Pastor, noted author takes uncivil approach in new offering
Book seeks to uproot ‘Christianity’ to return to its roots
By CE Staff Reporter

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Erwin McManus marvels at the majestic creatures he’s found at animal parks around the world. Despite efforts to recreate their homes in the wild, the animals no longer instinctively hide and hunt. So pampered they’ve become, he said, that they couldn’t possibly survive out of captivity.

His own instincts tingled with the monotonous sense of familiarity.

“This is so much like what I hear in churches,” the pastor and national speaker said. “People are just sitting there waiting to get fed. How many years do you have to be fed until you come to live (the way God intended)?

McManus, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, is not only tired of waiting, he’s ready to turn Christianity on its head.

“My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ,” McManus, author of a new book called “The Barbarian Way,” said in a telephone interview.

“Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right.”

On paper it can sound flippant, arrogant and somewhat blasphemous. One of his published quotes included in the marketing kit for his book reads “the greatest enemy to the movement of Jesus Christ is ‘Christianity.’”

It’s a message he first preached about two years ago. The worldwide reaction was almost immediate, he said.

A passion for Christ
As disillusioned as he is with modern Christianity, McManus is as passionate about Jesus Christ and his message of redemption, the message bought with blood, tears and welts.

“Most of us want a rated G passion of Christ,” he said, referring to last year’s release of Mel Gibson’s graphic portrayal of Jesus’ last 12 hours on earth. Modern Christianity, he said, has evolved into a lethargic exercise that glosses over trials and pain, a convenience-based faith that is self-centered, not Christ-centered.

“It’s a liberating message,” he said. “There are many Christians out there who believe that Jesus died for more than just to get us to do and believe the right things.”

It’s more, he said, than not committing “big sins” and going to church.

It was the domesticated wild animals that gave McManus the impetus and name for his book. It calls for a lifestyle that is radically tied to Christ and serving him. It’s not, the author said, about the conservation of the Christian cliché.

“It’s the relationships that are the most significant that are the most intrusive,” he said. “The Barbarian Way is intrusive because Jesus is.

“Truthfully, we love other things more than God, Jesus has become more of a life counselor rather than a revolutionary leader who has called us to give up everything.”

Civil discourse
McManus also stakes a few swipes at civility, calling it a numbing trait that has watered down the message of Christ. It’s this anti-civility message that has gotten McManus into hot water with critics. His beef with civility is not grounded in the niceties of society, but in a lifestyle that has become Stepford Wives-esque when it comes to faith.

“Civility tends to not think for itself,” he said. “It tends to make decisions based on what others are thinking. Civility lacks passion.

“When we conform to standards, following the rules without question, we lose our souls. It gets to the point where a Christian looks no different than a good person who doesn’t know Jesus.”

The key, he said, is authentic intimacy with the Savior.

He points to his own childhood in El Salvador. His San Salvador neighborhood was steeped in references to Jesus, from addresses and street names to large statues of the Messiah in local parks.

“I was surrounded by Him with no real knowledge of who He was,” he said.

Another picture he paints is of couples who have been married for decades, but are strangers.

“Just because you are married doesn’t mean you are intimate,” McManus said, suggesting that the need to nurture marriages increases as the years progress.

“There are a lot of Christians who married God 20 years ago and are bored in their relationship, and I think God is bored, too.”

Passive response
That boredom, he said, is often the result of a passive existence that becomes more reactionary than revolutionary. He said he noticed that trend in his own life while living vicariously through such movies as “Braveheart,” “Finding Neverland” and “Dead Poets Society.”

“Some of the most dramatic moments of my life are watching the big screen,” he said. “The reality is we are living our lives vicariously through film.

“The Barbarian Way is when they begin to live the life God wants them to live and not the life that they are watching on the screen.”

The Barbarian Way, he said, is resorting to the progressive “change-agent” status Christianity enjoyed in the first century. It’s all about helping people connect to Jesus Christ, he said.

“This book isn’t about a new way of doing things,” he said. “Its about the primal faith and early teachings of Jesus.”

McManus said the book reflects the philosophy and practices of his church, which draws about 2,000 people weekly.

“Mosaic proves this is not just an idea or a philosophy, it can be a way of life,” he said.

Mosaic, described as a “radically innovative, multi-ethnic congregation” in the center of Los Angeles, has nearly 60 nationalities represented. The average age is 25.

The success of Mosaic, coupled with McManus’ cultural insights and non-traditional views, have propelled him into the national spotlight. The Los Angeles Times has called him a guru to young church leaders.

National spotlight
Last year, his ministry partnered with the national Promise Keeper’s Men’s conference tour. The Colorado-based men’s ministry selected McManus’ 2002 book “Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul,” as the cornerstone of its annual themed conferences. His 2000 book “An Unstoppable Force” was a God Medallion Award finalist.

“I wrote the book as short and raw as I knew how to write so the message wouldn’t be lost in the translation,” McManus said, adding that he hopes the book will remain a timeless message that fosters change.

“I’ve never been against traditional churches and I’ve never been against other approaches of the Christian faith,” he said. “We want people to discover a passionate, authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. If that’s in a traditional church, so be it.”

An inside look
Excerpts from “The Barbarian Way,” written by Erwin McManus and published by Nelson books. It was released Feb. 10.

It is true that the enemy will essentially leave you alone if you are domesticated. He will not waste his energy destroying a civilized religion. If anything, he uses his energy to promote such activity. Religion can be one of the surest places to keep us from God. When our faith becomes refined, it is no longer dangerous to the dark kingdom.

Instead of finding confidence to live as we should regardless of our circumstances, we have used it as justification to choose the path of least resistance, least difficulty, least sacrifice.

God’s will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution. God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance. God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.

We, too, must find the barbarian way out of civilization. How have we come to this sanitized view of the faith to which Jesus calls us? Somewhere along the way the movement of Jesus Christ became civilized as Christianity. We created a religion using the name of Jesus Christ and convinced ourselves that God’s optimal desire for our lives was to insulate us in a spiritual bubble where we risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, lose nothing, worry about nothing.

Have we become so refined and so civilized that the benefits of our faith have become more precious and more valuable to us than the Benefactor of our faith?

Published, March 2005

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