Review: ‘Prototype’


Prototype is an invitation to, in a sense, go backward.

For author Jonathan Martin, pastor of Renovatus Church in Charlotte, that involved becoming like his younger self, riding a bike and making up stories and enjoying the wonder and mystery of childhood. It’s an experience “when we all have felt the most alive, the most awake to God and to the world, unconstrained by fear, doubt, or loneliness” (12). And when you finally come to realize God’s love for you, Martin writes, it feels less like you’ve found something new and instead have become awake to something that was there the entire time:

“Coming awake to God’s infinite love can seem so foreign and yet feel as if it’s where we’ve always belonged, because God, in His hovering delight, knows every boy on a bike and every girl on a trampoline. That sense of being known and delighted in stalks human beings the world over, even when we do everything in our power to act as if we do not know love” (15).

In this regard, we actually have something in common with Jesus: we both share identities as God’s beloved sons. This same Jesus is “God’s prototype for a whole new way of being human” (18). The rest of the book unpacks what this looks like. Sometimes, it means that recognizing a period of your life in which you’re living in obscurity is actually a blessing, because, like Jesus in the wilderness, the alone places is where God sends all His sons and daughters. It means finding our calling in the wilderness and realizing that you’re unqualified to bring God’s future into the present is precisely a sign that you’ve been chosen to do it. It means engaging in sacraments and holy actions like foot washing because they not only connect us to Christ, who performed them in the past, but also transport us to the future. We take the Eucharist and through the Bread and Wine taste the life that we will someday know in full.

“When I feel the touch of human hands on my hairy toes and calloused soles, it is terrible in all the ways it must be for Christ Himself to touch my most unlovely places with His tenderness. Every time, the tears burn my eyes. And as my self-consciousness and self-confidence begin to crumble, it’s not just my feet that are being washed; it’s the love of God like a warm balm on a bruised and battered soul” (160-161)

I wasn’t always clear on how each subject in the chapter tied into the idea of Jesus as the prototype human, but don’t mistake that to mean that there’s nothing in these chapters that won’t grab and move you. The story of Dianne in the “Community” chapter is beautiful and nearly brought me to tears. There are individual snippets of wisdom scattered throughout the pages here, and even if you’re not always certain why a point is being brought up, you can rest easy in knowing that it’s still a point worth taking.

All around, this is a profound and beautiful book with a message that is simple and powerful at the same time. I knew after the first chapter that this book was going to shake me, and I think if you give it a chance, you’ll realize the same.

Prototype released May 1 and is published by Tyndale House Publishers. I was provided with a complementary copy of this book.

For a Q and A with the author, visit here.

For a free excerpt from Chapter One, visit here.