Disciple Formation and *Raw Spirituality* by Tom Smith (a Book Review)

Raw Spirituality is written by Tom Smith, a South African minister whose heart has been formed to truly care about discipleship in the Christian community. He’s seen “discipleship” used as a sales pitch and drives us away from that in his book. He’s given us a good story on discipleship here and the end-of-chapter questions set us into a conversation with the author.

The book is approachable; it’s a quick, enjoyable read. But, it also has wisdom that makes you put the book down for a second. The wisdom is often a well-placed quote, like Kierkegaard’s quote on pg. 29 (“…It is not a question of interpretation but of action.”). Sometimes it’s an original word from Tom that makes you pause.

I caught myself often thinking about my disciple-making context through Tom’s words. For example, I paused to think about helping people draw healthier mental images of God (an idea from chapter two), and to think about helping people see their entire lives as an incarnation of eternal life in Jesus’ likeness (inspired by chapter six). Each chapter lent itself to inner dialog. Hearing stories and ideas like Tom’s is going to make a difference where I’m at.

Raw Spirituality is a composition of postures, practices and mindsets that lead to health in the way of Jesus. Tom has written chapters that build on one another and each chapter has an image to remember the practice by. In reality, the book is similar to a monastic “rule of life,” in that it writes out (for his context) what a community is called by God to do and how they intend to do it. While Benedict’s Rule isn’t hard to understand, Tom’s book, by comparison, helps you see that a “rule of life” is a helpful tool for a Christian community, and not only helpful, a real gift that clarifies what people hope for.

Tom’s “rhythm of life,” looks like this:

  1. #1. “What is your picture of God?”
  2. Plug In. Plugging in to life with God — place, time, etc.
  3. Bread and Wine. “Who are your companions that you journey with?”
  4. Puzzle Piece. “How have you been able to contribute your piece of the puzzle to beautify the world?”
  5. Shoes. “What opportunities has God given you to be in other people’s shoes?”
  6. Downward Steps (Downward Mobility). “How have you served with the privileges and resources that you have?”
  7. A Clock. “Where have you seen God at work in your job, ministry, and life?”

The most formative part of the book for me was from page 87. Tom there wrote about his community’s journey through “church detox.” His list of “antioxidants” is a list many I know would resonate with. I’ve written the list down as inspiration. He wrote,

  • follow Jesus and not the pastor
  • seek the kingdom of God above all else
  • exercise daily disciplines to become more like Jesus
  • as a family member share my life with others
  • get to know the text and live into it
  • realize that I am a missionary and have a full-time calling
  • respect the wider church over geography and time
  • confess our brokenness and journey toward wholeness
  • give sacrificially, especially money and time
  • reach out to the poor [make a life with the poor]

Tom Smith has written a great book that will spark great conversation on intentional disciple formation. I am inspired and I suspect many more will be too.

2 thoughts on “Disciple Formation and *Raw Spirituality* by Tom Smith (a Book Review)”

    1. Thanks again for the thought-provoking book, Tom. I’m really thinking how to re-engage the idea of a “rule of life” in my context (Lutheran). I tried it before, but the phrase, “rule,” brought a lot of resistance. Your book is helping me think through re-engagement.

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