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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2013
In my experience as a pastor and Christian leader, it is extremely rare to come across a book that combines substantial theological content with imminent readability. The quest to find "meaty" books that I can recommend to a broad audience (who will actually read them!) has been exceptionally frustrating. In Prototype, I have found such a book!

One example of this "balance" would be Jonathan's treatment of the subject of sin. By identifying fear as the heart of all "sin and disaffection" the author is then able to unpack the gritty implications of such a thought with shocking ease and clarity. What gripped me was Jonathan's perspective - he was able to connect the reality of fear with the concept of "personal responsibility." Again, this is not a superficial treatment of the subject, this is significant hermeneutical work in a digestible package.

The other example of this sort of work is Jonathan's much-needed exposé of the Gnosticism that is rampant in the American church, or as he calls it, "the scandal of a bodily Gospel." (ch. 7) As I read his exposition of the topic, I couldn't help but think of N.T. Wright (and that is meant to be the highest compliment!), and how Jonathan's work is raising critical conversations that far too often are left to the "theologians."

In the end, I felt like Prototype was a highly accessible cousin to Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy. That book changed my life and this one will hopefully reach an even broader audience.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2013
[...]

"I believe that somewhere, somehow, you've heard the music. Distant or close, you've heard the song of your belovedness. It's a song of unrestrained joy, a song of hope and belonging. A song that calls you into the future. Can you even imagine what it would be like to dance the dance of children, the dance before innocence was lost?" - Prototype

I can't remember now where I first heard of Jonathan Martin.

Looking back, it seems as if he's always been there. Like Jesus, or Will Smith.

All I know is that sometime last summer, I stumbled across him on Twitter: @RenovatusPastor - this tall, Pentecostal(?) preacher with Inigo Montoya hair, who kept dropping truth bombs as if there was no tomorrow. Everything he said landed in my heart and exploded with reverberating thunder. It was the Gospel I had always known, but spoken in a way that made it seem a bit more alive, a bit more expansive, a bit more exciting every time I thought about it.

Above the post-apocalyptic landscape of the religious blogosphere, Renovatus Pastor rose as a beacon of beauty and hope, inviting us all to follow him toward Jesus. (He might cringe at this grandiose description, but if you've read his stuff I know you'll agree with me.)

So you can imagine that I was pretty excited to get my hands on a copy of his book. No longer would I have to scroll through my Twitter feed to find his truth bombs - they were all available in convenient book form for less than $15. When Prototype finally showed up in my mailbox yesterday, I started reading almost immediately. With excitement and tired eyes, I flew through the pages - underlining and circling and Tweeting and scrawling "THIS!" and "LOLZ" in the margins. I think I may have even drawn a few smiley faces, but I'm not sure. It's all rather a blur.

Really, Prototype is like a sermon.

Not a boring, doodle-on-the-bulletin, fall-asleep-in-church sermon. It's the kind of sermon where it feels like he's preaching straight to your heart, weaving stories and truth together seamlessly. The kind of sermon where you lose track of time.

I have to admit, I came into Prototype with pretty high expectations (what with Jonathan Martin being like Will Smith and all). The first chapter or two, while solid, didn't amaze me. There were a lot of paragraphs of "What if..." questions, a phrase that's become worn with overuse in Christian writing.

But I kept reading. And like a beautiful sermon, or a song, Prototype soon found a rhythm. I started turning the pages faster. On occasion I nearly stood up and shouted "Amen", as if my living room was suddenly an old-timey revival tent. By the end, when the preacher began the invitation, I wanted to be the first out of my seat and up the aisle. It's a simple invitation but it tugs at my heart as he repeats it over and over on the last pages of the book - whispering at first, but then shouting (as a good preacher does):

"Come up here... Come up here... Come up here... Can you see that's where the music's been headed all along?"

I'm terrible at reviewing books. I have no idea what I'm doing. I know that if I say "This is the best book ever! Everyone should read it!" that will probably make you less likely to read it. Probably the best thing I can do is let the book speak for itself. Look at this. How could you not want to read a book like this?

"This book is not about finding religion. It's not a self-help manual. I don't have seven habits or twelve steps to take you anywhere. This is about becoming awake to God. And if we become awake to God, we become awake to everything and everyone around us."

A few highlights: The story about the boy on the bike. This is where it starts. The chapters about "Sacrament" and "Community". They're so full of big ideas about how we relate to God and each other, they both deserve their own books. The reference to "Doubting Thomas" and "Wedgie Martin". That was the first time I wrote "LOLZ" in the margin. Also, the story about finding God at the beach. As a guy who has often found God at the beach, it was all I could do to not take off right then, running toward the East Coast. (I wouldn't have gotten very far.)

Jonathan Martin is a smart guy, with degrees from Pentecostal Theological Seminary and Duke University Divinity School. There's a lot of theology in this book, but it doesn't feel like "theology". It feels like a friend talking to you over coffee, about the God he knows and loves. It's tangled up with true stories, from Jonathan's life, from his community, from Renovatus Church. I've known a lot of theology that made God seem far away and abstract, hidden behind big words and complex theories. But Prototype is about a God who is near, whispering love to you, inviting you to resurrection.

From the beginning to the end, much of what Jonathan Martin wrote resonated with the things God has been whispering to my heart recently. About freedom. About a God who bleeds. About my identity as Beloved. Reading it today, I felt like I wasn't alone.

I think I'll be sitting with this book for a while. Join me?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2013
The saying goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but I quite disagree. I nearly always judge a book by its cover. In fact, what drew me to Jonathan Martin's Prototype was its cover art and title. Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You're More Like Jesus Than You Think? Making Jesus central is huge and Jonathan seeks to do this. "Jesus really is the prototype for a whole new way of being human" (p. 98).

What I loved. The gospel will stalk (p. 29) you through out. Jonathan talks about Jesus and talks about him more. He talks about creation, the fall ("The world . . . turns into a George Romero film" p. 120), the cross, the resurrection, and the eschatological hope to come (pp. 156-58, 197). His passion for Jesus grabs you as you read. His primary thrust relates to understanding what Christ's insertion into the gospel story provides for us--belovedness by God in Christ. That fundamentally changes how we live. "I am both more loved and more broken than you could possibly know" (p. 64).

Also and surprisingly much of his church experience resonates with my own church experience. I say surprisingly because I was raised an independent fundamentalists and he was raised a charismatic. Charismatics are bad, bad, bad in the world I was raised. But we shared an eschatolgical common ground. The fear inducing spectacle of the pretribulation rapture (p. 171) in my church upbringing effected my spiritual growth and he shares his experience with per-trib propaganda growing up (this wasn't your John MacArthur's dispensationalism). Also, he talks about many of his revival experiences and his depiction of evangelists fits what I'm familiar with. It's interesting how our experiences within divergent groups of Christianity overlap.

That also brings me to my concern. Obviously as a Presbyterian I disagree with charismatic theology (i.e., speaking in tongues [angelic language], ecstatic behavior, etc). That's obvious but I'm always glad to learn from other christians. What I kept waiting/wanting Jonathan to put out of the park (or least make explicit) is "Where does the revelation of identity come from?" (pp. 11, 31, 68). His controlling metaphor through out was of his experience riding a bike and feeling loved by God as a boy. I've had strong feelings of being loved by God. We're on the same page there, but what ultimately anchors that feeling rests in Christ whose fully revealed in Scripture. The emphasis appears more subjective in Prototype.

Last, I appreciated his focus on liturgy (even where we disagre i.e., foot washing as sacrament) and the necessity of connectedness with the past Church. Jonathan says, "The desire to cut ourselves off from those who came before us is no virtue" (p. 191). An interesting side note, he says following this, "There is not such thing as cutting ourselves off and starting over. (Even the Protestant Reformation didn't truly succeed in that)" (p. 192). I would humbly submit that he might have missed the point of the Reformation. In fact, the Reformers would give a big hearty "Amen!" to the necessity of connectedness with the past. They vehemently sought to demonstrate their theology wasn't novel but had its root in the early fathers, the Apostles, and Jesus gospel. The point wasn't cutting off but reforming. Hence the Reformation motto: "Always Reforming."

I enjoyed reading Prototype. Jonathan has a knack for words and the prose goes down smooth. His metaphors pop and he has a talent for turning a phrase beautifully. Simply put: He will engage you with his words and will encourage you to love and know Jesus more.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2013
Pastor Martin is strong in being weak. This is good. His honesty in his weakness, and God's goodness nevertheless, makes him an engaging author. He tells story of a Jesus who is awesome and who does awesome things through the people around him. He elevates everyone else in this book and not himself. He keeps pointing to others as examples of Jesus at work and points to himself only to show the wonder-working power of his savior. His perspective, and style, are seen in this quote,

I feel like the guy from the old Hair Club for Men commercials: "I'm not just the president... I'm also a client." I'm not just the pastor, I'm a body under renovation. Because if God is saving anybody at Renovatus, He's saving me, and I have plenty to be saved from and even more to saved to. p. 186

The more honest he is about his oddities, the more normal he comes across. My favorite chapter is titled Obscurity. Christian books on being "radical" or "extreme" or "sold-out" are sold in spades. But most of us, have jobs and families and mortgages and are not called to "drop our nets" like Peter and John. We are called to keep living our lives and occupy until Jesus returns. Martin affirms this, and what a relief that is.

Obscurity is where God sends all of His favorite sons and daughters. Our society tells us that if and when we get "there" - the job or position or degree we've always wanted, the notoriety we've always dreamed of - that's when all the important stuff will start happening. Not so.
All the good stuff happen in obscurity. p.65

Thank you for not making me feel guilty for my non-radical-for-Jesus life. This quote gets to the thesis of the book, Jesus loves us. However, he tells that to us in more compelling ways.

I believe David's years of obscurity enabled him to receive a revelation of his belovedness in a way that Saul never could, amid the legion of voices from which he drew his own fractures sense of identity. Through all the worst moments of David's life, it was his intrinsic grasp of God's love that ultimately set him apart. It turns out that knowing how loved we are by God makes all the difference in the kind of people we will become. p.31

Of course there is more to the book, but I keep returning to this point. I'm one of those people, like Martin, who grew up in the church and keeps forgetting this. I keep complicating what is simple, and I'm glad for the refresher from Pastor Martin.

I received this book as a complimentary review copy from Tyndale House Publishers.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2013
Contrary to popular belief, Charlotte is big enough for both Jonathan Martin and myself. I am not speaking of our egos or personalities--I'm talking about our literal size. Jonathan is 6'6 and I'm 6'4; meaning, when we walk into a restaurant people stare. Height isn't the only thing we share in common. We are both the sons of Pentecostal preachers. We both share a love of NBA basketball and the culture surrounding it. We both like hip hop. Despite the misgivings of the Pentecostal church, we still are a part of the movement. We both are academic. In other words we would certainly be paired in a "eHarmony compatibility test."

Jonathan has become an older brother figure for me. He's a little older, a little taller, and a lot wiser. Because we share a city, we make it a point to get together as often as possible to hang out. It was at one of these meetings that he gave me a copy of his upcoming book, Prototype. So for the next couple paragraphs allow me to brag on my big brother.

The book is genuine. There is not an ounce of pretentiousness in it. Jonathan's openness and vulnerability is refreshing. He offers his own story as a gift and this is not the kind of thing you expect from a "big shot" pastor. The tenderness with which he writes gives me hope that I don't have to be anything other than myself. Even in (especially in!) my obscurity and woundedness, Jesus is there.

The book is bold. He takes direct aim at the false images we carefully craft for ourselves. The reality of our belovedness as our only identity permeates the book. He quotes Jay-Z and Herbert McCabe. Bruce Springstein and Annie Dillard. Dr. Suess and Soren Kierkegaard. Bono and Henri Nouwen. Perhaps this is how he got Stanley Hauerwas and John P. Kee to endorse the same book.

The book is lived. The pages are not the abstractions of an academic. Rather, the book comes packed with stories out of a messy community in Charlotte. There is no PR for Jesus or ministry here. The book bears witness to what God is doing in the life of Jonathan and Renovatus. It is a "ground level" experience that allows the reader to live with the tension that marks any genuine pursuit of God.

The book is uniquely Jonathan. I joked with my pastor last week that the book could really be titled "Jonathan Martin: the memoir of a giant pastor." This book is a peek into the heart of a wonderful human being and I recommend it with the highest degree of enthusiasm.

(Buy the hard copy of this book because you're going to want to pass it along to the people that matter to you.)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2013
[...]

Think about this…
Posted on April 18, 2013 by myfullemptynest
I stumbled upon and now regularly stalk @renovatuspastor on Twitter. He is such an out of the box thinker and an all around great person of God. I listen to his sermons. We tweet. I was so obnoxious when I learned he was writing a book that he sent me an advanced copy. It’s awesome. I just received my Amazon copy the other day. The cover is really cool and feels amazing (yes, it feels amazing.) Oh yeah, one more thing. When we traveled through Charlotte, N.C. last month I made us attend his church that Sunday morning. And I was not disappointed. He podcasts his sermons and every one I’ve listened to has been stupendous. He is the kind of Christ follower that is attractive. Well, he is attractive, but his countenance is really attractive. He also blogs some (the blog). You can see a photo of him there. Well, enough of me sounding like a crazy person. I am simply blessed by this ministry as it has really confirmed and reconfirmed so much of what God has taught me the past few years. :)

Check out [...] where you can get chapter 1, the foreword by @stevenfurtick, & the discussion guide for free right now!

~Ciao
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2013
All believers find themselves looking for reassurance. This book will help you understand that you are created in God's image and that God loves you flaws and all. You aren't asked to be perfect. You aren't asked to be without flaws. God created us and loves us and knows us. I enjoyed every page of this book. It's a page turner. Jonathan Martin is not at all what I expected but I was pleasantly surprised with his writing. I am now a fan and looking for more!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2013
Jonathan Martin does an excellent job in Prototype of taking his very obvious, theological knowledge and making it understandable to all of us through his stories and transparency about his "radical" upbringing in the church. I relate particularly well because I too was raised in the same denomination, therefore I found myself laughing out loud with great joy because I understood EXACTLY what he was talking about.

But besides that, he is so transparent in his writings and finds a way in making you feel "ok" within your own skin, which is so heavily wounded. A few of my favorite quotes from the book:

"Scars tell the story of who we really are and where we've really come from, even when we refuse to speak the truth with our eyes or our lips (or even to ourselves). Like the rings on the interior of a tree, everything you could ever want to know about people can be read from their scars."

"I think most of what you need to know about how life with God works is probably wrapped up in the bittersweet taste of dreams. All that longing and aching for something beautiful that is just out of reach. Sometimes you can touch it and sometimes you can't. Everything in you that longs for beauty and music comes alive in those dreams, and for a moment you are the you that once was, before wounds and scars and choices and consequences and disappointment took their toll."

I was also particularly fond of how he chose to write a chapter on the Sacraments-practices that are only somewhat included in Pentecostal denominations, but should probably be emphasized more.

He really is brilliant and his Podcasts are just as pleasing. There's no way I could give him less than 5 Stars because I feel like he's my new best friend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2013
It may not seem so at first blush, but this is a book about sanctification. And it is a book that makes possible the very transformation it describes. When I was reading the book for the first time, I came to realize (perhaps a chapter or two in) that I was being drawn up into a prayerful, meditative kind of reading. I mean, I was not only cognitively processing what had happened to Jonathan and what he has to say about his and his friends' experiences. But also at some deep, affective level I was offering up my own past and present experiences for new, redemptive interpretation, asking God--not with anything like words, at first--to help me see more clearly myself and those to whom I'm bound, to move me more toward Christ and Christlikeness. I suspect that my experience as a reader has much to do with Jonathan's experience as a writer. (Full disclosure: he's a friend, and I do know a little about what writing this book demanded of him. Still, I suspect that it would be obvious to anyone who reads with an open heart that he wrote this book from a place of vulnerability, as a kind of prayer as well as a kind of testimony, and that the spirit of his openness is the energy of the work.)

*Prototype* does not take itself too seriously. It was written for wide readerly accessibility, and so has little or no technical theological language. It is full of personal stories, and much of the work is delivered with a dash of self-deprecating humor. But, for all that, it is nonetheless a work of serious theological reflection. I don't mean that Martin quotes professional theologians, although of course he does. I mean that from chapter to chapter he attempts to work out in his own terms the real-life implications of the scriptural and apostolic claim that Jesus is the divine prototype of our humanity, and that we are each and all of us called to share in his very being and his belovedness, knowing God as he knows God, becoming like him in loving God and one another.

This is a theological vision we all need to be claimed by. Stanley Hauerwas, whose influence shows itself at various key points in the work, says he can't recommend the book highly enough. I can't either. I want everyone I know to read it. Not just once, but again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2013
I am not sure how long ago his name was mentioned to me, but I have loved his writing since learning of him. Jonathan Martin is a pastor, blogger & now book author that has caused me to think about things that I have known for a long time & haven't thought about in forever. I recently had the joy & privilege to read Prototype. The book is written in a style that made me feel like the man was sitting across a booth from me, sharing coffee & his stories with me. It is written in an easy to read but deep in meaning style. Yet it is never so deep that it is presented in a manner that is difficult to grasp. I love that about Jonathan. As brilliant a mind as he has, he desires to share both in simplicity & humility.

When he tells the story of the boy on the bicycle or the girl on the trampoline or the many in his congregation that have found their identity, it is believable. It causes you to search inside yourself for that young child that once believed the very same. He stirs a faith inside of your soul that births desire for your own God-given identity to be recaptured. Jonathan takes well known stories & transforms them so as to reveal a new focus. In telling the story of the demoniac, he does not focus on his chains or that he cut himself with stones or that he was always yelling or that he was so strong, he had to be subdued. Instead he causes you to see a person that experiences a transformation that resulted in sanity & peace & purpose. He causes you to believe that can be true of any of us that are wounded.

Some of my favorite thoughts from the book?

"..what set Jesus apart was the deep understanding and trust He had that He was loved by God the Father."
Henri Nouwen, "One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are."
"The wilderness is the place where our identity is solidified."
"All the good stuff happens in obscurity."
"The message embedded in our scars, the code encrypted implicitly beneath ruptured skin or emotions, is not just about our pain, but about God's faithfulness."
"Jesus' path to kingship comes wrapped in a very strange strategy indeed: He is the King of kings largely because he lets himself get beat up. He is victorious not despite His scars, but because of them."
"Thomas wasn't a cynic, he was a hopeful doubter; he'd believe if he could." The entire section on Thomas is life-changing!
"We come to the [Communion] table not because we are holy, but because we are in need of His holiness. We come to the table not because we are strong, but because we are weak and in need of His strength." The chapter on the sacraments is powerful! You will never look at the bread & the wine quite in the same manner.
"He will change the world through His sons and daughters. If you don't know who you are, if you don't know your true identity, you won't touch others on His behalf."

Yes, I did receive this book from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review which I have given. But to be honest, I signed up for the review because I didn't want to wait for the book to be released to be able to read it. This book did not disappoint me & I doubt that it will disappoint you either. It is a book that speaks into the heart. It has a heart felt message. May you get the book, read it & absorb the message deep into the marrow of your soul. For as Jonathan Martin states in closing, "He wants to make our wounds a resource for the healing of others. Do you have any idea what's at stake in your understanding who you really are?" (page 205).
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