Because of my job, I get exposed to a lot of Bible studies. And I really mean that—a lot. And given the sheer quantity of material that is published every year, you'd think I would regularly come across new and exciting ideas. But I don't.
That's why I was excited to get my hands on Heather Zempel's first foray into published material. Because when it comes to Heather, the phrase "same old same old" does not apply. And, I'm happy to say that I wasn't disappointed when I finally made the time to sit down and see what she and Threads Media had put together. Oh, and I should mention for those of you unaware that Heather is the Discipleship Pastor at National Community Church in Washington, D.C. (She's also a regular contributor to SmallGroups.com.)
Sacred Roads: Exploring the Historic Paths of Discipleship is an exploration of how discipleship has been conducted since the time of Jesus. It's an extremely valuable history lesson for small groups and individuals alike, as well as a challenging look at how discipleship is conducted today—and how it should be conducted. In fact, it may be the most practical resource on church history that I've encountered since Mark Noll's Turning Points.
The core of this study focuses on five specific "paths of discipleship" that have been present in the church for as long as it has existed. Zempel also connects each of these paths to a section of church history where it was primarily practiced.
Here are the descriptions of those five paths of discipleship, taken directly from the Threads Media website:
- Relational: The early church; value of small groups, accountability, missional friendships. People grow in their relationship with Christ as they grow in relationship with others and are influenced by those relationships.
- Experiential: The Catholic Church through the Reformation; pilgrimage, stations of the cross, experiential worship. People grow in their relationship with Christ when they are immersed in an experience with Him that propels them in some area of their faith formation.
- Intellectual: Reformation era; inductive Bible study, academic and educational approaches to discipleship. People grow in their relationship with Christ as they develop the mind of Christ through the reading, study, meditation, and memorization of Scripture.
- Personal: 19th and 20th centuries; rise of personal devotional/quiet time, practice of spiritual disciplines. People grow in their relationship with Christ as they incorporate and practice spiritual disciplines into the context of their everyday lives.
- Incarnational: 19th and 20th centuries; missions, service, social justice, compassion ministries. People grow in their relationship with Christ as they seek to follow His model of servant leadership and become His hands and feet in sacrificial service to those around them.
The workbook is divided into six sessions—one for each of the paths listed above, and a final session on "Discipleship Next." The workbook is designed for group members to study/experience during the week before gathering for each group meeting. Each session includes a very thorough exploration of the material, including examples from church history, personal anecdotes from Zempel's experience, Scripture references, discussion questions, and challenges for application.
In addition to the workbook, the packet for Sacred Roads contains a DVD with several complementary video experiences. It also contains a data CD that holds the Leader's Guide, several audio songs, articles that go even deeper into the content, and even some audio teaching from Heather Zempel.