The Jesus Training Manual (by Richard Mull)

From time to time I browse the free Kindle books available on Amazon, and download anything that I think might be interesting. I had never heard of the author, Richard Mull, when I saw this one available back in the summer of 2013, but at the time I was collecting anything I could; if it was free, I didn’t mind too much whether it was good or not.

The title, ‘The Jesus Training Manual’ was a bit off-putting and I didn’t start reading it for over three years. However, I thought I’d begin it a few months ago when I was travelling, and have read from time to time since then, finally finishing it at the weekend. The book combines the author’s own journey in faith and some Biblical teaching.

The first part of the book is mainly biographical, giving the background to the author’s early adult life. He worked as a pastor in a large church in Florida, and was convinced that he was called to go overseas. However, various things happened, shaking his faith and showing him that God was active and listening, resulting in him staying in the same place for a while.

I found this part of the book interesting, and quite encouraging. I had to mentally put aside the American polarised viewpoints that were hinted at from time to time, and the strong divergence, even in the 1990s, between ‘evangelicals’ and ‘charismatics’ that the author experienced. I was a little surprised to realise that the turning point in his life was as recent as 1997, but evidently his life had been somewhat sheltered, and his church background rather tunnel-visioned.

By the end of the first chapter the narrative was becoming a bit repetitive, continually expressing the author’s surprise and expecting readers to be equally shocked at the idea of God speaking in the 21st century. I skimmed somewhat, and also didn’t do more than glance at the ‘study questions’ at the end of the chapter.

The rest of the book gradually tails down on the biographical information, and increases the Biblical teaching, not just about God speaking but about healing, casting out demons, and other ‘charismatic’ gifts which the author’s background had insisted were not relevant or even possible in modern times. Since my background is rather different, and I had both read and heard this kind of teaching many times, both in the US Vineyard church we attended in the early 1990s, and elsewhere, I don’t think I learned anything new. Had it just been direct teaching I would probably not even have finished it.

However, it’s always interesting to see a bit of someone else’s life, so I read the biographical parts and skimmed some of the rest, which became increasingly repetitive towards the end. Perhaps it was important to keep pushing the same points to others from the same background as the author: he writes persuasively, and uses Scripture in context and authoritatively. What I didn’t like was the regular expectations that readers would be surprised or startled by what was being written.

On the whole it seemed to me like a sound book, and anyone who believes that the ‘charismatic’ gifts died out when the Bible was canonised could well learn a lot from this book. It’s had some good reviews, and has evidently been useful to many. However the Kindle version is no longer available;  I don’t know that I would recommend it over any of the other books on similar topics.

Review copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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