John K. Goodrich and Mark L. Strauss, eds. Following Jesus Christ: The New Testament Message of Discipleship for Today. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2019. 392 pages. $24.99 (paperback).
The word “discipleship” has become a casualty of war—not a war of missiles and airstrikes in remote lands, but of ideas and societal shifts in Western culture. Although the world is constantly changing, the church should not let the vocabulary of “discipleship” change with it. Rather, Christians need to reclaim, recalibrate, and remind themselves of the true meaning of discipleship and its implications for daily living (p. 4). This is the main argument of editors John K. Goodrich, Program Head and Professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute, and Mark L. Strauss, Professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary, in their co-edited volume Following Jesus Christ. Compiled and published in honor of Michael J. Wilkins (Distinguished Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Talbot School of Theology), the book builds on Wilkins’s definition of discipleship as “living a fully human life in this world in union with Jesus Christ and growing in conformity to his image” (p. 5). Using this definition as its starting point, the rest of the book examines the New Testament’s teaching on discipleship and its relevance for the Christian life today.
The work is organized into two parts. Part one examines the theme of discipleship using a book-by-book approach through the New Testament. This section consists of seventeen exegetical essays written by scholars who each specialize in the particular book they cover. Part two consists of three chapters addressing the convergence of discipleship with other areas of theological and pastoral reflection.
The book-by-book methodology in part 1 is a commendable feature. It is enlightening to view discipleship through the different lenses of the NT authors. For example, Mark teaches us about discipleship through his portrayal of the many failures of Jesus’s followers, while John uses his narrative’s rhetorical strategy and key themes to guide the reader through the process of discipleship. While the book-by-book approach is one of the volume’s many strengths, it is also a weakness at times since not every book in the NT canon devotes the same amount of material to the topic of discipleship. Thus, certain essays on books where discipleship is more peripheral were less helpful than essays on books in which discipleship is more prominent. However, the contributors do a fine job of pointing out a book’s direct or indirect links to the theme of discipleship (e.g. David Briones’s essay on 1–2 Thessalonians).
In terms of its intended audience, the book targets students, pastors, and scholars of the next generation. Goodrich and Strauss aspire to place their book in the stream of Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and Michael J. Wilkins’s Following the Master. Their volume both succeeds in providing the current generation with a useful study on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in the twenty-first century and shows what a privilege it is for us to take up our cross and follow our Master to Calvary’s hill.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. The present book notice was written by Quinn Mosier, an M.Div. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.