I love Leonard Sweet’s book ‘What Matters Most.’ I would rank it along with the works of Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Mark Buchanan, and Eugene Peterson as being among the top writing on what it means to follow Jesus that is available today. Of the many works by Sweet I have read, this is among the best.
I think the real strength is in Sweet’s emphasis on relationship and his emphasis on the person of Jesus (as opposed to the religious concept, see p. 21). This is seen in a simple but thoroughly true statement: “Faith in God is a relationship involving all of who you are and all that is around you” (p.14). That obviously has far-reaching implications.
One of those implications is the center of life for one who would be a disciple of Jesus. Just as John Ortberg makes the point that Jesus is looking for followers not admirers in his book ‘The Life You’ve Always Wanted,’ here Sweet says, “Faith is the willing acceptance of Jesus’ invitation: follow me’” (p.24). Sweet rejects faith as a proposition or as an asserted belief. Faith is not something declared and the defended in a debate, formal or informal. Faith is something lived in a dynamic relationship.
As Sweet does in all his books, he illustrates faith as life following Jesus through a variety of helpful metaphors. He also helps his presentation with several comparisons that are quite illustrative. One being the faith as life verses faith as proposition that I mentioned previously.
A final thought and one I find both challenging and convicting; he challenges the modern American’s church’s presentation of Jesus. “Sadly, the church is too busy connecting people to the memory of Jesus, the Jesus who ‘once was’ or the promise of the returning Christ who ‘is to come.’ Meanwhile, the church is neglecting the Jesus who ‘is right now,’ the Jesus who lives all around us in the lives of the poor, the sick, the disabled, the persecuted, and the dying” (p. 137).
Is he right? Is the church guilty of neglecting the present Jesus? Is the church failing to lead people to the Jesus who works in the world right now? I don’t know. I suppose it varies from church to church. But as a pastor, I love that authors like Leonard Sweet hold this convicting question before me because it keeps me on the needed edge in how I prepare to work in ministry.
I recommend ‘What Matters Most’ as a must-read for who would follow Jesus in the United States in the 21st century.