Reviewed by: Richard N. Ellis
Date posted: 12/12/2010
The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus, by Steve Smallman. Published by P&R, 2009. Paperback, 160 pages, list price $12.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Richard N. Ellis.
Steve Smallman provides a tool to assist believers in discipling others into a lifetime of following Christ. He does not assume that young disciples will have extensive knowledge of the Bible or its gospel, which makes this handbook useful for the initiated and the uninitiated.
The opening section of the book defines a disciple: one who has heard the call of Jesus and has responded by repenting, believing the gospel, and following Jesus. The disciple nourishes his faith by reading Scripture and being part of a gospel-preaching church. Smallman orients the disciple by outlining Scripture's movement from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Consummation and introducing such grand themes as covenant, sacrifice, and presence. One might wish for more detail in this chapter, but the skilled discipler can fill in the details.
The heart of the book challenges disciples to "discipleship through the gospel." While we are clear on getting started "by grace," the tilt of our hearts is to walk "by works." The Walk is an excellent primer on effectual calling, justification by faith, adoption, and sanctification (also by faith). The chapter on sanctification includes a helpful table comparing and contrasting justification and sanctification. Keeping the gospel the main thing is humbling, slowly withering our self-reliance and self-righteousness.
Helpful features of the book include:
• A bullet summary at the end of each chapter, along with assignments to read substantial chunks of the Bible, to memorize portions, and to record your journey in a journal.
• "Panels" highlighting the contributions of church leaders: C. S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Chuck Colson, Johan Kule (a Ugandan physician), and Jack Miller.
• Appendices listing reading guides to the gospels, other discipleship resources (more could be included), and suggestions for strengthening mutual ministry in the church.
More than once, Smallman refers favorably to what Jack Miller taught him: the gospel isn't just what saves you; it's how you live the Christian life. While one may object to elements of Jack Miller's teaching, it would be difficult to argue with his emphasis on keeping the gospel the main thing. Rejoice, you're worse than you think! Rejoice, you're loved more than you ever dared hope!
Smallman suggests that the book would be best used by three or four meeting together as long as it takes to complete it. And then start over with others. If your disciple does his homework, he will have read Mark (and chunks of the other gospels), Acts, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians. He will have scoured the Shorter Catechism and been encouraged to live a life of love, rooted in the gospel and fleshed out by obedience to the Ten Commandments. As disciplers, we are patiently and lovingly saying, "Come, follow me as I follow Jesus." So discipleship takes time.
Pastors and church leaders: pray that God would provide inquirers, new believers, or older ones who have lost the joy of their first love. And walk with them through this book.