues because of the lack of this lost art of the body of Christ. An excellent little book and highly recommend it. I still reflect back on these principles even to this day.

Dr. Richard A. Swenson, in his book MARGIN, provides the reader with practical application based on biblical truth in how individuals can gain margin in life in order to overcome the pain caused by progress. Dr. Swenson’s premise is that progress has been one of the major causes for the wrecked lives of humanity in America noted by its subsequent problems, stress, and overload in the lives of people socially, emotionally, and spiritually. Part of the problem is that although progress is considered the way to bring happiness at the same time, because of humanity’s falleness and sin nature, produces a more powerful evil, leaving lives emotionally drained, physically unfit, overworked, and burdened with debt. Like a prophet, Dr. Swenson, provides the keys to restoring life and relationships through regaining margin to prevent the continuing downward spiral of relationships in today’s society.

Margin “grants freedom and permits rest” and “is the opposite of overload.” Because of the lack of margin in today’s society all scriptural relational life has become worse such as marriage, parenting, social-support systems, church commitment, church unity, etc. People are drained emotionally by lives that are stressful, alone, and exhausted in spirit. Although there are “no quick fixes” emotional margin requires the cultivation of healthy supporting relationships, giving of oneself, positive emotional releases, freedom to say no, purpose in life, thankfulness and practicing grace, faith, hope, and love. People are drained physically by the lives that are “overfed, underactive, and sleep-deprived” due to poor “lifestyle choices.” Margin gives stronger physical reserves to “resist the ravages of stress.” People must accept and take personal responsibility to change their life-style, regain emotional margin, and change any habit disorders. Sleep, nutrition, and exercise must be valued. Peoples time are drained by the lives that are fixated on time leaving them “wheezing and worn out.” Dr. Swenson points out that “our time should all be God’s time directed by Him and used for His purposes.” Margin in time is used for physical work, “for conversing, for serving, for resting, and for praying.” Time margin is a legitimate requirement from God “who exalts faithfulness over productivity, rest over speed, and availability over schedulability.” Finally, people are drained financially by the “universal indebtedness” of our society because of “living beyond our means.” Margin allows us “to serve the purposes of God” and prevents “nervousness, discontent, and greed.” More money is not margin but is being able to do with out it, giving it away, and meeting the daily necessities of life so that money glorifies God and blesses.

Support for margin is gained by living a life of contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest which builds health in peoples lives. Each are frowned upon by today’s society and is the reason why so many lives are without margin. Contentment facilitates simplicity, reducing complexity, and finds its example in Christ’s justness, mercy, and humility. Balanced living is a matter of “partitioning our time” and is “priority thinking” where God is central and subtracts anything that creates imbalance. Rest is a command from God and is needed in the three areas of physical, emotional, and spiritual and occurs only when we humble ourselves and surrender to Christ’s rest.

Dr. Swenson concludes stating that God made human beings relational and when progress ceases to support the relational nature of the person pain is the result. Pain helps people see the need for margin in restoring healthy relationships both to God, ourselves, and to others. It is the Great Commandment and found in the “one concept: love.” People must control progress instead of letting it steam roll our lives because “the road to health, the path to blessing…is the way of relationship.”