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So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church Paperback – April 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1434799794
  • ISBN-13: 978-1434799791
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #272,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The prolific Sweet—author of articles, sermons, books—turns his vast knowledge of culture and faith toward what he calls the secret of life: an MRI church where 'M' = Missional, 'R' = Relational, and 'I' = Incarnational. He digs deep into MRI theology, calling it the only theology worth bothering with and offering leaders and laypeople a new paradigm for bringing Christ to the world. Sweet outlines the characteristics of each element: missional—The church is 'sent' to be Jesus; relational—Biblical truth... feasts on relationship and revelation; incarnational—The Incarnational life strikes it rich by multiple connections with community and context. Readers will find much to ponder, but they'll have to wade through Sweet's metaphor-heavy, rambling and jumpy writing style, plus his confusing, frequent use of quotation marks around words and phrases as if tweaking their meaning. His vision for following Christ individually and as the church is commendable; his presentation, however, is confounding. (Apr.)
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About the Author

Dr. Leonard Sweet is the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Theological School at Drew University. He also serves as a consultant to many of America's denominational leaders and agencies. In 2006 and 2007, he was voted "One of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America." Dr. Sweet is the author of more than one hundred articles, over six hundred published sermons, and a wide array of books. To learn more, visit him at

Customer Reviews

Len's verbal imagery is very real.
David Phillips
An approach I appreciate very much, there's no shortage of books focused on bashing down the church itself.
Laurence T. Baxter
As Sweet notes, "[S]ome things can be good for you for a short time but bad for you over the long haul."

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By David Phillips on March 23, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Almost 3 years ago, I heard Len Sweet talk about the MRI Church during our first advance for my D. Min. program. In his new book, So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church, Len explores and explains the importance of this idea.

In the book, Len talks about the implications of practicing APC Churches: Attractional, Propositional and Colonial churches. APC churches create members, believers and consumers. However, the MRI Church (Missional, Relational and Incarnational) creates missionaries, disciples, and world changers.

The book is quite thick at over 300 pages. In addition, there are only five chapters, including the introduction. Each of the MRI topics are covered in an individual chapter, along with an introduction and epilogue. Each chapter, however, is broken up into sections that make it easy to take a break in the midst of 40-70 page chapters. I knew this book would be big back in September as Len told me at dinner that each of the topics were 100 pages each and his editor would have to get it down to a manageable size.

Despite it's size, however, it is not a difficult read. But you do have to put your thinking cap on. Len's verbal imagery is very real. He reframes word meanings based on origin and use quite a bit. It is will cause you to pause and consider how you use language yourself. In addition, this a book that draws from a great myriad of sources, as most all of Len's books do. You get a true education by reading Len's book, not just in ministry and life topics, but in science, literature, history, etc.

In the book, Len calls on people and churches to blend together the three MRI strands into one beautiful life.

In Part 1: The Missional Life, Len speaks of God's "going".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lantz Howard on September 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church by Leonard Sweet comes with mixed emotions neither good or bad, just undecided.

To summarize the book with one quote from page 162, "When the one lung breathes in the Missional (God's Power) and the other lung breathes in Relational (God's Presence), the body comes alive and exhales the risen incarnate life of Christ."

Leonard paints a picture throughout the book of this DNA of MRI or Missional, Relational, and Incarnational. Nothing new, right?

Some think that this is a new way to look at the church or an old way recently discovered. Many people are searching for a meaningful body of Christ that not only worships on Sunday morning, but breathes with a mission, that extends to relational communities, and takes the message of Christ out into their everyday life or what Sweet calls MRI.

This is a very wordy book. I am not into repeating oneself. Sweet early on even mentions that if "you have not noticed I am saying the same thing in a different way (paraphrased)". One can simply turn to the book of Acts and read about this Missional, Relational, Incarnational way of the church. Sweet is humbly putting modern words into a language that some seem to have forgotten.

Keeping with the Sweet writing pattern he weaves multiple quotes throughout the book that unites everything together in a seamless manner. If you desire to have a renewed vision of the church reread Acts first and then read So Beautiful by Len Sweet. If you have not begin to ponder a deeper meaning for the body of Christ this may jump start your engine. Enjoy Len's words as he casts a vision that needs to be renewed for the body of Christ so others will begin to know, see, and hear that God is really among us (I Cor 14:25).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By on June 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
Prolific author, speaker and professor of evangelism at Drew University, Leonard Sweet just keeps getting better. Widely lauded as one of the "50 Most Influential Christians in America," Sweet's disarming style and candid approach on matters of life and the church are both contagious and welcoming. His newest offering to fans and newcomers alike will delight, captivate and challenge formerly held assumptions about what it means to "do church" American-style.

Sweet opens his text with an introduction to acronyms...and very cunningly leads into his own, which describes the So Beautiful, or MRI, church on which this text is focused: "M" = Missional, "R" = Relational and "I" = Incarnational. Formerly (currently?), many churches operate under the APC Christianity style, or the ABC Church: Attendance, Buildings and Cash. As Sweet notes, "[S]ome things can be good for you for a short time but bad for you over the long haul." He spends the next couple hundred pages helping fellow Christ followers understand, define and take a much closer look at their faith lives and how it works itself both within and without the confines of a church setting.

The author quite engagingly admits that, through his travels he is finding, "God is 'up to something,' stirring part of the body very slowly to rouse the rest." Exciting. Daunting. Challenging. Eye-opening. Yes, to all of these adjectives.

Beginning with a description and overview of the Missional Life: God's "GO," Sweet tells believers that as soon as they become Christians and tell Jesus they're "in," he turns right around and tells them you're "out." This means to go OUT into the world, don't stay clustered inside a stuffy church building where members only congregate and bewail the woes of the larger world.
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More About the Author

Len Sweet ( was born of a mixed marriage: his mother was a fiery Pilgrim Holiness-ordained preacher from the mountains of West Virginia and his quiet father a Free Methodist lay leader from the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York. After a deconversion at 17, when Len set about less sowing wild oats than planting prairies, he became an atheist intellectual and scholar dedicated to exposing the nincompoopery and poppycockery, if not tomfoolery and skullduggery of all religions. After this seven-year period of liminality, Len came back to the faith of his ancestors, where he has been ever since, exploring the "insterstices" and "semiotics" of religion, culture and history. He uses two words to describe himself: semiotician and interstitial. In other words, he is obsessed with two questions: "Where have you been?" and "Where are you going?"