Bonhoeffer on Discipleship…

I had dinner with our pastor tonight (both of our wives are out of town), and while discussing his D.Min work on men’s ministry in the local church we inevitably came to the topic of discipleship. “Why are men so remarkably absent in the contemporary church?” “How can we engage men and get them to dig deep into the faith?” “What can we do to develop godly men, fathers, and husbands?” These were the sorts of questions we discussed…and tried to resolve.

There has been a recent flood of men’s discipleship materials on the market in the past few years, begun (as far as I can tell) by John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart. When this book came out, my uncle gave me a copy and I began reading it, eagerly hoping it would be a valuable tool to prompt men to jettison the unfortunately predominant, Evangelical model ‘man’ who is woefully effeminate and talks so glibly about ‘being in love with Jesus’ that it makes me feel a little…well…gay. Unfortunately, Wild at Heart did little more than tell men to go ahead and act like manly men while discreetly teaching the heresy of open theism. Of course the book was a bestseller (horrible theology often sells very well), but that’s another rant altogether.

Anyway, during our discussion of discipleship, I suggested Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship,Bonhoeffer which is a wonderful work I had the privilege of reading in Dr. Seifrid’s New Testament theology class. Bonhoeffer lived and wrote in Germany during the time of the Third Reich (read more here). The premise of his book is essentially that the ‘cheap grace’ so prevalent in the German Lutheran church of the day wasn’t really grace at all but a self-delusion. Unfortunately, his words speak volumes to American Evangelicalism today and present a sobering opening to his little book on discipleship. After our evening together, I pulled Bonhoeffer off the shelf and began flipping the pages…soon I couldn’t put it down and had to keep reading, convicted by the realization of that I have been made numb by cheap grace in my walk with Christ.

So I am going to read and study Bonhoeffer again cover to cover, mulling his words and musing his points…and I’m going to write about it as I go. This book should be on every Christian’s shelf, Lutheran or otherwise, and should be read and re-read often. He will bring us to tears and to our knees, but most of all he will bring us to the cross of Christ Jesus and to true, costly grace.

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One thought on “Bonhoeffer on Discipleship…

  1. You’re right about Bonhoeffer belonging on every Christian’s shelf. I read him while in seminary, but it was in the parish a few years later, reading him on “baptism,” that really blessed my life and fueled my growing for years. In fact, he’s part of my inspiration for my recent book, WATER FOR YOUR SOUL: Living in Baptism Every Day. “Cheap grace” likes to stay around, but only “costly grace” really matters.

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