I began reading this book cautiously; the subtitle worried me. However, as I read it, I became increasingly impressed. The book is full of commonsense realism, accompanied by recognition of the importance of Bible reading, prayer and active membership in the church.
The author’s thesis is that Christian discipleship equals genuine humanity, and involves copying Jesus. This discipleship is worked out in every area of life, but must be deeply rooted in worship and the Word of God. It inevitably involves suffering.
The starting point is being in Christ and Christ being in us. The author then gives down-to-earth guidance on how to practise spiritual disciplines. We need a two-pronged approach to Bible reading. We must read the Bible in big chunks, to gain a large perspective. We must also focus on ‘every divine breath’. In our praying, we need a balance between the spontaneous and liturgical.
The author sees discipleship as inseparable from church. The church is at the heart of how God shapes his people. It is the school of love, where we learn how to love others beyond the confines of the church.
The author warns us to lower our expectations of church. The tendency to become disillusioned with church results from having inflated expectations of what is possible in this world. Only when Jesus returns will his kingdom come.
Christian mission is defined as the healing of creation. I hesitate at the author’s inclusion of the whole of the Christian life within mission. However, I have no problem endorsing his vision that the whole of life is the sphere for Christian service. The author rightly insists that following Jesus is not a religious hobby, but a way of being.
Mr Valentine suggests seven areas in which following Jesus must be worked out in the world — care for the environment; work; home life; the arts and sciences; issues of peace and justice; the mundane matters of daily routine; and evangelism and healing.
He summarises mission as ‘everything that makes for human flourishing’. The book ends with some practical advice about how each of us can find our own place within God’s purposes for creation.