Takeaway: “Discipleship is about how we live; not just the decisions we make, not just the things we believe, but a state of being.”
I am a big fan of Rowan Williams little books. There are a lot of them. Most of them grew out of lectures and so are short (around 80-100 pages) and pack a lot of punch. There are a number of them that would make excellent small group discussion books because they could be covered in 4 to 6 sessions (what I think is an optimal length for small group discussions).
Being Disciples is a follow up to Being Christian. Being Christian focused on four practices that are central to being Christians, baptism, bible, eucharist and prayer. Being Disciples about attitudes or virtues or approaches to how we live. The chapter titles are Faith, Hope and Love, Forgiveness, Holiness, Faith in Society, and Life in the Spirit.
Williams is a real scholar and theologian and I have had some difficulty with some of his longer more academic books. But these shorter ones are are have a simple presentation without being simplistic. One of the reviewers of Being Disciples on Amazon said, “the simple presentations was made on the basis of deep understanding of theology and the human condition”.
Williams is a theologian, but a theologian that centers practice. He does not minimize theology, but suggests that how we live as Christians really matters to becoming more like Christ. The knowledge of theology is not unimportant. But we do not become like Christ through our knowledge, we become like Christ through our practice. (I read this right after finishing the Dangers of Christian Practice, so that was on my mind, but I still think that Rowan Williams is basically right here.)
Fairly early on in Being Disciples he says, ‘If you are going to be where Jesus is…you will find yourself in the same sort of human company as he is in…Our discipleship is not about choosing our company but about being where Jesus is.” He continues on to suggest that if you love God less, then you will love everyone less as well as vice versa.
Like many books that I have enjoyed lately, Being Disciples is a book of wisdom transmission. Books of wisdom transmission can be vague, and I think that is part of the inherent problems of trying to communicate something that is more art and practice than science. But Williams is fairly clear and while there are lots of good one line thoughts, this is not just a book of proverbs.
I do think that Being Disciples is not quite as good as Being Christian. But they are well paired and I think they would benefit many, especially because they are so sort.
Both are much cheaper as audiobooks than Kindle or print books for some reason. I have a discount on Audible because I am a member, so I picked them up for less than $5 each. But even the undercounted prices are cheaper on Audible than other places right now.