Lance & Megan's Blog

Practicing The Way: Be with Jesus. Become like him. Do as he did. By John Mark Comer


Formational Book Review by Lance

5/5 stars

“To follow Jesus is to become his apprentice. It’s to organize your entire life around three driving goals:

  1. Be with Jesus.
  2. Become like him.
  3. Do as he did.

Apprenticeship to Jesus—that is, following Jesus—is a whole-life process of being with Jesus for the purpose of becoming like him and carrying on his work in the world. It’s a lifelong journey in which we gradually learn to say and do the kinds of things Jesus said and did as we apprentice under him in every facet of our lives.”

“Practicing The Way” is less of a book and more of an introduction to John Mark Comer’s new program called, you guessed it, “Practicing The Way”. Though, I do have to say, it is also a really good book.  In general, I am a pretty big fan of Comer’s books and framework around the Christian life. I am drawn to the contemplative nature of the way he encourages us to practice our apprenticeship to Jesus.  In the world today, we have so many people, things and causes drawing our affection and dedication. There are so many distractions it is hard to know how to move forward with a sincere Christlike lifestyle. In this book John Mark introduces us to a way or “rule of life” for this day and age to be a disciple of Christ by being with Jesus, becoming like him and doing as He did.

Reading as a Disciple:

“The question is not, Am I becoming a person? It’s, Who or what am I becoming?”

“Christlikeness is possible, but it’s not natural. In fact, the gravity and inertia of life will likely take you in the opposite direction. “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” as Jesus said.  Put another way, there are no accidental saints.”

I know I am a child of God.  But sometimes I do not look or act like a Christian. I often think that just reading the Bible, going to church or being a missionary somehow forms me into a person that exudes Jesus in any situation… Sadly, this just not the case. I love that Comer frames this all with a question. Am I a Christian, or an apprentice of Christ?  To be a Christian is to do what Christians do. To be an apprentice, however, is to abide with the Master, emulate what I observe Him do and obey what the He asks me to do. 

Comer argues that we all “make our home (abide) somewhere, the question is ‘where?’” I have seen myself “rooted in the infinite scroll of social media” and from it have been “angry, anxious, arrogant, simplistic, and distracted.” My willpower seems to have no power to actually do much against this very real force of “abiding” in things other than Christ. So, if I cannot, from my own willpower, combat this current barrage of other things that ask for my undivided loyalty and sacrifice, how do I live a life of a disciple in this current age? How do I stay an apprentice while getting woken up in the middle of the night by a crying baby, or reading another devastating article about more people dying in Ukraine or navigate yet another difficult relationship in the body of Christ?

I think Comer may be on to something… Just do the things Jesus did, while being content in a relationship with God where “I look at Him, He looks at me, and we are happy.” I so want that kind of acceptance and response to God. Most of my Christian life has been doing the right things for God because I have to.  But I am hoping my perspective is shifting to wanting to be like Jesus simply because it is the most loving and fulfilling way to live. Right now though, I am taking tiny steps toward this. Discipleship is a whole lot slower than we all want.

Reading Pastorally:

“For those of us who desire to follow Jesus, here is the reality we must turn and face: If we’re not being intentionally formed by Jesus himself, then it’s highly likely we are being unintentionally formed by someone or something else.”

“If “they” (whether multinational corporations, politicians, anti-democratic government agents, marketing departments, influencers who just want more followers, etc., etc.) can make us believe that each person is a blank slate, just following the inner compass of our “authentic self” in an upward march to happiness, then they can keep us blind to all the ways we’ve been “discipled”—formed and manipulated—by their desires.”

It is hard to keep a pure heart.  It is harder to shift ourselves away from things that we “like” and “want” that are actually doing us harm. It is actually even harder to identify what is even causing us harm. I have found, just telling someone who is constantly on their phone (which I have been known to do sometimes) to put their phone down does very little to bring an “aha” moment of their dependance. However, when I have seen people take a fast from social media, or actually rest one whole 24 hour period, tensions in their mind, emotions and body emerge. This tension emphasizes our living outside of God’s design for our human life and work. That is something way more than just knowledge will accomplish. That is a practice (or discipline), in apprenticeship to Jesus, working against our unhealthy coping strategies that “deform” us.

“The life of the Christian faith is the practice of many practices.”

I think there is something to, in the light of being loved by God and learning to love him back, a framework of consistent practices. The difficulty is that it is not easy (it may be impossible) to do on our own. So the challenge, I think, is to actually do this in community. And I love Comer says that, “love is the metric of spiritual maturity, not discipline.”  This is an important part of having a “rule of life.” It is not for perfection, but for love.

Other thoughts:

Why do I love Christian formation?  This style and emphasis in Christian living has been a solid rock for me these past 6 years. I remember the first time I was challenged to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” (another book by Comer) from my life. It was then I started a very simple practice, driving the speed limit.  I was shocked to see my anxiety start to lift, my attitude to other drivers become more gracious and in general I became more peaceful… until I came back to the states and drove in the Seattle area… I increased my speed by 4 above the speed limit for my family’s safety… It was also the same time I started to have to initiate “The practice of being misunderstood.”  It is amazing how many people assumed I was just was trying to be a jerk by controlling the speed of others. I promise, I was not…  But I found that as I initiated a regular practice into my life, I was exposed to my inner life like I was not aware of before. And, in turn, I was able to love others better.

More about Practicing the Way at:

Other John Mark Comer Books:

  • Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies that Sabotage Your Peace
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Other Spiritual Formation Books:

  • Dwell: Life with God for the World- Barry D. Jones
  • The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People- John Ortberg
  • Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christhian Faith- Patrick Foster
  • The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science, and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation- Wilder and Hendricks

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