The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation is a book written by several different theologians/authors/professors who belong to a group called TACT (Theological and Cultural Thinkers). This group came together, several years ago, to discuss how to encourage and strengthen the American church, especially in light of the discouraging statistics from Barna and Gallup research.
This book was a really encouraging and fun read for me because it has brought together many of the things I’ve learned and worked through over this past year in my classes. In the first half of the book, the authors discussed various parts of spiritual formation, exploring issues like what is the gospel? What does community look like for us? What role does suffering play in our formation? What is mission and why are we on it? How do we form spiritually? In the second half, the authors discuss the theology behind spiritual formation- trinitarian theology, the role of the Spirit, and the role of Scripture.
There are a lot of different parts that I could highlight in this review, but I’m making myself choose just one for sake of time and space. The aspect of the book that I liked best was its emphasis on real life transformation, and how it not only CAN happen, but it should happen. For many American Christians, we see the conversion, re-birth experience as the most important part of our spiritual life. We look back at a moment that we “accepted Jesus Christ as Savior” and that’s enough. Maybe most of us want something more, but we are willing to settle for the insurance and assurance of salvation. These authors emphasized that this conversion-centered gospel that many preach and emphasis is incomplete, unhealthy, and results in the research that Barna and Gallup reported.
Instead, we need to learn and model for one another what it looks like to be on the road of discipleship- following Jesus, practicing disciplines that help us to hear and understand God better, learning to say n0 to the flesh, living in open communities of grace, etc. For these authors, they seemed to be wanting to challenge church and lay leaders to first apply these principles to their own life, and then to re-structure, if necessary, the church in order to make sure that they are truly making disciples (and not just converts).
This is a five star book and one that I will certainly be re-rereading during parts of this semester (especially for my Equipping the Laity class). I would highly suggest this to any leader in the American church, and to anyone who thinks that spiritual formation will “just happen.”
As Dallas Willard said, “God is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” – The Divine Conspiracy
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”