Over the past year or so, I’ve worked through the Good and Beautiful series, by James Bryan Smith, with a friend from our church community. Last week, we finished the final book in the series, The Good and Beautiful Community. The first two books are The Good and Beautiful God and The Good and Beautiful Life. The first book in the series is still my favorite, but this final book was better than the second.
If you aren’t familiar, each book in the series is a combination between a chapter of content, followed by a few pages of a practice related to the content. It is designed to best be used in a group setting to discuss the learnings from both the content and the practice. I felt like the practices were more focused in the first book as exercises that could be completed each week, while they were less defined as the series went on. I suppose you could argue that as one goes through the series, the practices should move more from specific exercises to a general rhythm of life, and perhaps that’s what the series are trying to do.
The focus of the this third book is to understand and practice what it means to be connected within a Christian community. While much of the content might be considered introductory, it is also helpful for someone who’s long been in Christian community to evaluate where they are at.
The book, and the series, finish strong, as Smith asks the read to write a rule of life. It is a handing of the baton as the series finishes, asking the reader to take on responsibility for their continued spiritual formation. All of the practices from the series are listed, and the reader is encouraged to craft a rhythm of exercises to help them continue to be formed into who God intended them to be. I like this finish, because rather than moving on to another book or series, we are now committed to engaging with the rule of life that we wrote and coming together each week to talk about how that is going.
(There is some irony that a book on community ends with each person developing their own individual rule of life. That’s more of an indictment on our cultural perspectives than on the book itself, but I imagine it would lead to a powerful finish for a group that has worked through this series to at least craft a partial rule of life together.)
We have liked this series enough that we will use it more in our church community, and my wife has started leading a group of ladies through it as well.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”