Yet another book study handed down by the hierarchy..... This raises my suspicion of hidden agenda etc. I bought the book anyway to see what everyone was up to. The first thing I noticed was that it is from the Renovare folks, led by Richard J. Foster. His is one of my "mentors". Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline, was a gift to this 'Protestant' and gave new life to spiritual praxis to many-it sits on my essentials shelf. "Good" is a part of Renovare's "Apprentice Series" and comes with an online leader guide, retreat outlines and individual instructions too.
The goal of the book is for each participant to fall in love "with the God that Jesus Knows." Scripture is the lens that brings six attributes of God into focus. Each lesson has a rhythm of an opening story from the author, a False narrative of an attribute, The Jesus narrative of the same, an invitation to transformation, "Soul Training"-specific actions to practice the lesson and participating in community. The topics of God's goodness, trustworthiness, generosity, love, holiness, self-sacrificing and transformation are brought into a modern/post-modern context without being disconnected from the Holy Bible. The focus is on connection, correction and transformation
I read the book during my personal time for a month and was richly blessed. In our congregation we have a weekly group, organized by the leader guide, and also members reading through individually. This is a group book in its design and intent. But, the rhythm is bearing fruit in those who are either too bashful or too busy to take part in a group. It is a wonderful guide for anyone's study. By using it in personal time, the pressure to complete the lessons and training in a week is taken away. I would like to see a Sunday School class or other group study it over several months or a year rather than the 12 week or retreat setting
The "Soul Training", which sounds better than a "discipline", is hard hitting, pointed and practical. Smith avoids the usual spiritual formation jargon and breathes a fresh sense of God's spirit into these practices! The first "discipline" to get some sleep! Who knew that a nap could be a spiritual thing. Others include making time for silence, making praise a habit, praying the scripture as a personal word, and more.
In my world, our congregations are organized into districts and our entire district is invited to take part in this study. Our county has 6 congregations of our denomination and we have arranged the lessons so they can be shared, mixed and mingled by all. We have congregations of different races and neighborhoods that have not met each other. The study gave us an opportunity to unify around Spirit led Christian praxis. I have made some changes in my life and made some friends through the book. The rest of the Apprentice series deserves a look too. My experience is very positive from both a personal and pastoral perspective. Good book.
Addendum: Our congregation completed the 12 weeks course as the group described above. We started with 14 in the group plus three studying personally. We ended with nine and the three. All of the feedback was positive and we have scanned Smith's follow up study, "The Good and Beautiful Life". We will read it in the fall. The good news is that the group will continue beyond this book as a Bible Study. I wished for more mixing from the other local churches but it was a good start. Our final group was a communion service and each participant shared the biggest single impact that the book made. Each one had a practice to add to their daily devotional life....or something to take away. Smith planted some seeds for the future in our church. PASTORS-Look at this seriously for your congregations. It will not draw a big crowd but it will deepen the ones that come and develop Spirit led leaders.