In With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, Skye Jethani draws upon his experience, his gift of discernment, and his Christ-like heart for the Good Shepherd’s sheep, to deliver a diagnosis of the unhealthy faith of much of contemporary Christianity. This unhealthy faith is revealed by the four most prevalent postures of relating to God (life under God, life over God, life from God, and life for God), each of which is “an attempt to control the world in order to alleviate our fears” (118). Each of these postures distracts Christians from experiencing life with God, which Jethani contends is the posture of relating to God which is both at the heart of the gospel, and apparent in the opening and closing scenes of Scripture. It is precisely this life with God which Jethani prescribes as the remedy for unhealthy faith. Life with God comes about as a result of treasuring God as God is revealed in Jesus, being united with God through Jesus’s self-sacrificial offering of his life on the cross, and experiencing life with God now. Such life with God is characterized by faith, hope, and love—sure signs of good health.
Much like his authorial debut, The Divine Commodity, With is a gripping read. Jethani’s ability to bring together personal anecdotes, historical accounts, pop-culture references, and significant theological and spiritual formation literature in a manner that is highly readable and engaging is outstanding. By regularly reiterating along the way key ideas from earlier in the book, Jethani ensures that most readers will have a fairly clear and enduring grasp of the heart of his argument. Even more important than the book’s readability is the authenticity and transparency with which Jethani writes. The criticism of the four dominant postures of relating to God, for instance, are preceded by an admission that both in his own spiritual life and in his congregational ministry, Jethani operated out of each of the four postures. Nestled within the larger argument are several discussions of significance, including the difference between communicating with God and communing with God, the reality that “effectiveness” is not always God’s top priority, and the way in which discovering and entering into life with God can infuse every aspect of life with meaning that none of the other four postures of relating to God can provide. The inclusion of two appendixes, one with practical suggestions for communing with God and another with group discussion questions, makes this book a valuable resource for small group reflection.
If followers of Jesus will heed Jethani’s diagnosis and take seriously his prescription, I’m convinced the spiritual health of much of Christianity will drastically improve. My only disappointment is that, while he admitted the four primary postures of relating to God had characterized his congregational ministry, the vast majority of the book focused on the spiritual postures as embodied by individuals. While it is possible that ministers will read With and recognize, like Jethani did, the ways in which they must shift the emphasis in their preaching, teaching, and interactions to life with God, such a shift could occur and still not result in a shift within the institutional structures and priorities of a congregation as a whole. If, for instance, the programs of a church are leading participants toward a life under God or a life for God approach, then the shifted emphasis in the minister’s thinking and speaking will be but one among a mixed set of messages. Perhaps someone, inspired by With, will consider and explore what it might look like not just for an individual, but for a church as a whole to eschew life under, over, from, and for God in favor of life with God.
Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through http://booksneeze.com. I was not required to write a positive review.