In this Good and Beautiful Series book, James Bryan Smith helps us know how to live in relationship with others as apprentices of Jesus. "Apprentices of Jesus are not part-time do-gooders," he writes. "They live in continuous contact with the kingdom of God, and are constantly men and women in whom Christ dwells. They do not sometimes tell the truth, sometimes live sacrificially or sometimes forgive. There are myriad opportunities for us to impact the world in which we live." Yet many times we've gotten it wrong, tending to emphasize personal faith over social justice or vice versa. In these pages Jim Smith shows us how to bring spiritual formation and community engagement together, and then once again offers spiritual practices that root new, true narratives about God and the world in our souls. His insight and humility as a fellow learner with us will lead us to live in authentic ways as a good and beautiful community of Christ-followers, shining the light of the Spirit into every relationship. The Good and Beautiful Series includes four essential discipleship books from James Bryan Smith. Work through these proven Bible study resources individually or with a group to learn who God is, what it means to be a Christian, how to live in community, and how to address toxic self-narratives that hinder spiritual growth.
James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School, D.Min., Fuller Seminary) is a theology professor at Friends University in Wichita, KS and a writer and speaker in the area of Christian spiritual formation. He also serves as the director of the Aprentis Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation at Friends University.
A founding member of Richard J. Foster's spiritual renewal ministry, Renovaré Smith is an ordained United Methodist Church minister and has served in various capacities in local churches. Smith is also the author of A Spiritual Formation Workbook, Devotional Classics (with Richard Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven and Room of Marvels.
Excellent series of books for small group study. Definitely should be done as a series. Great facilitator resources are available online for free that go beyond the already good group meeting material at the back of each book. I found this series to be a nice break from the level of reading required in Disciple Bible studies while still providing the group a very similar bonding experience. (I am a firm believer that shared outside reading and prep work increases group bonding.)
The true social activist is the person who lives as an apprentice of Jesus in his or her ordinary relationships.
I have come to my senses and realize that I have to help strengthen my faith with spiritual practices. It is in this Apprentice series that I began to understand how faith can be practiced and fed on, not only depended on.
This book was an eye-opener. And it made me think about some realizations: 1. “After seeing all of these people who have peace and joy and love, I wanted to have what they have.” Christians are known for the hope that they have. And if we do exhibit this hope, it makes people wonder. I believe the philosophical or apologetics questions like ‘Is God real?’ ‘Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?’ and other pressing questions are not the main essential questions to be asked. Some people are merely wondering how and why do we believe in something that has given us so much hope. 2. “The kingdom of God is not about rules, but about the goodness and confidence we discover when we let the Holy Spirit lead us.” There are times where we read a verse in a Bible and give it too much attention; becoming overly critical. We sometimes think of it as laws to be obeyed at all times and judge people when they do things. We were given freewill and a mind to discern things on our own. 3. “We must view all who call on Jesus as our brothers and sisters regardless of doctrine or race or practice.” Additionally, sometimes it is a matter of the essential truths and non-essential truths. There may be differences in the way we criticize or interpret things in the Bible, but if we are loving the God who gave His only Son, Jesus, then we have to shrug off those non-essential differences. 4. “I realized that the hymns were, nonetheless, being sung with devotion and benefit by an old saint in elastic boots in the opposite pew, and then you realize that you aren’t fit to clean those boots. It gets you out of your solitary conceit.” As an introvert, I would easily neglect worshipping in public since socializing and talking to people makes me drained. If I spent a little of my time alone with God doing spiritual practices such as Bible reading, journalling, and praying, I know there would be no problem. I learned, though, that spending time in church with a community of Christ followers is a way of spending eternity with the people of God.
Our small group at church finished this, the third and final title in James Bryan Smith’s Apprentice series. I’m still impressed not only with the author's substantive, but accessible, theological insight, but also with his gracious tone and impeccable recommendations for spiritual practices to make each theological truth about what it means to live in church community root itself deeply in our hearts. Highly recommend - especially for group reading!
These 3 books in the series are good for small group discussion. I guess the James is using the method of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to change our behaviour. In each chapter, he list out our false narratives. He will not condemn on the false narratives at the very first beginning. Rather, he will walk through with us how wrong are the false believes which alter our behaviour. Then he list out he true narratives and explain to us clear why those narratives are good for us. When our core believes changed, our behaviour changed. At the end of each chapter and at the end of the series, James encourage us to have plan of “change”. It is really a practical series of books.
I absolutely love this book series! My friend and I phone each other most Tuesday mornings at 6:30am where we discuss a chapter that we have read that week. We have become each others accountability partners and I have seen not only so much growth in our friendship, but in our faith. We are both working on different areas of faith and encourage each other on that journey. We have been advocating to our church of the benefit of reading these books, and now our church is working through these books by meeting and discussing them. I cannot recommend enough how good this series is for developing and maturing in faith.
"The Good and Beautiful Community" is an encouraging, helpful book that provides practical steps to help any Christian improve the way they live in community with others. Each chapter includes a section titled "Soul Care," where Smith provides actual steps and practices for the reader to engage with.
Each chapter will help the reader delve deeper into Christian community-development and hone their spiritual formation practices. Filled with tons of stores and anecdotes from the Smith, "The Good and Beautiful Community" will help the reader fall deeper in love with God and his community.
This is the third in a series of books that our pastor has led a small group of us on Zoom during the pandemic. It's an excellent series. I highly recommend. While it is great to read and do on your own, I do think there is a lot to be gained from a small group study. We did a chapter a week for all three books. While our group was fortunate to have our pastor lead and facilitate the discussion, you could assemble a small group and take turns being discussion leader. Leader guides are in the back of each book.
I waffled between 4 and 5 stars — I very much appreciate Smith’s approach to spiritual formation, although I would have liked a bit more of a push towards an outward focus in this book. By which I mean that the topics and exercises leaned more towards the inward journey in preparation for the outward journey, rather than towards the outward journey itself. But at the same time, we need the inner formation to engage in the outward journey, so this is less a flaw in the book itself and more a complaint that it wasn’t quite the book I wanted it to be.
This is the third book in his series and I loved all three books. I read these with a group of men and the discussions have been productive and helpful. This last book on community was very good in understanding the role and importance of people and the church in our spiritual journey. The honesty and real life stories help you connect with the ideas and the soul exercises are fantastic in putting it into practice.
I highly recommend doing this series of books. Each chapter grabbed my attention and I was able to focus on a different spiritual aspect for a week. I went through these books with a group, and really recommend doing so if you want to get the best out of them. Hearing each other's perspectives and ideas helps us grow spiritually and gives us someone to mentor or be mentored. These aren't books I will read just once, it will be something to reference and look up in the future!
This series is by far the best thing I’ve ever read about Spiritual Formation. James Bryan Smith does such an incredible job of calling us into a deeper life with Jesus and with our fellow Jesus Followers without legalism and with deep love. This book, and the others like it were encouraging, convicting, and empowering. I have been and will continue to recommend it to anyone who wants to grow closer to Jesus in their lives.
I did not read the earlier books in this series yet. This was an affirmation and encouragement of something I have come to believe is a non negotiable part of Christian life-you must be a part of some community.
Read this book and had discussions with a couple of small groups. I find his writing accessible and thought provoking. I don’t agree with everything he says but a few things like as a Christian being a peculiar people will stick with me a long time.
The trilogy is so beautiful as to bring tears to your eyes, deeply practical and moving, challenging stereotypes and false narratives, our LORD is brought into sharp focus making Him imminently more attainable.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Super practical take on faith-informed community building, improving on the vague or fluffy sections of "A Bigger Table" and "Community: the Structure of Belonging." Strong 4.5.
"Soul Training" sections at the end of each chapter were super helpful (churches in different cultural contexts could easily add/adapt). Am considering exercising a chapter a month.
Would love for every church community, especially american churches or those of us who have gotten to used to 'comfort gospel', to read/challenge/encourage one another through similar spiritual formations/discipleship exercises like the ones in this book, so our lives might better reflect the values we profess on Sundays.
I found this to be the most divisive of the series - which to be fair the author said it was written as he was learning as well. I didn’t see as many practical applications for my life as I did in the first two Apprentice series books.
This review, by Dr. Nicholson, has been provided courtesy of Desert Bible Institute www.desertbibleinstitute.com. Dr. James Bryan Smith has written a good book for small group instruction as the third installment of his Apprentice series. The Good and Beautiful Community does a respectable job of looking at the importance of serving as one church under Christ and developing a faith community. All the ideas that Dr. Smith shares are both biblical and clearly from the heart. He obviously has a love for both God and God’s people. Additionally, all his arguments are intelligent and well thought out.
There are several reasons that this book will work well for a small group. The author has broken each idea down into small, manageable sections that could easily be read and discussed. He also has specific tasks for each member to do between the hearing of the current session and the next session. His ideas are organized and clear and he uses very little advanced vocabulary that would confuse the novice or lay-reader.
All of that said, I didn’t particularly enjoy the book. While there were a number of “nuggets” of wisdom that were useful, there wasn’t a solid through-point that tied it all together. I’m not saying there wasn’t a theme; because, there was. It just had the feel that these were several individual lessons strung together under one umbrella of “community” rather than a steady building of one thought. Again, this might work well for a group with expanses of time between readings, but becomes tiresome to the individual reader.
Another issue was Smith’s use of diction. Admittedly, I have not listened to his first two books, but it seems that he is trying to create his own, relevant terminology by using catch words and catch phrases of his own devising. The problem is they aren’t all that catchy. His attempt to create a common vocabulary is clunky and occasionally is too vague to accomplish his purposes. This seems to be a matter of personal preference and style; however, since many of his quotes and examples from other authors have this same aesthetically displeasing discordance.
Lastly, it seems that most of his examples seem to be limited to himself, his seminars, and Dallas Willard. While none of these are bad, it does lend a lack of scope to that he is saying. A more wide-ranging and balanced sense of research would not only level out some of the biases of the book but also allow the reader to experience other viewpoints on community so that they would have a fuller understanding of the importance of faith community.
I have to assume that it was the author’s style more than Maurice England’s reading that made listening to this audio version challenging. England, as usual, read with crisp diction and a steady pace. While it was a smidgen more “announcer” than it was narrator, I thought it was good considering the challenges the book presented. I was left with the impression, at the end of this book, like it was good and I would be happy to endorse it to a novice study group, but I would be hesitant to recommend it as an individual read especially if the reader was going to listen straight through rather than utilizing the week-by-week structure established in the book. It seems likely the author realized this since he gave similar caveats in the introduction of the book – only with a more positive spin.
Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com. A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.