Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
In the spirit of the above text, I’ve been posting a series that honors some of my friends and introduces them and their work to you, my friends, who read this blog.
Today, I want to lift up my good friend and co-worker Jon Zens.
I’ve known of Jon’s work since the mid-1980s. Jon is a former pastor. He’s also a theologian and a scholar. He is one of the few seminary trained PhDs who stands outside the organized church (Robert Banks shares that accolade).
Jon’s high-voltage theological writing is accessible to every reader. I personally wish every Christian — including pastors and teachers — would read his little magazine called Searching Together. It’s superb. Years ago I purchased all the back issues and I use them for reference. The subscription price is dirt cheap.
Zens and I developed a relationship back in the 90s. And we have been close friends and co-laborers in the Lord’s work for years. Like Milt Rodriguez, Jon is another brother with whom I’m in a mutually submissive relationship. And as with my other coworkers, we seek the Lord’s mind together and take counsel from one another on personal and spiritual matters.
Jon has written a raft of articles from the 1970s until now. Here are my top two along with my favorite books of his:
Have You Heard? – the best article I’ve ever read on the subject. And one that has impacted countless Christians in a positive way.
Four Tragic Shifts in the Visible Church – an excellent historical analysis that has powerful application for our time.
The Pastor Has No Clothes – a remarkable book exploring the biblical evidence for the modern pastor office.
A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? - an unique and excellent look at the problem of Christian unity.
You can read more of Jon’s articles here.
Several years ago, Zens wrote an in-depth refutation of a well-known critique of Pagan Christianity.
There are voices, and then there are echoes. Jon Zens is a voice. And one of the most important voices of our time.
I’ll close with the Foreword that I wrote for Jon’s book, A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? It contains a historical perspective regarding God’s work.
As a student of history, I’ve observed that the past often repeats itself. This applies to the work of God as much as anything else.
We are living in an interesting time.
The Protestant Reformation is repeating itself again. Back then, men in the likes of Luther, Melanthan, Zwingli, and others were challenging the religious system of their day.
As a result, the Reformation changed the landscape of the Christian faith. The result: the Protestant church ended up becoming just as accepted as the Roman Catholic Church.
But that’s not all.
The Radical Reformation is repeating itself again. Like the Protestant Reformers, the Radical reformers not only challenged the theology of the present-day church, but they did something beyond that. They also challenged its ecclesiology.
Regrettably, the Radical reformers suffered untold persecution by their Christian contemporaries—both Protestant and Catholic. Yet the voices of Meno Simons, Felix Manz, and Conrad Grebel could not be stopped . . . not until the brutal hand of martyrdom silenced them.
But that’s not all.
The work of God in the 1930s is repeating itself again. During those years, God raised up a number of voices to present a deep and rich revelation of the centrality of Jesus Christ and the reality of His church. Watchman Nee in China, T. Austin-Sparks in England, Dietrich Boenhoeffer in Germany were just some of them.
Today, we are living in another move of God. Some, like George Barna, are calling it a “Revolution.”
And just like the goings of God that preceded us, the Lord is raising up a number of contemporary voices to challenge the church prophetically and bring her back to her spiritual, biblical, and Christocentric roots.
Jon Zens is one such voice.
In A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile, Zens is at his best. Crisp, gracious, insightful, and compelling, this book raises critical challenges about the contemporary form of church as we know it today. It also urges us to reclaim God’s original intention for His Body.