In general, I have mixed feelings about Len Sweet’s books. A decade or so ago I would have told you to read his books. His books were then in high circulation for those who were ‘emerging’ from the swamp of 20th century mega-church Protestantism. Len Sweet was thoughtfully engaged with some of the trends that were happening in the church, especially in regard to the then buzzword, post-modernity. I loved Soul Tsunami and yes, there is a special place in my heart for Soul Salsa.
And then I completely lost interest in his books. He basically put out a decade of books on Christian Spirituality with suspect titles which didn’t appeal to me (like The Gospel According to Starbucks). Occasionally I would hear from friends tell me something Len Sweet said at a conference which just sounded Bizarre to me. Like when he says Jesus would tweet (Really? We know this?).
Last year I picked up Jesus Manifesto, the book he co-wrote with Frank Voila and thought that the two of them had some great things to say, so I am back to reading Len Sweet with appreciation. I think Len Sweet at his best calls us to creative fidelity to the gospel. He offers a rich engagement with the Christian tradition and the gospel and explores how the kingdom can seep more into our present context. When I don’t like his writing, I find it too slick, too much acronyms and alliteration and it seems like he is trying too hard to be relevant.
This book is Len Sweet at his best. He creatively and courageously takes on the Christian preoccupation with leadership (a preoccupation which he has contributed to, I might add) and rightly points out that the Christian life is more about followership than leadership. This is a sorely needed and overdue critique on the church in USAmerica and Sweet makes some great points. He challenges that the best-selling ‘Christian’ books are about leadership. He indicts the leadership culture for its glitz and chutzpah and glorification of people’s’ strengths when Jesus’s power is made perfect in our weakness. He gives practical advice on how to enter into the way of Jesus.
After introducing the theme of followership, Len Sweet organizes his meditations into three sections which explore what it means to follow Jesus: The Way, The Truth, The Life. The chapters are short and pithy, probably about 50 chapters if you total up the chapters in each section (they are not numbered). As you may expect, Sweet offers some interactive reflections at the end of each section in order for his readership to internalize his message more.
I found myself really liking this book and think it offers a good critique on how we Christians can sometimes want to lead, but are less thoughtful about how to follow Jesus. The brevity of each chapter makes this book ideal for devotional use. It may be an especially good devotional book for your bathroom.
The image that Sweet opens his book with, is this viral video from 2009, of a lone dancing man, another man who decides to dance with him and the impromptu big-crowd dance party which ensues. Sweet suggests that Jesus is the lone crazy dancer, but the one who incites the crowd to join in the dance, was the ‘first-follower,’ not the leader but one who followed. He suggests that if we want to see a new movement of God, we do not need the silver-bullet of leadership, as much as passionate followers.
Thank you to booksneeze for a copy of this book in exchange for this review. I was not asked to write a positive review, just an honest one. This review is a little of both and you can decide which.