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THE opening chapters of this book encouraged me to think it might serve newer members of an established congregation well, but the tenor of text that followed revealed it as one best used in the “pioneer” ministry setting that inspired the author.
The distinction is a fine one, because there is much to commend its accessibility of style and choice of biblical passages for reflection, but the chattiness and anecdotal stories used in the later chapters of the book took the edge off my enthusiasm. Not least because football is not my thing.
Others must decide whether the title Holy Habits fits the target market well, but Andrew Roberts’s hope of encouraging discipleship is commendable. The first part of the book, on the nature of what discipleship entails, surveys the Gospel accounts of calling, describes the transformational aim of discipleship, and takes a long view of the suffering and sacrifices that might have to be made along the way.
The second part focuses on different habits that need to be cultivated, covering ten distinctly Christian practices: biblical teaching; fellowship; breaking of bread; prayer; giving; service; eating together; gladness and generosity; worship; and the making of more disciples.
The author’s Methodist background and experience of Charismatic renewal colours the flavour of the text; sacraments are treated more lightly than salvation, and mystery gives way to a very grounded description of what good discipleship involves. Repetition irritated me when I read the book straight through, but it has the merit of making each chapter stand alone as a manageable “one off” study topic for those who aren’t able to find the time to read the whole thing.
Since context dictates what will work, and where, it is worth adding that Andrew Roberts writes for the ordinary man or woman in the street, using very few long words that will befuddle. I trust that the twice-repeated “imminence” of God, can be put down to a copy-editor’s oversight. The suggestions for further action and reflection at the end of each chapter redeem the spelling mistake. As a Fresh Expression of the habits that Christians need to nurture, this book, as Lucy Moore of Messy Church advises, is very do-able.
The Revd Penny Seabrook is Associate Vicar of All Saints’, Fulham, in west London