Book Review: Getting Jesus Wrong by Matt Johnson

April 1, 2017 Christian, Matt Johnson, nonfiction 2

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about the book

Jesus is not a life coach, a movement leader, a cultural visionary, or a blessing dispenser-but you might not know that by listening to many Christians talk about their faith.

Feel-good slogans promote a caricatured Jesus made in our own image who cannot save us and leave us feeling guilty for not saving ourselves. Following the wrong Jesus disappoints us and produces anxiety, pride, and despair.

The first half of Getting Jesus Wrong recounts pastor and author Matt Johnson’s personal encounters with a string of false saviors-false saviors that many, especially young adults, will recognize. Johnson’s humor and transparency in recounting his own painful experiences will appeal to those who have tried a “brand” of Christianity and found it lacking.

The truth is, we all want something from Jesus. Some are just hoping for a little help to get through life-a new direction, a purpose that will get us up in the morning, an exercise plan, a way to get organized. But that approach to Jesus doesn’t result in real faith or love.

Whether we’ve followed a false Jesus or attempted to coopt the real Jesus,

Getting Jesus Wrong ultimately offers us hope because it helps us see Jesus as he is.

Getting Jesus Wrong shows that the message of the Bible is about Jesus coming to us as we are-which is good news for exhausted and disillusioned disciples. It shows us that getting Jesus right means a whole new way of thinking (the way up is down) and a whole new way of life (daily dependence on the one who knows the beginning from the end). Getting Jesus right gives us more than spiritual vitamins or a blueprint for living; it gives us a full, rich life spent exploring the depths of gospel love together.

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GENRE: Inspirational Nonfiction, Spiritual Growth
PUBLISHER: New Growth Press
RELEASE DATE: March 20, 2017
PAGES: 160

“So you’re a crappy Christian. Don’t worry; there’s a Savior for that.”

Johnson pin 2Getting Jesus Wrong is one of those books where one sentence has me thinking “Wow! That’s so true!” and the next sentence has me thinking “Hmm… I’m not sure I agree with that exactly.” But these are also the kind of books that I end up mulling over for days and weeks after I’ve finished my initial reading.

I love Johnson’s authenticity. He shares his own journey, the ways he got Jesus wrong, and even admits he’s not the final authority on the subject.  I do think, though, that his past church experiences have jaded him to certain church types – understandably so, just as my own have. But I felt like he was throwing the baby out with the bath water in a couple of cases and in so doing may be convincing someone not to attend one of these churches – even the ones that are doing it right – and that’s not really what I was looking for in this book. I anticipated less “How Churches Get It Wrong” and more “How You Personally Get Jesus Wrong”.

The chapter on Pride and Despair – and the subsequent discussions on the antidote to both – is my favorite part of the book. In particular, the focus on relating to other Christians who don’t believe exactly as you do – and avoiding that “prideful mistrust” (let’s call it what it is, right?) that makes us think we have the final word and causes us to get so “bent on secondary non-salvation issues” that we get Jesus wrong.  And because Jesus is Savior, not a Life Coach or a Visionary Leader, etc, we have the antidote to pride and despair.

“When I see the ugliness in my life, I can call it like it is and die to it because I know that my Savior isn’t going to turn me away.”

Bottom Line: Getting Jesus Wrong by Matt Johnson is thought-provoking, though it’s not quite what I was expecting.  I wish it had more of a focus on who JESUS is and less of a focus on how churches screw up.  Yet, at the same time, it’s clear from reading this book that Jesus is Savior, even when WE screw up. And that is so refreshing. A message the world needs to hear. A message I need to hear. A message I need to tell.

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 3 stars / Good book!

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about the author

Matt Johnson is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology living in Seattle. He is also a freelance writer and editor. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry.

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Getting Jesus Wrong by Matt Johnson”

  1. Hope Griffin

    Great review. I just finished reading this book and really enjoyed it. He has some great insights. I’ve deffinetly struggled with life coach Jesus in my own life.

    • Carrie

      that’s I think the easiest one to embrace if we’re not careful!

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