I’m going to try a different format for this review. I will list things in the order of the “The Good,” which is my assessment of what makes a book valuable, “The Bad,” which are content related things that need some work, and “The Ugly” which is an assessment of how the material is presented (or poorly presented). Following this I’ll give my final evaluation and rank it on a six category scale. Best is “Hardback Buy”, then “Paperback Buy,” then “Ebook buy,” then “Borrow”, next to worst is “Meh” and worst is “Avoid at all costs.” I’ll use this for all future book reviews (regardless of whether they exist in hardback or ebook form).
This is a review of Jesus is _____. by Judah Smith. It is based, in part at least, upon the wildly successful “Jesus is ____ ” campaign from Seattle that asked people to fill in the blank, had billboards and websites, and generally got “Jesus on the mind of Seattle.” Judah Smith is pastor of City Church in Seattle, along with his wife Chelsea.
I’ll start off by saying that this is a good book for Christians. It does raise some interesting questions and presents a few perspectives I hadn’t considered before. Ultimately, the overall message is good and uplifting and may lead to a closer relationship with Jesus. It certainly made me think about church in a few different ways.
Judah Smith’s Old Testament theology needs some serious work. He is still in the mindset that the Old Testament religion of the Hebrews was a works based salvation. It wasn’t. It is full of Grace. This review isn’t the place to make that argument, but this bit, which he relies upon for some contrasts, is just mistaken. The same contrast could have been made if he simply talked about how most people think about religion (weighing good and bad, etc.).
OK, this may get messy. Let me state from the outset that Judah Smith seems like a great communicator. A great oral communicator. Really this seemed like an extended sermon series (with each sermon being a little longer than he is likely use to delivering). While I understand that this is the primary way he communicates his message, it makes the reading a bit labor-intensive at times, and each chapter could probably be about 25% shorter (and I’m pretty long winded, so that says something). Many of his jokes fell flat, in large part because he couldn’t deliver them in person (I could see how they might be funny if I heard them instead of read them), and in part because he seemed to assume they were funny anyway. Finally, some of his illustrations are just too trite or too silly to take seriously (Worthy World versus Grace Land? Seriously?).
Judah Smith clearly has some great big picture thoughts and ideas. He seems to be readily able to develop these into sermons/talks. Not into books though. The major downside of this book was a lack of follow through and execution. Honestly, he could have said what he needed to in about half the space. There was just too much needless fluff (or undeveloped points). My overall assessment “Borrow.” (3 out of 6) It’s worth looking at, but once through (and even a skim through) is probably enough.
I received a free copy of this book from the “booksneeze” program for the purposes of review, affiliated with Thomas Nelson Publishers. I have not been paid or received anything else for this review. I nevertheless try to maintain objectivity in my review.