finished Wilhoit's "S.F. as if the Church Mattered" and moved on to another in my series of readings, this one from Greg Ogden titled Transforming Discipleship. The premise is similar to Wilhoit, that being a disciple and being a "Christian" have become mutually exclusive in our contemporary culture, with many willing to claim to be the latter but few claiming the former. The church will continue to suffer in its ability to image and announce the Kingdom of God until there are more who are seriously entering a life of discipleship instead of a life of "sin management." Discipleship and spiritual formation have become interchangeable, with the former being a more "conventional" construct and the latter being a "sexier" construct for those who need that. Regardless of the semantic impact, the reality is that there are tons of people calling themselves Christians who have not taken seriously the call to discipleship. Enter the prognosticators to help plan the solution...wait, that includes me so I perhaps should stow the cynicism for a bit.
Ogden's book is far more conservative and blunt in its approach than my recent readings, saying at one point that "...the reality is that most believers are biblically ignorant people whose lives are a syncretistic compromise" (33). His idea is that SF/discipleship is best done under the conditions of a mutual covenant among 3-4 individuals who share regularly in the spiritual disciplines, Scripture, and pervasive transparency with each other. I'm not sure (as of yet) whether this approach will be as strong or persuasive as Wilhoit's community based receiving, remembering, responding, and relating pillars but time will tell. I can see the value of a tight-group pursuit of following Jesus, but the hermeneutic of justifying it because Jesus only called 12 and then had 3 really close relationship within the 12 seems to miss the historical and Jewish connotations of calling 12--namely, Jesus was creating a new Israel and the 12 disciples represented 12 new tribes, called up onto a mountain and chosen and given a new covenant to live by (cp. Mt. 5-7). Can you APPLY the smaller group as an image of what Jesus did? Sure, but let's not put all of our hermeneutical "weight" on that application's "foot". That's all I'm saying.
I will say, and I think this sounds picky but it's true, the font/page formatting of some books actually affects how I read them. For some reason, IVP tends to have very tight pages and coarse textures, and this may sound anti-intellectual or focused on something other than the content, but that will present a challenge in reading to me. Am I alone in this? If there is a soft page that accepts my pen or highlighter and the reading fits my eye, I will likely have a better retention of that text. That sounds awful...
I think this string of readings for my next class is going to be a gauntlet, with Bill Donahue's Building a Church of Small Groups, Andy Stanley's Creating Community, and a second glance through Willow Creek's REVEAL study. Definitely not books I would self select (although I had been looking forward to Wilhoit, I must say), but that's a good challenge.
Listening: Sigur Ros