Please note that a) I was provided with a review copy of this book, b) I used to work for the publisher and c) I knew Jon at university. I hope those things didn’t cloud your reading of my review, or my writing of it.
Seeing the MORE series come to life has been really encouraging. I loved Calvin Samuel’s MORE: Distinct, which is about holiness, and have been enjoying the others in the series. Jon Brown’s MORE: Real, which I’m reviewing today, might be one of the most honest books I’ve ever read.
This is a book that is full of questions – and that is because Jon is keen not to just tick the box of writing a book, but rather wrestle with reality. Early on, that wrestling is shown profoundly, as he writes “Living with doubt can be an extremely isolating experience. Who can you talk to? You worry you might unsettle your Christian friends, but you don’t want to tell your non-Christian friends and bolster their scepticism“. This isn’t a book about doubt – it is a book about authenticity, in a real, Jesus-focused sense – but for a person prone to doubt, it is a very helpful little book to read.
Following the design of the MORE books to date, MORE: Real is nicely designed, and best read physically. And in that, I think it unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally) echoes a theme that resonates throughout Jon’s words. We have a problem with social media in our culture. Jon nails it, in my opinion, when he writes “We can trick ourselves into thinking that we’re growing relationally as a society, but the truth behind the shiny veneer of our digital age is that there is a relational deficit“. Before I get the obligatory stream of comments that usually accompany criticising social media – particularly on a blog regularly shared by myself on social media – can I point to the fact that Jon is getting to something true and beautiful. Whatever our reasons for using social media and other digital tools of connection – and there are many, such as connecting with housebound or ill friends, or geographically distant friends and family – the digital world is subtly different and darker and less real than the real world. I think MORE: Real‘s discussion of this is well worth the price of the book.
Ultimately, though, this is a book about Jesus. Jon opens and closes with reference to, and a serious trust in, one of my favourite Bible verses (John 10:10. Google it, it’s beautiful). In the closing chapter of MORE: Real, Jon writes this: “Was Jesus wrong? No. When he promised life and life to the full, he meant it. When the Bible promises that we can taste and see that the Lord is good, it can be trusted“. It takes more than a hundred pages to get to that set of thoughts, and that answer to that question. And those pages clearly represent an authentic distillation of Jon’s life.
I want to warmly and ferociously recommend this book to different people. Firstly, I think it is good for those of us demographically designated as ‘millennial’, whether currently part of churches or who used to be part of churches. Secondly, I think it will be helpful and informative for those seeking to relate to and pastor people like that. Finally, I think it is a great primer on what a biblical, Jesus-focused vision of authenticity could be like.