A pastor summarizes a new book published by The Foundry Publishing that will give readers a deeper glimpse of who Jesus is.
The book Following Jesus: Prophet, Priest, King, is a compilation of twelve reflections addressing various aspects of following Jesus in the contemporary world. The twelve chapters contained in Following Jesus, each written by a different author, were compiled and edited by Timothy R. Gaines and Kara Lyons-Pardue. Dr. Gaines currently serves as university pastor at Trevecca Community Church and associate professor of religion at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Lyons-Pardue currently serves as associate professor of New Testament at Point Loma Nazarene University. Additional contributors to the volume include Dick O. Eugenio, Timothy Green, Timothy L. P. Hahn, Ryan L. Hansen, Diane Leclerc, Stephanie Smith Matthews, Gift Mtukwa, Amy Peeler, Mary K. Schmitt, and David Young.
Accessible to a broad audience but perhaps of greatest interest to church leaders, Following Jesus explores Christlike discipleship within the framework of what the ancient Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea referred to as Christ’s “threefold office” as prophet, priest, and king. These three roles of Jesus serve as a kind of thematic grid that provides structure to the book and unity to its twelve individual essays, each of which could stand on its own. The overarching theme of the book is summarized by Lyons-Pardue in the introduction: “This book . . . seeks to investigate who Jesus is in each role and what implications for us these parts of Jesus’ identity have for following Him” (13).
The only chapter of Following Jesus standing outside of its three major sections is the opening chapter by Gaines, in which he makes the case that following Jesus is a matter of taking a particular path. By this, Gaines explains that “when we are talking about Jesus, we are talking about a real-life, human person who offers His followers a very particular way to follow. In other words, His in-the-flesh existence resists our efforts to make Him into something He is not because, as a particular person, He did and said certain things, and those things must inform the way we follow Him” (21-22).
Gaines’s reflection on the “particularity” of Christian discipleship thus serves as a fitting introduction to the eleven chapters that follow, each of which highlights a different aspect of following the particular path of Jesus within His prophetic, priestly, and kingly roles.
The first section, “Prophet,” includes contributions from Green, Smith Matthews, and Lyons-Pardue. In this section, the writers give attention to the role of Jesus as prophet and its implications for following Jesus with prophetic imagination and for welcoming women. The second section addresses the role of Jesus as “Priest,” with chapters by Peeler, Leclerc, Eugenio, and Mtukwa, exploring the priestly role of Jesus as revealed in His crucifixion, His ministry of reconciliation, and His life of holiness. The final section, “King,” highlights Jesus’ kingly role. Essays from Young, Schmitt, Hahn, and Hansen address the kingdom of God, politics, and praise and worship.
Everyone invested in the mission of the Church of the Nazarene to make Christlike disciples in the nations would do well to read this book and reflect on its many messages.
The contributors to Following Jesus have rendered a great service to the church by pointing us back to the particular Nazarene revealed in the New Testament and challenging us to take our discipleship cues from Him. The real value of the book is found in this Jesus-centered focus, coupled with the fresh insights for discipleship generated by reflecting on each topic through the lens of Jesus’ threefold roles.
Gaines, Lyons-Pardue, and their team of writers have by no means exhausted every possible theme that could fall within this rubric, but the themes they have touched on should prove to be good conversation starters for small groups and Sunday school classes, and they certainly carry the potential to inspire further reflections on additional aspects of Christian discipleship. For pastors like me, the clear tripartite structure of the book and the scriptural insights of the authors in each section lend itself nicely to the possibility of a future series of sermons organized around the three roles.
Following Jesus is an effective and useful resource that offers both familiar and new ways to understand the holy mission handed down to us. The benefits will accrue mostly because Following Jesus will gently force readers once more to think about discipleship in light of Jesus Himself—our fiery prophet, our great high priest, and our one true king.
Ryan Giffin is lead pastor at Village Community Church in Kansas City, Kansas, USA.
Following Jesus: Prophet, Priest, and King is available to order through The Foundry Publishing online or by phone at 800.877.0700.
Holiness Today, Jan/Feb 2019