"So Beautiful" is the first book I have read by Leonard Sweet, and I was not disappointed. In fact, it has prompted me to research some of his other titles. I will be reading more of his books in the future!
The book is not short in sharp, articulate, precise observations and insights. I am not sure if Mr. Sweet calls himself a theologian, but his book reflects substance of the type.
Perhaps the biggest message I take away from this book is the proposed shift of church culture from attractional, propositional, and colonial to missional, relational, and incarnational; an idea that resonates deep within my being. Throughout the book he describes in captivating detail what that looks like, often providing extremely relevant practical examples, wisdom gained throughout his journey and the church’s journey, and a plethora of brilliant quotable material. I would be erring to not grace you with some of them.
“Our holy texts reveal the divine as being-in-relation. The two key components of Trinitarian thinking are relationally and difference: the two key challenges of the 21st century. A missional mind-set is less about acquiring more information than entering into a deeper relationship with God and man.”
“To be sure, the MRI (missional, relational, incarnational) paradigm is a shift from institution to movement, from ‘withinforth’ to ‘withoutforth’ (medieval language for the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’), from planning to prayer and preparedness, from strategic thinking to prophesying your way forward, from invite them in to interact with them out there, from increased market share to increased world presence, from living in to living out the gospel.”
“When a church is not on a journey it becomes a relic. When a church is on a journey, it showcases its relics.”
“It is not religion and reason that go together, but religion and relationship that go together.”
“The ultimate in reality is not substance, but relations. For Jesus, there can be no such thing as the person as individual, only the person as relation.”
I could literally go on and on with amazing nuggets from this book. To be truthful, I ear-marked pages that I wanted to go back to after I was done reading the book entirely so I could revisit some of the highlights, but I ended up ear-marking about 50% of the book.
Sweet continues in the mold of many other progressive thinkers, in promoting that the Christian life as we know it now and the church at large, needs a face lift. He is going back to the basics (what he poignantly points out is our DNA), yet is supporting something which seems to be new to most. Which begs the question: how far have we traveled away from the life we were intended to live: one of self-sacrifice as opposed to consuming, one that finds true meaning in relationships not in ideas or theory, and one that builds unity through love and acceptance, not tearing down bonds by divisions and tunnel vision.
If I had one minor critique of this book it would be that Sweet is so brilliant that he often jumps quickly thematically and because of this the book can at times lack flow. But this hardly has to do with content as much as it does with writing style.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is searching for an insightful, thought-provoking, intense, deep insight into the seismic shift happening in Christian culture in the 21st century.