Every church needs to be able to articulate their understanding of discipleship and to help people diagnose where they are in their journey. A church needs to be able to articulate a process for helping people grow in faith once they have come to faith in Jesus. And they need to be able to help people see where they are in this process.

But how many churches have a visible process like this or a way to help people figure out what the next steps are for them in their faith journey?

Craig Springer’s How to Follow Jesus: A Practical Guide for Growing Your Faith is a helpful contribution that has the potential to help individual people and local churches think more strategically about following Jesus. Springer is currently the executive director of Alpha USA.

How to Follow Jesus contains straightforward advice on how to take steps in your faith. “Your Greatest Skill,” the chapter on prayer, discusses common mistakes related to prayer, like praying aimlessly. Springer then gives a simple guide to daily prayer, which he refers to by the acronym CHAT: Confess, Honor, Ask, and Thank.

He also acknowledges the challenges and struggles that people sometimes experience in prayer. But he still encourages the reader to press in:

Let’s never forget, at its core, our faith is a love relationship which grows in communication and shrinks when we hold back. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is keep showing up. Keep trying. If you allow anything to pull you away from communication with the God who loves you, you are letting that thing define and dismantle you. Make prayer your priority, even when it’s hard. Devote energy and time and courage into an intentional pattern of daily prayer. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you…” (James 4:8 NLT). [50]

This book has a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit. In fact, the book starts with the Spirit. Chapter 1, “Your Greatest Help,” is about the Holy Spirit. Springer identifies five promises the Spirit provides to help us follow Jesus: presence, peace, power, protection, and perseverance.

I was pleasantly surprised by how strong of an emphasis there was on forgiveness and confession of sin in the book, with full chapters being devoted to each. Springer does a good job of illustrating why both of these are essential to the Christian life with compelling personal stories.

How to Follow Jesus also has a strong emphasis on the role of community in the Christian life. Springer discusses our need for places where we take our masks off and go deeper with other Christians. He shares three questions his small group asks each other every time they meet:
1. How are you doing, really?
2. Where are you at with God?
3. What are you working on in your life right now?

Springer also works to help Jesus followers to have a strong commitment to a local church. He prepares the reader that no church is perfect and encourages them to stay committed to a particular church for the long haul.

I wish the book had a stronger emphasis on sacraments. I don’t remember a discussion of baptism or the Lord’s Supper in the book, which is a significant omission. I can understand not including a lengthy discussion of baptism in a book that is about daily rhythms and habits of following Jesus. I am guessing that communion was not featured because of the fairly wide variety of approaches to the sacrament in American Christianity. I think the book would have been stronger if it had included a chapter on the Lord’s Supper.

There was also a speed bump for me in the first pages of the book. In describing the purpose of the book and what he hoped to offer the reader, Springer wrote:

I promise not to spend your time on lofty philosophies, which are better at collecting dust on the shelf than actually affecting your life. My goal isn’t to fill your head with detailed Christian knowledge or even my own personal rambling. This book is my attempt to give you what I had hoped to receive: distilled, relevant, practical, life-tested advice on how to follow Jesus. [19]

The book succeeds admirably in delivering on the aims in the final sentence. However, as a seminary professor, the first part of this quote struck me as unhelpfully anti-intellectual. I would love to have a chance to sit down over a cup of coffee and ask Craig what he meant by that particular statement and to discuss my appreciation of the book in general.

The church needs to help people learn how to follow Jesus. This book is a helpful contribution that will help you think through your own faith. And if you are a church leader, it may help you think through a model for discipleship in your church.

Kevin M. Watson is Assistant Professor of Wesleyan & Methodist Studies at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. Affiliate links used in this post.