Whatever Became of the “Jesus Manifesto” Essay?

In June of 2009, successful and prolific Christian authors Leonard (Len) Sweet and Frank Viola published a 2,400-word essay on the Internet that they titled A Jesus Manifesto.  Their fuller title was:

A Magna Carta for Restoring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ


A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century Church

A copy of the original essay is not easy to find (and I’ll say more about that in a bit), but here is a copy of it on Frank Viola’s blog, here is a copy of it [Editorial note 12/24/14: link no longer working; doesn’t appear anywhere on Sweet’s blog though he does list it in his biography] on Leonard Sweet’s blog,  and here is a copy of it as it appeared on June 25, 2009).  (I assume all these copies are identical, but I’m including them all to reduce the risk that it will be lost.)  It will take you about 10 minutes to read the entire essay (and I encourage you to do so), but here are some quotes from it to quickly give you a sense of its message and tone:

Christians have made the gospel about so many things . . . things other than Christ.

What is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology. Christianity is not a philosophy. Christianity is the “good news” that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are found in a person. Biblical community is founded and found on the connection to that person.

We believe that the major disease of the church today is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder. The person of Jesus is increasingly politically incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”

This essay was a clarion call to repentance and faith in Christ, and received half a million views in just eight weeks.  This call was issued not to unbelievers, but to believers.  This September 2009 interview of the authors by seasoned Christian radio host and seminary professor Steve Brown (32:27) shows that indeed their experience was that of prophets delivering a message of truth to a people whose hearts had been hardened.

The authors came out with a book with the same name in 2010.  The original online essay, which had received the half a million views in its first eight weeks, has been replaced by the book’s website.  This new website is essentially a marketing vehicle for the book, including a press kit with suggested interview questions and advertisements for other books by the authors.  The FaceBook page, mentioned in the radio interview, has been taken down.  It appears that all interested traffic is being directed to the new book website.

The original essay seemed to stir many hearts and provoke genuine repentance.  What happened to that spirit?  Where has it gone?

The book received some glowing reviews on Amazon, but if you go to Len’s or Frank’s websites, it seems to just be another of the books they have written.

Do I object to their earning royalties from their books?  No.  What I’m wondering is what has become of the great spontaneous response that the original essay seemed to provoke?  What caused the transition from incendiary tract to tame book?

P.S. A similar dynamic can be seen in the YouTube video “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.”

2 Replies to “Whatever Became of the “Jesus Manifesto” Essay?”

  1. Good questions, Mike.
    Instead of having a try at giving an answer which I cannot give, I only want to copy and paste the following Scriptures that came to my mind.

    […] its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, “Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us.” Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.” (Mic 3:11-12 ESV)

    “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Mt 6:24 ESV)

    “So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39 ESV)

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