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In this third book in the Apprentice Series, James Bryan Smith helps us know how to live in relationship with others as apprentices of Jesus. "Apprentices of Jesus are not part-time do-gooders," he writes. "They live in continuous contact with the kingdom of God, and are constantly men and women in whom Christ dwells. They do not sometimes tell the truth, sometimes live sacrificially or sometimes forgive. There are myriad opportunities for us to impact the world in which we live."
Yet many times we've gotten it wrong, tending to emphasize personal faith over social justice or vice versa. In these pages Jim Smith shows us how to bring spiritual formation and community engagement together, and then once again offers spiritual practices that root new, true narratives about God and the world in our souls. His insight and humility as a fellow learner with us will lead us to live in authentic ways as a good and beautiful community of Christ-followers, shining the light of the Spirit into every relationship.
The Good and Beautiful Community
"Great end to the trilogy. This is the third book in the Apprentice Trilogy, and for me, it is the most insightful and challenging. I enjoyed the first two Apprentice books(The Good and Beautiful God and The Good and Beautiful Life which dealt with issues of who God is and how we personally respond to Him, and this book takes the next step by exploring the idea of how we work these changed lives out in community. A reader may expect this book to focus entirely within the walls of a church, and that is where most of the attention goes, but I was pleasantly surprised to see the way that Smith challenges readers to look at the impact they have on people outside their church and inside small accountability groups within a church. I was also challenged by Smith's consistent efforts to bring all of his recommendations back to God's word, even when that leads to an unpopular suggestion that a congregation not sever ties with a denomination that has gone astray in some theological area (I think, on that point, Smith's message of reconciliation and commitment not to divide unnecessarily would benefit from a discussion of how passionate Paul was about differences of opinion on, say, circumcision - he may still end up at the same place, but I would love to hear him get there). While this book is great on its own, I highly recommend that readers tackle the books in order to get the most out of each one, especially in the context of a small group where people can challenge each other. I have started buying copies of The Good and Beautiful God for friends in my church, hoping that we can grow closer to God with them, and The Good and Beautiful Community reassures me that I need to start planning on giving away copies of the entire series. Everyone should read these books."
(K. C. - MA)
"A Compelling portrait of Christian community. Our daily encounters with others are the arenas in which our relationship with God becomes incarnate, and most of us need a little help in this area, according to James Bryan Smith in this book. The book attempts to offer ways in which followers of Jesus can have healthy relationships and become blessings to the world around them. As the King James Bible asserts, Christians are a "peculiar" people, or at least they should be. They should obey earthly laws but live by higher laws. They should be living lives that are so winsome that others want to have what they have. They should live in a hopeful, serving, Christ-centered, reconciling, encouraging, generous, worshipping community. To help readers work towards this, the author provides soul training exercises at the end of each chapter. I tend to regard spiritual disciplines are something that is good for me, rather than something I find exciting. Nonetheless as I read the book I found myself resonating with and attracted to the "good and beautiful community" that the author portrays. The soul training exercises may not suit the theological inclinations of all readers, but the essential characteristics of the Christian community that the book describes are compelling."
(J. G. - Melbourne, Australia)
"The Apprentice Series is a treasure. Dr. Smith has thought long and hard about the process of human transformation into the likeness of Jesus. I urge you to buy these books immediately! Read them and apply them. Then live them out in the context of a loving community. You will not regret doing so."
(Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline and coauthor of Longing for God)
"Jim Smith is the most articulate, accurate and helpful writer of spiritual formation of my generation. I give this series my highest recommendation."
(Todd Hunter, author of Giving Church Another Chance)
"The Apprentice Series is the best practice I have seen in Christian spiritual formation."
(Dallas Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy)