A Book by the Cover

A few months ago a colleague from my days as a youth pastor invited me to review his new book. I was somewhat hesitant. While I respected the work Jeff Strong does at Grindstone Church, I suspected his book “Mere Disciple” would disappoint me. I anticipated something that took well established and familiar ideas about spiritual development and spun them as some radical new discovery. I was wrong. Mere Disciple takes the well worn issue of how young adults can become better Christians and provides both foundational and practical understanding that I’m convinced are useful and uncommon. Beginning with the sharp distinction between what following Jesus and being his disciple meant in the Gospels, the book challenges those who would become like Christ to vigorously explore the world and their faith with a different paradigm in which all things are understood to be both good and spoiled, to become activists for redemption both at the personal and the societal level. The advice on making the best of Money, Sex, and Power as well as understanding how our intuitive ways of loving God can be developed and expanded are presented in ways that are soundly biblical, and truly practical with sensitivity to the diversity of his intended audience of 18-25 year olds. While this may not bee an issue for most of Jeff’s readers, I am critical of the title of the book. For myself and many of my peers C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity is the defining and enduring book on our faith (everyone should read it at least three times). Mere Disciple immediately draws comparison in which it can only come off poorly. Using another of Lewis’ classic titles “The Four Loves” as the title for his model of practical discipleship brings the same challenge. To his credit, Jeff admits to struggling with the title himself and even invites suggestions for improvement. Mere Disciple is unlikely to become an all time classic of every Christian library, but it is more than a worthwhile read for young adults who are willing to risk opening themselves to following Jesus in ways that may be dangerous because they are so true.