Book Review: The Walk
Author: Stephen Smallman
Publisher: P&R Publishing ISBN: 9781596380936
I’ve had The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus in my possession for awhile now. I’m just getting around to reading it. Written by Stephen Smallman, The Walk is a book written to those who have expressed a desire to follow Christ as his disciple. It assumes no prior understanding of what that means, nor does it assume that the person has actually come to the point of professing faith. The book is designed to be used as much as read. It will be helpful to someone who wants to read on his own, but also includes readings and projects that will make it useful as a workbook for that individual, in a mentor relationship, or for use in groups. This is the information provided by the publisher to describe the book.
I suppose all this is true, well, and good, but I wasn’t overly impressed with the book. Will it work as it has been described? I’m relatively sure it will; the information, the flow of learning, and the structure of the process is all solid material… it just seemed there was much missing for my tastes. And again, I must repeat this is crafted as a beginner book…my expectations are probably much higher even for that of a “beginner” work.
I think the steps outlined by Smallman for a discipleship path are honest steps; however, I think the perspective is rather narrow as it is presented wholly from a reformed perspective. I don’t mean to imply this is a negative critique, but the person using this book should be aware of this detail if they are not already. The Church as one body under the headship of Christ is very robust and has a very diverse and colorful history. The traditions of the Christian church are a bountiful buffet to be feasted upon by new and old believers alike. Why attend a smorgasbord with almost unlimited spiritual delights to feast upon and spend your entire appetite on a three-bean salad?
The Walk is written to be a “first steps book” for discipleship teaching. It is also written so it can be done as an individual study or a group. In this, the book excels and Stephen is to be commended. I think, though, if I were choosing a curriculum for new disciples, I would select a source that had a more well-rounded theology. I particularly like Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful by Gary A. Parrett and S. Steve Kang. Parrett and Kang’s book is much more inclusive and exhaustive with material that pushes way past first steps, but I believe the material it contains could be excerpted and used for a beginner disciple in the same way as The Walk and still have room to grow.
My assessment of The Walk = good and practical, but not great. I would choose something different for my purposes.
Publisher’s Description: The Walk is a book written to those who have expressed a desire to follow Christ as his disciple. It assumes no prior understanding of what that means, nor does it assume that the person has actually come to a point of professing faith. It uses as a starting point someone who is simply wondering, “what next?”. Stephen also addresses those who have grown up “Christian” and may be wondering how to step out in their own faith. The Walk is designed to be used as much as read. It will be helpful to someone who wants to read on their own, but also includes readings and projects that will make it useful as a workbook for that individual, in a mentor relationship, or for use in groups. The division into twelve chapters is ideal for a typical Sunday School quarter.
Published September 2009
About the Author: Stephen Smallman served for over forty years in pastoral ministry and has served as executive director of World Harvest Mission. He currently teaches for CityNet Ministries of Philadelphia