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Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  223 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews

The history of the church has shaped what our faith and practice are like today. It's tempting to think that the way we do things now is best, but history also has much to teach us about what we've forgotten. In Water from a Deep Well, Gerald Sittser opens to us the rich history of spirituality, letting us gaze at the practices and stories of believers from the past who ha

Paperback, 364 pages
Published May 21st 2010 by IVP Books (first published 2007)
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Dennis Henn
Nov 30, 2015 Dennis Henn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An overview of the expression of faith Christianity has assumed the past two thousand years. Very accessible to all readers, Siitser includes discussion questions, Scripture and projects to further our experience in Christian spirituality. Though he acknowledges the weaknesses inherent in each phase of Christianity, his goal is to show the strengths and, thereby, broaden our receptivity to the various streams offered through the Desert Fathers, the monastics, the evangelicals, the Mystics, the R ...more
Rheta Thola
Definitely an interesting read. Sittser does a good job covering church history. The book is structured so that each period of church history has a specific theme or focus of spirituality. He then pulls in different writings and stories that support that theme. It is a cross between a historical scholarly book and a topical study. I am not sure if I liked that mix, but I did enjoy the topical points that were made as things that I often never thought of before. The book includes "practices" that ...more
Jul 22, 2015 Barry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Sittser presents church history from the standpoint of spiritual practices and movements through the ages. For instance, the first period of church history is labeled Witness, for in the days of the early church there were martyrs aplenty, and their witness caused Christianity to spread rapidly and expansively. Each subsequent era gets a title, and Mr. Sittser tells stories of characters from that age to illustrate the defining characteristics of the church at that time. In this way, the his ...more
Brenda Funk
Feb 08, 2016 Brenda Funk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a little while to really get into reading this book (it was a Christmas gift), but I grew to appreciate it deeply as I continued reading through it. In a way it reads like a church history book, but it is put together, not in a linear way, but organized by the various movements that have characterized Christianity through the centuries:
"The martyrs call us to proclaim Jesus as Lord and the desert saints to fight against the world, the flesh and the devil. The early church challenges u
Jun 29, 2014 Jkanz rated it it was amazing
Water From a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality From Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries (2007, IVP) by Gerald Sittser was an excellent book, but perhaps a bit difficult to classify. It is part church history, part Christian spirituality, and part practical living. In engaging prose, Sittser explores the history of Christianity, stopping along the way to reflect on what lessons we have learned from those who have gone before. He effectively shows different movements over the history of the churc ...more
Matthew Green
Jan 02, 2013 Matthew Green rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those who aren’t terribly familiar with much of Christian history or those who aren’t terribly familiar with various expressions of Christian spirituality, it isn’t a bad place to start. Sittser does an excellent job of writing in a very easy style that captures the attention and provides a good summary of his ideas without getting bogged down in unnecessary details or technical language and concepts. His inclusion of stories of various Chrisitans who, in his mind, exemplify the particular m ...more
May 15, 2012 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A well written history of Christianity from different perspectives. Sittser writes with perception, compassion, knowledge, and skill.

This book resonates with purpose, profundity, and love. I am so thankful to Gerald Sittser for writing it! It was an awesome journey through the interweaving history of the Christian tradition. In the past I have had a tendency to recognize conflict and discordances of the various approaches to Christianity, though I never truly took the time to understand them. By
Adele Calhoun
It’s not uncommon for churches to spend a lot of time strategizing for the future. Books with the latest in ministry ideas and the newest trends are de rigueur. Leaving the old behind, leaders encourage new initiatives and “new wine skins. The emphasis on “newness” is understandable. We live in a world that seems to come up with a new life saving or life changing invention on a weekly basis. The greeting “What’s new?” captures the mood of both the culture and the church. But what about “What’s o ...more
Jesvin Jose
May 10, 2016 Jesvin Jose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars actually! Well written & engaging mini biographies of church fathers, mystics, monks, reformers & missionaries. Everyone may not agree with all the traditions represented in the book; nonetheless, these different traditions have a lot to teach us (warts and all), if only we are teachable! It is indeed fascinating to observe how God brings people to Him in Christ. These men and women of God drank deeply from the living water the Savior offers and they encourage us to do the same ...more
Pete Foley
Dec 31, 2013 Pete Foley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommend this book as an excellent overview of the early Church, its evolution over the centuries, and the earliest Christian mystics. Sittser does an excellent job of conveying his passion for Christian life while conveying the deep spirituality of the earliest Christians...many of whom were martyred for their faith. The book re-energizes and challenges the reader to return to the faith of earlier centuries, while also accurately depicting the shortcomings of the Church - be it through ...more
Ryan Linkous
Apr 18, 2015 Ryan Linkous rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second time I've read this book and I'm now sure that I really like this book by Gerald Sittser. Though there can be a few inaccuracies, he's done his research. This book is a good combination of church history and spirituality. Could you call it a history of Christian spirituality? Maybe/maybe not. However, he examines different traditions throughout the church from an evangelical perspective and tries to find something valuable in it for today. Some of my favorite chapters are the ...more
Kyle Alt
Feb 17, 2014 Kyle Alt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first half of this book was extremely enriching as it describes so much church tradition and the heart behind it that gives it meaning. The author seems to lose steam before the end of the book, though, and leaves the reader wanting.
Apr 23, 2016 Jean rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This history of spirituality is a must read for students of the Bible. its concise, well organized and readable. I was engaged from the very beginning. The author organized a vast amount of information and history in to meaningful sections. For lay people this is should be required reading to understand the history of Christianity in various time segments. The Bibliography alone will keep the rest of us reading quality Christian literature for a very long time. Every serious Bible student, lay B ...more
Blake Chenoweth
I find it difficult to describe this book to people. It is a book of Christian history, spiritual disciplines, Christian martyr and theologians biographies it is all a part of what makes this book engaging and also a read that takes some time. I love the way Sittser writes, it is possible however that maybe this book was a chapter or two too long.

A wonderful read for anybody interested in Christian spirituality and the practices of the saints throughout history. This book also has wonderful chal
Jan 07, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book delves into the history of the Church for inspiration. It is a combination of history and biography, beginning with first-century martyrs all the way through modern missionaries. Although the volume is arranged topically, the topics are chosen so that they fit into a chronological scheme as well. The book is interesting, but I would have preferred it if the author had included more and/or longer passages from the writers that he reviews. I thought there was too much in the way of a rev ...more
Adam Shaeffer
Nov 01, 2012 Adam Shaeffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book offers a clear and engaging history of Christian spirituality from the early days of the church through the Evangelical movement and pioneer missionaries of today. It is thoughtfully done and paints a fascinating picture of the different modes and seasons of Christian spirituality through the centuries. We have much to learn from the mothers and fathers of the faith and Sittser points us toward wisdom both ancient and modern in this wonderful history.
Joel Daniel Harris
Aug 23, 2010 Joel Daniel Harris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mdiv
Great overview of Christian faith and practice throughout history. Sittser strives to pull out best practices and highlight what was done well and, in so doing, remind us of how we ought to live and lifestyles we could choose to embrace. Excellent and inspiring. I should mention that this means that some of the faults of some of these periods of history aren't addressed, but that isn't the point of this book and Sittser is honest and humble in his presentation.
Margaret D'Anieri
Jul 23, 2014 Margaret D'Anieri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Margaret by: Adrian Doll
Shelves: spirituality
A wonderful, readable overview of Christian spirituality through history. Written from a reformed perspective, meaning that it includes evangelism as a spiritual movement. My quibbles are that he strays into conversion of non-Christian faithful in some places, and leaves some critique unspoken - although he covers for that in the epilogue, where he says he consciously chose to focus on the benefits of each of the spiritual movements he describes.
Oct 04, 2012 Shawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found out about this book through the radio program Family Life Today. The basic premise of the book is that we have something to learn from every generation/movement throughout the history of the Church. Going from the Early Church who teach us the value of community to the pioneer missionaries who show the value of taking risks, Gerald Sittser walks through many disciplines and virtues that the modern Church may have lost or undervalued.
Brian Kilde
Such an inspiring challenge to live a life of sacrifice for Jesus. Even if you don't agree with every practice and method the saints, martyrs, an missionaries lived out, surely you will appreciate their fervor and dedication to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Thanks to Gerald L Sittser for chronicling their lives for us. This book is a tremendous undertaking but a blessing to read.
May 08, 2014 J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great book. I thought this book was the perfect companion to Shelly's "Church History in Plain Language". I read them together as part of a course. I can't recall enjoying assigned reading more. While Shelly's book really has no blank spots this book enriched the detail of Shelly's book yet they both stand solidly on their own merit. Loved reading them both.
Amy Young
Jun 16, 2010 Amy Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book. Amzazing book. Sittser helps Chirstian history and practices come alive as he is able to set them in context, provide illustrtations through biographies and make them accessible to us today. Each section he looks at and offers suggestions for how that could be practiced today. Great discussion questions at the end. AND I love an annotated reading list!
May 17, 2009 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in History not just for history's sake
This was a really great look at the highlights of different church traditions and what people can draw from them. It challenged me to live differently in a lot of ways. It's not just history for history's sake (which I like and would read), but it's history with a purpose: what can you glean from these traditions?

Mar 29, 2009 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great faith builder. Sittser reviews the movements in Christian spirituality from the early martyrs to the modern missionaries. Each movement has much to inform my faith. The style was a little stilted, especially at the beginning, but it got better as the book progressed.
Feb 11, 2008 Ike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students
Lots of great info on the history of Christian spirituality but overall was dry and hard to get through. Felt like I was reading a textbook more often then not. I would recommend it if you need the info for a paper, but not for any other reason.
Vanessa Siemens
Apr 14, 2014 Vanessa Siemens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great overview of church history, looking beyond the mere facts. This book is a great challenge to the reader to dig deeper and to respond to the lives of those who have come before.
Demetrius Rogers
Read the first half, but for some reason lost interest and the book sat around for a couple of years. I will say it's a nicely written book.
Apr 14, 2014 Terra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A heartfelt, thorough, and concise overview of 2000 years of Christian history. Highly recommended. I'll return to this resource often.
Jun 01, 2016 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great overview of different eras in church history and what we can learn from them.
Dan Bates
Good book on christian spirituality, I especially enjoyed his section on the mystics.
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