There is a new spiritual formation series out that you need to know about. The Good and Beautiful God, by James Bryan Smith, is a must have for your curriculum resource shelf. More importantly, it just might be what you need personally to take an important next step.
You’ll get some sense of this book’s potential by learning that Smith was mentored by Richard Foster, and has had connections with Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Rich Mullins. To top off his preparation he co-taught a class with Dallas Willard at Fuller for 10 years. That is quite a pedigree. When you begin to work your way through The Good and Beautiful God you’ll see that the author’s time with mentors like these was well spent.
Although a person can read the book and do the exercises individually, it really is intended to be worked in community. Each chapter is immediately followed by a soul training section. The intended pattern is that you read each chapter thoroughly, complete the exercises, reflect on what you’ve learned, interact with your group about your experience, and then continue to interact offline.
Each individual chapter tackles an under-the-waterline negative narrative that are “running (and often ruining) our lives.” For example, in chapter two (on God is good) Smith considers the narrative that “God is an angry judge. If you do well, you will be blessed; if you sin, you will be punished (p. 40).” Countering that narrative is Jesus’ own narrative that “his heavenly Father is good–good like no other: ‘There is only one who is good (Matthew 19:17).'” Following the examination of Jesus’ own narrative is an exercise intended to instill an awareness of God and His creation.
Clearly, this is a resource that will work well for groups that have been around the block a time or two and are looking for something that will take them deeper in their connection with God. The key might be your awareness of it and your recommendation. Since the default drive of many seasoned groups is often motivated by an interest in learning more about the Bible (book series), they won’t necessarily pick up a book that takes them deeper experientially. Your recommendation will make it more likely.
If you’re looking for a resource that will provide depth and experience, The Good and Beautiful God is a good one. I highly recommend it. Let me know what you think!
By the way, this is the kind of book I’ve used in the past to help the coaches on my team experience a kind of life that helps them pass on the right thing to the leaders they’re working with. Remember, whatever you want to happen at the member level will have to be experienced by the leader first. Life on life is the primary way transformation happens. A book like The Good and Beautiful God could set in motion quite a stir in your system.