I finished writing That You May Know: A Primer on Christian Discipleship in April 2014. Or, at least, I finished doing as much as I am able to do on my own with this project. At this point, I need to hire three different services to get my book published:
- A copy editor who can make sure the text is clean for publication
- A text layout service so that the text looks great on the page
- A designer who can make the cover look fantastic. This has begun—here's a first draft of the cover design:
I have providers for these services lined up, and my budget for doing all of this is $1500, which also includes money for purchasing and shipping the rewards I'm giving to backers of this project.
But to make this book publicly available, I need your help. Essentially, I'm asking you to buy the book in advance. That will help me to get the funding to finish the project, and as soon as the book is printed, I'll send backers a copy of the book (see rewards section for details).
Plus, to show just how thankful I am for your financial support of any size, I'll be including your name on the acknowledgements page. I'm really excited about that part—I think that will be an amazing way to remember the community support for this project for as long as the book is available.
One important note about how Kickstarter Projects work, if you aren't familiar with them: I need to get enough pledges to cover all of my goal of $1500, or I won't get any of the pledges. So, if you'd even like to support this project above and beyond the cost of a single book to make sure that I reach my goal, I'd be incredibly appreciative.
Thanks in advance for whatever you can do to support this project—I genuinely can't do this without you!
That's the Kickstarter Project in a nutshell, but if you'd like to hear the larger story of how this book came to where it is today, please keep reading. The material below is actually an adapted version of the book's introduction.
Why Another Book on Discipleship?
If you do a quick search on Amazon or browse the shelves of a local Christian bookstore, you will find too many books on discipleship to read in your lifetime. So, someone asked me, why did I write another book on Christian discipleship?
What makes this book unique is that I wrote it to teach Christian discipleship through a close study of the Scriptures themselves. If you pick up a typical book about discipleship, you will usually find the author weaving together a picture of the Christian life with stories, illustrations, quotations from other writers, and a handful of texts from Scripture sprinkled in along the way.
Now, there isn't anything wrong with that approach. Good books of this type make you feel like you are having a conversation with a very wise, seasoned saint over coffee. I can point to several books just like this that have been extremely helpful to me in my own Christian journey, especially from the nonfiction books on Christianity by C. S. Lewis. I feel like I learn something new about following Jesus every time I reread his writings.
But it's really important that we balance our intake of general wisdom with a healthy diet of the special wisdom that we find directly in God's word. The Bible is our only holy, unshakable, trustworthy foundation for knowing God the Father through Jesus Christ, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul writes that God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:3), and that to know Jesus, we must let “the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). One day, we will walk and talk with God face to face, but on this side of glory, we can only know God through his word.
Studying the Bible, then, is not optional for Christians. If we want to enjoy the good portion of knowing Jesus, then we must be like Mary by intentionally carving out the space and time to sit at Jesus' feet to listen to him teach us from his word. Rather than leaving us to scavenge someone else's scraps, Jesus invites us personally to come feast at his table.
On the other end of the spectrum, the commentary books that do engage directly with Scripture are sometimes not very practical for learning discipleship. The strength of commentaries is that they describe what is going on in the text by unfolding the meaning of difficult words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs. This is extremely valuable, because good commentaries can help us avoid bad interpretations of God's word so that we are freed up to focus better on what God has actually said.
But, because the main focus of commentaries is to explain the text, it is sometimes difficult to find commentaries that prescribe helpful, clear, solid application. Commentaries are often written as reference works to answer specific questions or to illuminate meaning that we do not recognize on our own, but many commentaries aren't the kind of books that you or I would typically sit down to read for practical wisdom or guidance in our lives.
The danger from all of this is that we can start to think that studying the Bible and discovering practical wisdom for following Jesus in our daily lives are different activities. At best, separating discipleship from God's word is a foolish mistake, and at worst, it is Satan's strategy to lead us astray from God by driving a wedge between us and his word.
That's why I wrote a book to teach discipleship through studying God's word. The whole reason God spoke to us in the first place was so that we could come to know him as well as knowing “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). “All Scripture,” Paul writes, “is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Indeed, all Scripture is profitable, but about nine years ago, I began learning just how powerful one portion of Scripture in particular was for teaching the essentials of Christian discipleship.
Nine years ago, I studied 1 John in-depth for the first time.
The Story Behind the Book
I first seriously studied 1 John in the Fall of 2005, when I was part of a team in the Lincoln Berean College Group who prepared a Bible Study that all the small groups went through during the Spring of 2006. In seminary, 1 John was the first book of the Bible I studied in Greek, and then I preached through the letter twice: once at Crete Berean Church in 2011, and again at First Evangelical Covenant Church in Lincoln in 2012 and into 2013. (I ended up preaching on various passages from the Letters of John at seven churches over the years.) I have led one-to-one Bible studies with 1 John, and I even saw someone come to Christ through one of those personal studies.
In all, I have spent much of the last 9 years poring over 1 John.
Discipleship According to John
At some point while I was studying 1 John, I began to reflect on what the Apostle John tells us when he describes his purpose behind writing the Letter in 1 John 5:13: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."
What’s so interesting about this verse is that John wrote something almost identical toward the end of his book that we call the Gospel of John: "but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)
1 John is written “to you who believe in the name of the Son of God,” but the Gospel of John is written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Additionally, 1 John is written “that you may know that you have eternal life,” while the Gospel of John is written “that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The best way to understand these two books, then, is that John wrote his Gospel for the purpose of evangelism (to help people who don’t know Christ to begin to know him), but that he then wrote his Letter for the purpose of discipleship (to help people who do know Christ to know him better).
The more I reflected on this, I began to ask, “So what did John do in 1 John for the sake of training disciples?” If someone published a new book on discipleship today, most of us would have a pretty good idea of what we might find inside the book, even if we never opened it. But what would a Holy Spirit-inspired apostle of the Lord Jesus include in his book about discipleship?
As I asked those questions, I began to see that John’s Letter is both simple and wide-reaching. With deceptively easy writing (new Greek students often begin by reading 1 John because the Greek is so simple), John focuses on three main topics: our own sin, the gospel of Jesus, and how we begin to live as obedient disciples as a result of the work of the gospel in our lives. John returns again and again to these same topics throughout the entire Letter, building and developing, returning and reflecting, spiraling closer and closer toward the center of his message, which he waits to reveal until the very last verse.
But even so, John never repeats himself. He says very similar things along the way, but in each section of 1 John, the Apostle he looks at his core curriculum from a fresh angle. In this way, John covers a broad range of topics that every Christian desperately needs, from the newest convert to the eldest saint: Truth, Gospel, Growth, Perseverance, Hope, Righteousness, Discernment, Love, Faith, Prayer, and Eternal Life.
Sometimes, John teaches about deep theological issues, such as the incarnation of Jesus or the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Other times, he asks searchingly practical questions of how we are caring for the most vulnerable in our midst: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17 ESV). Everywhere, he writes warmly, with profound pastoral care and a deep passion for the glory of Jesus Christ, as well as a clear vision of the gospel:
"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2 ESV)
1 John is simple, but it is complex. The youngest Christian will find this Letter easily digestible, but John has actually provided a feast for veteran believers to return to again and again over the course of our discipleship journeys. I can tell you from my own experience that we will always find some new dish to taste that we had not yet discovered. As Gregory the Great (540-604) wrote, “Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim” (Moralia, §4). Gregory wrote this sentence in his commentary on Job, but it is usually quoted today to describe the Gospel of John—and it is absolutely true of 1 John.
A Primer on Christian Discipleship
This book is an exploration of what God teaches us about following Jesus through one of the writings of his beloved servant John. I cannot offer wildly new ideas or special insights into divine mysteries—and you should probably not trust me if I did! Instead, I can only claim that I have sought to follow the example of the many godly teachers who have gone before me by putting God’s word on center stage, so that we could all gaze upon the glory of Jesus together. It is my prayer that this book will help you to know Jesus better through his word, and not that you would pay any particular attention to the book itself.
This book is also the first in what I hope will be a series of several studies of the Scriptures, which I am calling The Primer Series. I have already begun planning future volumes for this series that, God-willing, will share this vision for seeing and loving Jesus in and through his word.
But for now, let’s open God’s word together to the First Letter of John. May God pour out his Holy Spirit upon us to give us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand all that is contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Risks and challenges
I have been working on this book in some ways for 9 years. I started writing the content three years ago, and I've been seriously formatting it into a book for the last year or so. At this point, I've got a pretty solid, ready-to-go version of the book.
The last hurdles are copy editing, finalizing the cover design, and laying out the text. I have all of these services lined up, so there shouldn't be any delays here, Lord willing, unless one of my service providers has something go wrong, or unless I feel that a part of the book needs major revisions.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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