Review: Abide by Jared Wilson


Thanks to Lifeway and Jared Wilson for the opportunity to review the Threads by Lifeway study Abide: Practicing Kingdom Rhythms in a Consumer Culture. I've seen a couple of Threads products and it's a sharp-looking line of materials for young adults and college students. It seems like a nice step-up for Lifeway products. Here's a video teaser for Abide that I think is well-done...

Abide from Threads on Vimeo.

There's no shortage of books on spiritual disciplines as a whole or certain disciplines on their own. I have dozens of them. What I love, just love, about Abide is that it uses the word/idea of "rhythms." Disciplines seem like work to me. Rhythms feel like life. There's just something freeing, at least to me, about that simple shift. If want to live Kingdom life, I don't want to live Kingdom discipline. 

Maybe that's just a generational thing. To be "disciplined" seems honorable and even heroic. But maybe that's the problem. Maybe when I try to be more involved in disciplines I want to be seen as spiritually honorable. Sounds like the Pharisees, who prayed and fasted to be seen by others and not God. I long to be seen by God, and to have rhythms in my life that develop a knowledge and relationship with Him. 

There is no biblical language that has been more helpful in this longing for me than the language of abiding in Christ (John 15). My pastor in Denver used to talk from the pulpit about how in his early ministry he was working in his own energy and crashed hard physically and ended up in the hospital. The passage that saved him was John 15, and learning that if we don't abide in Christ we can do nothing. That story stuck with me, and 6+ years into my first pastorate I've myself in numerous struggles both personally and ministerially. Along comes an opportunity to review Abide. I needed it. I hope some who read this review will realize they need it too.

Abide is 5 studies: feeling Scripture, intentional prayer, purposeful fasting, joyful service and genuine community. The format is new to me. It reads much like a book. Often in "Bible study" books you get leading questions, a lot of going to read Scripture, and a lot of questions to answer. Wilson gives us a lot of content with helpful questions occasionally breaking it up. I like the content-focused approach better than most studies I've seen. Especially for younger folks who could use a bit more pastor-leadership.

I really like the questions in the chapters. They are truly thought-provoking and require creative thinking that is both personal and theological. No one is phoning-in the questions. They are well constructed. For example...

Take some time to write out what some beatitudes of suburbia might sound like. What or who is considered blessed in a consumerist culture? p17

Jared uses plenty of humor along the way that fits right in with the crowd he is writing to. I think the format and approach will work well with the intended crowd.

I don't if I've seen it before, but the illustration of how being filled with the spirit is like sailing was just great. Rhythms hoist sails to catch the blowing of the Ghost. Without sails up, the wind won't take us far. This picture colors Wilson's approach to every rhythm.

Abide is Gospel-centered. If you have young adults around, this is a solid resource that doesn't just say to do things to please God. Wilson draws from many sources including some new, solid ones (like Skye Jethani, John Piper) and very old, good ones (like Bonhoeffer, Calvin).

My only criticism is I occasionally felt chapters were meandering. I like when things are point-point-point, and in a logical and obvious flow. I'm not saying Wilson was illogical or had no flow to his arguments. Not at all. But for me it seemed more woven together than systematically argued. I think some of the style elements may have distracted from the flow too. So maybe it's just my age showing. It is, after all, written for someone about 1/2 my age. (Wow, just realized that I'm old.) I say all that to say that this really isn't much of a criticism. Just an observation. And it's meant for further discussion among friends and not just individual consumption, which is what I did.

The Leader's Guide kit has a number of helpful materials including articles for preparation, questions, etc through an enhanced CD. Articles and audio devotions are emailable to the group, video shorts are provided to spark discussion. I have yet to encounter a study with so much material! It's well done. There are even songs to coincide with the study. Everything is very user friendly and they make it clear what to do and when. I printed out some stuff just to see how it looks and it looked beautiful with color and artwork. As with any leader material for any study, you will likely find some stuff more helpful than others and be able to tweak the study as you find it helpful. 

I've found Abide helpful to the point I've built my current sermon series around some of the ideas, points and illustrations. Last Sunday was on Scripture and the Abide chapter was quite useful during prep. I highly recommend this study for the young adults it's intended for. I think it will also be helpful for any adult who needs solid teaching on kingdom rhythms. I'm considering going through it with my daughter (13) next. It might still be a little beyond her, but I think she'll dig it. I think you will too.