Had a chance this week to take a look at The Good and Beautiful Community; the newest addition to James Bryan Smith’s Apprentice Series. Published by InterVarsity Press, this series has been called by Dallas Willard, “The best practice I have seen in Christian spiritual formation.”
Like the two previous books in the series, The Good and Beautiful Community follows a familiar pattern. Real-life stories illustrate the false ideas and personal narratives that may become a barrier to authentic Christlikeness. A look at a biblical account from the Gospels (or elsewhere in the New Testament) provides a contrasting practice and points the reader/participant to replacing false with true narrative.
Along with this examination of a contrasting narrative, each chapter is followed by a soul training exercise; a kind of spiritual formation practice. The appendix includes a Small Group Discussion Guide, which makes it very practical for this book to be used as a small group curriculum.
The focus of this final installment in the trilogy is “the second part of the Great Commandment: loving our neighbor as ourselves.” What I’ve appreciated about the series is the built-in focus on the heart, based on the awareness that the human tendency is to put the emphasis on activity and not on the heart that motivates the activity.
Two Key Uses for the Book
I can see The Good and Beautiful Community being used a number of ways, two in particular that will have great application for many of us. First, this book could be very helpful in developing the coaches in your system. I’ve found it to be true that “whatever you want to happen at the member level in your groups has to happen first in the life of the leader.” That said, once a coach experienced this journey, they’d have the frame of reference to help the leaders in their huddles.
The second use for this book will be to provide a curriculum for groups desiring to engage in their community. In the effort to become involved in the lives of your neighbors, nothing will set the table better than learning to love them first.
If you’re looking for a study that will help your more seasoned groups take a healthy step in the direction of practicing Christlikeness, I encourage you to take a look at The Good and Beautiful Community.