Over the past few years, there has been a crop of up and coming authors that are serving as a voice for the younger evangelical church of America. I’ll let you, the reader, list your own that you prefer. However, one person whose name should be amongst that list is Jonathan Merritt, a faith and culture writer (see his blog) who has been recently named one of 30 leaders reshaping Christian leadership by Outreach Magazine.
Just a few weeks ago, his third release hit the shelves: Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined. I appreciated the review copy sent by FaithWords publishers. Thus, I share my brief review.
The book sets forth the story of Jonathan Merritt. Not so much his story of salvation, but more a weaving together the tapestry of his whole life story in order to give us this picture to which he has been drawn: Jesus is better than you imagined.
That’s what he wants us to know, to even experience, through his own words about his own life.
What is Jonathan Merritt’s story?
He grew up a pastor’s kid. Not just any pastor’s kid, but his father was once elected as President of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Knowing the strong roots of the SBC in the south, one will understand that’s a large heritage to shoulder for any southern Christian.
Life is regularly defined by a list of rules, with the don’ts ultimately outweighing the do’s. Overshooting certain Scriptural warrants to avoid “all appearance of evil” (1 Thess 5:22). Sibling fights in the car having to be immediately set aside once pulling into the parking lot of the church. Dress prim and proper, clean white smiles and all.
We’ve all been there or are aware of this underlying culture – in any context, not just Merritt’s Southern Baptist context. Hey, I’ve known some of these, even me being the perpetrator at times.
So we’re given a glimpse into Merritt’s story that brought him to conclude Jesus is better than he had imagined, and most likely better than you and I imagine. And he writes in good story format along with authenticity, honesty and humor. But, if you know Merritt’s story, you know he can only be authentic and honest. There’s not much left to run from in his own life. His is the proverbial “open book.” That’s what I appreciate so much about him.
And there are 10 basic areas where Jesus will be seen as better than we first imagined, those 10 areas being the 10 main chapters of the book: silence, sanctuary, mystery, the impossible, honesty, waiting, tragedy, sacrilege, absence and church. Some we already expect to encounter Jesus there; some not so much. But Merritt gives us a taste of Jesus in each area as he came to personally meet with the living Christ.
If you want just a taster into Merritt’s story before purchasing the book, check out his March 2014 article in Christianity Today entitled A Thread Called Grace. It’s actually ch.5 of the book. It might give you an idea of whether the book is worth purchasing or not. But I’m going to bank on it that you’ll conclude the former, that it’s worth the purchase, once engaging such a heart-wrenching read. Amazing story!
I personally appreciated the opportunity to read Jesus Is Better Than You Imagined. But, even more, I’m thankful for Jonathan Merritt and God’s story of grace in his life.