“Prototype” by Jonathan Martin : A Review

ImageI married into Renovatus.

This is something I’m rather glad about.

Renovatus Church in Charlotte NC began its journey in January 2006, and fortunately for me, my (then-future) Sister in Law led worship there. Thus I first encountered the inimitable Jonathan Martin, founder and pastor of Renovatus. From the first sermon I heard him preach, I knew that here was a guy who had insights and wisdom that the church, and indeed the unchurched, needed to hear. I devoured CDs (and later, podcasts) with an insatiable hunger, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, got to call my Brother my friend. Albeit from a distance, mind you. Living in Scotland, I couldn’t exactly attend services, but, as their first official eCommunicant, I followed them from Elizabeth Elementary School, to an abandoned movie theatre in Eastland Mall to their current expanded homes on Little Rock Road and in Fort Mill. Along the way I’ve laughed, cried, been challenged and grown. And Jonathan has been the constant factor.

So when I heard Jonathan was writing a book, I was hugely excited. This could only be good. And when my advance copy arrived in the mail last week, my expectations were met and exceeded.

Prototype sets out to examine what can happen when we truly find our identity in God, just as Christ did as our prototype; when we realise and accept that Jesus was the ‘firstborn from the dead’, and that we are following his lead. It succeeds beautifully. The book is a triumph. Jonathan’s style is unconventional but so deeply rooted in the best of tradition. It can be unsettling at times, heartwarming at others, and all the time, the love of the Father is central.

This is a book one reads in a hurry, itching to get to the next line. I felt as though every sermon I’d heard Jonathan preach for the last 7 years had been distilled into 200 or so pages. Jonathan flings out transformational sentences like a warrior poet with a sack of Holy Spirit Shurikens. For anyone who’s ever heard him, this comes as no surprise. Martin is (depending on how you look at it) either the Blackest White preacher you’ve ever heard, or the Whitest Black one. Imagine if John Wesley did hip-hop? You’re close.

Along the way, we step through the wilderness of obscurity, compare old scars in the playground and poke around among the shards of Jesus’ broken bride, and as we go, these grim encounters are wrapped up with a ribbon of redemption. We meet the Jesus who knew who He was via the love of His Father and we begin to see our own reflection in Him. Our encounter leaves us with the desire not just to get spiritual dirt under our fingernails, but to get out and experience the real thing, and in a messy, sweaty, awkward, blistered way, to get the word out about the Kingdom ‘that is coming and is now here’.

This is a book that shakes you down, tenderly slaps your face and reminds you of who God actually says that you are, then spins you around and nudges you forwards into your true humanity.

“Prototype” is published by Tyndale. It launches on May 1st 2013 and is available from Amazon and other bookstores.

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