Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile

by Rob Bell

Hardcover, 2008




There is a church not too far from us that recently added a $25 million addition to their building. Our local newspaper ran a front-page story not too long ago about a study revealing that one in five people in our city lives in poverty. This is a book about those two numbers. Jesus Wants to save Christians is a book about faith and fear, wealth and war, poverty, power, safety, terror, Bibles, bombs, and homeland insecurity. It's about empty empires and the truth that everybody's a priest. It's about oppression, occupation, and what happens when Christians support, animate and participate in the very things Jesus came to set people free from. It's about what it means to be a part of the church of Jesus in a world where some people fly planes into buildings while others pick up groceries in Hummers.… (more)


Zondervan (2008), 224 pages

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½ (88 ratings; 3.5)

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LibraryThing member deusvitae
A confessed New Exodus attempt at understanding Christianity and its situation in the modern world.

There is much that is good in this book; the New Exodus perspective is certainly useful and a lens through which to see Scripture and the work of God in the world. Envisioning the Bible as providing a
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critique of civilization and empire, always having a view to the nomad and the oppressed, is most valuable. Revising views of Revelation is quite necessary, yes. The critique of America and its policy is quite prophetic. The call for Christians to change their conduct is laudable.

But it is a lens, and to absolutize it to the point done in the book causes its own set of problems. Yes, Sinai, Jerusalem, Babylon, and Egypt are paradigmatic for many reasons. But the answers are not as cut and dry as presented in the book. Egypt is an oppressor, yes, and an image of the world; and yet Egypt was a place of rescue for the Israelites at first and would serve as such again for Jesus. Babylon is the world empire opposed to God, but how many Jews in the Dispersion remained in Babylon and served God there, seeking the general welfare of the city? And did not Paul attempt to take the Gospel itself into the new Babylon, Rome? That Solomon sinned is undeniable; the trends the book lists for him are also true; and yet Solomon is not portrayed as negatively in Scripture as this book portrays him.

Theology is complicated; we do best to remember that God is far beyond us, and Scripture presents different sets of images and paradigms. They are useful, beneficial, and valuable for understanding, but not one of them is sufficient to stand on its own as THE way of understanding everything. The New Exodus theology as elaborated here is no different.

Egregious Biblical error to note: the association of the Philip of Acts 8 with Philip the Apostle of John 1, and speaking of Philip the Evangelist as if he was from Bethsaida and was Philip the Apostle, when Acts 8 and 21 make it clear that the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem when this Philip went out preaching, and that Philip the evangelist was one of the seven of Acts 6, likely Hellenistic in background, and ended up in Caesarea, just as Acts 8 indicates. Since much is made of the connection between Bethsaida and this Philip the Evangelist, a connection not made in Scripture, this should be noted (and hopefully corrected in future editions).

As a way of looking at Scripture through the New Exodus perspective, the book has value. But don't take it too far.
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LibraryThing member jpogue
Rob Bell writes in a breezy, yet emphatic, style with structural brevity and amazing punch. "Jesus Wants to Save Christians" is Bell’s third book, and though he collaborates with Don Golden, his concise, well-researched reasoning combined with his sometimes hilarious, sometimes profound endnotes
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make this work unmistakably Bell. Golden contributes his expertise on the church’s engagement in impacting global poverty. He currently serves as an executive leader for World Relief, a Christian non-profit organization that pours millions of dollars into addressing some of the world’s biggest crises caused by poverty.

Bell’s perspective is shaped by his insistence that the Bible be read, studied, and lived as a fluid, complete work. Not in bits and pieces. His narrative in this book, therefore, starts in Genesis and covers much of the Old and New Testaments all the way through Revelation. With a keen eye for the history of God’s people, Bell draws some frighteningly stark parallels between the “empires” of ancient Egypt and Rome and current-day world power, the United States of America. Like the ancient Israelites, he argues that Americans are caught in exile: “Exile is when you fail to convert your blessing into blessings for others.

Exile is when you find yourself a stranger to the purposes of God”. (1)

Armed with a plethora of shocking statistics (2) and an articulate description of the history of God’s people, Bell shows his readers the difference between a life focused on His Kingdom—one of service and sacrifice—versus the world’s view of power and security. Clearly humans’ lust for wealth and power hasn't changed much since the days of Solomon. With a piercingly insightful look into the human heart, Bell skillfully challenges us, as followers of Jesus, to think beyond our limited earthly views and to joyfully enter into our neighbors’ suffering as the Body of Jesus Himself: “Disconnection from the suffering of the world, isolation from the cry of the oppressed, indifference to the poverty around us will always lead to despair.

We were made for such much more.” (3)

This manifesto begs us to reconsider our priorities as American citizens, identifying the perils of “the vicious cycle of the priority of preservation”: the futile accumulation of military bases, stockpiling of weapons and the compulsion to protect one’s “rights”. Mr. Bell invites us into a life of freedom from the bondage of self-preservation and self-sufficiency. A life that mirrors Jesus’ pouring out of oneself in selfless acts of Kingdom love.

Ever teetering on the edge of controversy (4), this author does write some things that make me shift uncomfortably in my reading chair. At times, Bell over-emphasizes the importance of humanity at the expense of reverence for the Lord. For example, in his descriptions of God’s gift of the Ten Commandments, he writes “The Sabbath command should be understood as being against the inhumane labor conditions and unreasonable production demands of Pharaoh’s Egypt. The text says that ‘Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed.’ How beautiful, then is a God who commands these Israelites to rest each week?” (5)

Like the other nine, this is a timeless commandment, not predicated on the specific sufferings of its recipients or a particular story in history. As my pastor, Abe Hepler, likes to say, “The Bible is not a story about us. It’s a story about who God is.”

While I found this book compelling and extremely thought-provoking, I yearned for Bell to offer more solutions, more practical ideas to break the spell of materialism. And in the end, I really felt like I had gotten a big lecture on how rotten I am as a middle-class American.

(1) Pg. 45
(2) "More than half the world lives on less than two dollars a day, while the average American teenager spends nearly $150.00 a week." Pg. 122
(3) Pg. 163
(4) See, for example, Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, "Vintage Jesus: Timeless Answers to Timely Questions" (Good News Publishers, 2008), pp. 97 - 98. Driscoll shreds Bell's assertion that Mary's virginity before Jesus' birth isn't a necessary tenant for our faith.
(5) Pg. 191
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LibraryThing member Lake_Oswego_UCC
From the author: 'There is a church not too far from us that recently added a $25 million addition to their building.
Our local newspaper ran a front-page story not too long ago about a study revealing that one in five people in our city lives in poverty.
This is a book about those two numbers.'
LibraryThing member aevaughn
This is a powerful book. It highlights the need for Americans to be more merciful towards others and to also realize that at times we are the ones in need of grace and mercy. The only weakness I found in this book is that it is to some degree a collection of somewhat disconnected thoughts. Overall
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it's an excellent book to start getting one thinking about the need for social justice.
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LibraryThing member wbc3
Like Rob Bell's other books, I really enjoyed reading this one. However, like the others, I have real trouble identifiying what I liked. Further, trying to write this summary a few months later, I can't even remember what the book was about! I consider it well worth reading (and in my case,
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re-reading). However, I do wonder about its ephemeral nature in my thoughts...
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LibraryThing member jmcdbooks
Rated: A
Wonderful insights. Convicting. Compelling. Simple truths from God's Word. Great writing style.
"If someone is inspired, which means life has been breathed into them, then someone else had the life breathed out of them."
"A church is an organization that exists for the benefits of its
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"Jesus wants to save our church from the exile of irrelevance."
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LibraryThing member DubiousDisciple
Ouch. Several months ago, Harper One sent me a short collection of Rob Bell reprints to review. I slowly worked my way through them, enjoying each one, and somehow left this one sitting on the shelves. Too many other obligations. I just now picked it up, and read it in one sitting.

I couldn’t put
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it down. Forget Velvet Elvis. Forget Love Wins. This 180-page sermon, this little obscure work, is for Bible groupies Bell’s real masterpiece. It’s definitely my new favorite, so maybe that says something about co-author Don Golden, a name I hadn’t come across before.

From the Exodus, to the Temple construction, to the Eucharist, Bell and Golden reveal a surprising thread that weaves its way throughout the Bible. This “new perspective ” opens up what the Bible means to Americans today, living in the world’s most powerful nation, boasting the greatest military, yet holding the strongest responsibility for the world’s impoverished. America is an empire, and the Bible has a lot to say about empires.

“I hope you see that there is a common humanity we share with everybody alive today, and everybody who has come before us,” writes Bell in the preface. This little book accomplishes just that.
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LibraryThing member picklesan
"Blood painted on the door posts of the universe" love the imagery!
LibraryThing member 2wonderY
A clear indictment of Empire and a warning to Christians who buy into the system rather than acting as the Eucharist. Another good one. That voice crying in the wilderness.
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