YouTube sensation and Christian author Jefferson Bethke hopes to re-spark the faith of millions of millennials who feel Christianity has failed them with his new book, It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die, which examines first century Church practices and demonstrates how they can reinvigorate the Body of Christ in today's society.
Bethke cemented himself as a mouthpiece for millennial Christians with his 2013 viral spoken word YouTube video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus, which led to an accompanying New York Times best-selling book, titled Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough.
By delivering Christian Orthodox views in a seemingly rebellious and fresh way, Bethke has sent shockwaves throughout the Evangelical world and attracted a loyal following of young people.
With the release of his latest book, Bethke is using his newly gained platform to encourage people who were raised in the Church, but may have drifted away from it, to dig a bit deeper into Christian history.
Bethke closely examines biblical concepts, locations and traditions, including the Holy Sabbath, Temple and feasts, and attempts to make them relevant to a millennial audience.
The author says that many of his peers have abandoned the faith because they felt it did not live up to expectations from their youth. He hopes to re-spark their interest in Christ by explaining how forgotten concepts, once important to the first century Church, can still impact their everyday lives in amazing ways.
"If we recover what Christianity was really about [along with] these big ideas that were really important to first century people, that aren't to us, [then] I think we will give people what they've been searching for," said Bethke to The Christian Post.
"A lot of things were very cultural to them, contextually, that informed their stories, words and Scriptures. And so for us, because we're 21st century thinking Western people, we just kind of miss a lot of that stuff. The book is just a call back to that. What if we really dig deeper? If we enter into Jesus' world, then I think we can understand His words," added Bethke.
One of the cultural norms Bethke mentioned is the biblical Sabbath.
Modern Christians have written the Sabbath off as simply a day off from work where people go to church or watch football. But they're missing the mark, according to Bethke, who says that the Sabbath is a universal concept that transforms throughout Scripture and encompasses all aspects of life when looked at through the lens of history.
"Sabbath is about a day of rest, but it's also about a day of celebration. If you read the Old Testament, it's crazy! God wants [his people] to party! They have feasts everyday. And they're commanded [to]. It's a recovery of that, saying one day a week, what if we set [it] aside to really play, celebrate and invite God's presence into our life that week," he said.
The true Sabbath cuts against American culture, which often involves working around the clock and keeping busy, according to Bethke who believes correctly observing it is a genuinely human concept.
And by partying, Bethke isn't talking about the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Instead, the author proposes that believers gather around a dinner table to eat, drink and share their weekly experiences. This fulfilling, yet overlooked, practice by the modern Church might even lessen one's desire to live on the edge.
"Eating well is a sacred spiritual gift. And so using that — rather than consuming to be greedy — as an opportunity to gather people. Getting people to tell you how their week was. What's their ups and their downs, and seeing how [you could pray for one another]. Seeing that as an actual communal activity is really something we lost that I think could turn into a beautiful spiritual rhythm," said Bethke.
Aside from recapturing the essence of sharing a meal with one another, Bethke also wants Christians to understand the Temple and the role it played in the lives of Jews and early Christians.
He further described the Temple as a place "where Heaven and Earth collide," and credits first century Jews for that definition.
"They [saw] Heaven as this kind of dimension that was ultimately in the beginning married to Earth, but because of sin they're kind of pulling apart, but not fully separated. And so that place where it stays connected, where Heaven and Earth are still touching, is the Temple," he told CP. "That's the place where God's and our presence collide."
Its close connection to Heaven is why there are regulations there that aren't anywhere else, according to Bethke.
He also defined the Temple as a shadow of Jesus Christ.
"Jesus comes — John 1:13 says the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John's doing a play on words there where the word dwell in Greek is literally tabernacle. So he's saying, Jesus is temple-ing among us. That's the claim you get for the rest of the New Testament. The Temple building was a shadow, now Jesus is ultimately that place where Heaven and Earth collide," said Bethke.
"And Jesus is going out and actually taking Heaven into Earth and continually being on the offensive with creating those little sacred pockets of Heaven," he added. "And that's our job, as disciples, is to carry on that mission of taking Heaven and pulling it down as the place of God reigning and ruling onto Earth."
Jesus' mission ensured that believers received the Holy Spirit, which would now dwell inside each and every one of them, making them what Bethke described as "little walking temples." Because of this, believers now live in an age where Heaven and Earth collide inside every Christian.
"We become little walking temples, which I think makes us have a lot more responsibility, but not in a condemning way. This is really cool that this is our mission. To be that place where Heaven and Earth collide, and go show that to the places where Heaven is not there," he said. "Places where there's evil."
It's Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die is available on amazon.com and Bethke's official website.