Our church recently completed a sermon series on the book of Ephesians, and one of the repeated bylines for this series was the phrase:
“Bringing our behaviour in line with our beliefs”.
And in a nutshell, that is precisely what Roger Helland’s newest book, The Devout Life, is all about — the eager desire to have a rich, full-life engagement with our faith that informs, encourages, invigorates, and challenges us in every area.
The subtitle of the book, reflected in the cover artwork, is “Plunging the Depths of Spiritual Renewal”, which aptly describes the attitude that Helland wants his readers to cultivate as they dive deep into their faith. This is a not a treatise on apologetics (defending orthodoxy) — it is a rallying call to a living, vibrant orthodoxy. It is an invitation to “go deep”.
Today, as many Christians wrestle with whether to defend the term ‘evangelical’, or write ‘Ichabod’ (the glory has departed) over its doors and abandon it, A Devout Life calls us to recapture the spiritual vibrancy that was at the heart of early evangelicalism. To that end, Helland has done a great deal of research into the Pietist movements, to (re)discover the spiritual practices that shaped their devotion to follow Jesus.
Chapter by chapter, Helland explores these spiritual practices/disciplines — each reader will no doubt find their own favorite — and each chapter concludes with thought-provoking questions for either group study or personal “how how will I incorporate this into my life” application. Some of the topics include: Continuous Christian Conversion, Transformational Use of Scripture, and A Peaceful Spirit, among others.
(I can’t pick a favorite chapter, honestly. I found so much in this book to be exciting and challenging, and you can’t really rip one chapter out of context and say, “Here, just read this one”.)
If I were a church-planter, this is one of the books I would work through with my planting team — right at the beginning.
If I were leading a church that felt a need to (re)discover the life-giving practices that first caused them to fall in love with Jesus, I’d challenge the leaders to invest significant time in a careful, unhurried book study.
I’d do the same for a home group or a house/simple church.
And as an individual follower of Jesus, wanting to go deeper in my spiritual walk but recognizing that magic-wand, fast-food-drive-through, just-add-water approaches simply don’t work, I’d read The Devout Life.
More than once.
One of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. Highly recommended.