This year I’ve become a huge fan of the work of James Bryan Smith. If you follow this blog, you’ll recall that I’ve already posted two reviews on Smith’s work from his previous two volumes. The Good and Beautiful series has been refreshing and has provided a needed boost to those who are either committed to mentoring believers or who just want to follow Christ more deeply.
The third book in the series is titled, The Good and Beautiful Community. Thankfully, Smith’s book on community is not another anemic “how to” on small group ministry. There are no strategies or processes about group life, so if you’re looking for that kind of help you’re going to need to keep on looking.
In this book, Smith deals with community as the relational value that believers find in their common membership of the Body of Christ. He has subtitled this book with the following description: following the Spirit, extending grace, and (sic) demonstrating love. In a nutshell, that’s his purpose for writing.
The author doesn’t deal with every single dimension of community. That indeed would have been a massive undertaking. But he does hit some important highlights, especially in the area of loving those who are difficult to love and how reconciliation works in broken relationships. His chapter on forgiveness is among the best you’ll read anywhere, as he describes a thoughtful, biblical approach to this very sensitive topic.
The other chapter that I felt was extraordinary contained his thoughtful insights on generosity. It can be a challenge to find someone who will tackle the subject of stewardship at face value, simply because many who write on this truth have an agenda in mind, namely the weekly collection. Smith is particularly strong in his appeal that believers develop a theology of “enough,” advocating simplicity which runs counter culture to our modern societies insatiable thirst for the “American dream.”
The book has many other valuable resources for the reader, but I’ll leave those for you to discover should you feel compelled to purchase a copy for personal study. Like his first two books, The Good and Beautiful Community is user friendly, formatted with the same suggested soul training exercises which makes this a valuable resource. I strongly recommend this book. If you haven’t invested in the series, your best bet is to begin with volume one and work forward. However, each book can stand alone on its own merit.