Two-tier Christianity? | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

Two-tier Christianity?

BOOKS | Discipleship guide dabbles in pre-Reformation errors

John Mark Comer Handout

Two-tier Christianity?
You have {{ remainingArticles }} free {{ counterWords }} remaining. You've read all of your free articles.

Full access isn’t far.

We can’t release more of our sound journalism without a subscription, but we can make it easy for you to come aboard.

Get started for as low as $3.99 per month.

Current WORLD subscribers can log in to access content. Just go to "SIGN IN" at the top right.


Already a member? Sign in.

John Mark Comer believes confusion has crept into the Church. His evidence: We often hear people use “disciple” as a verb, but “disciple” is a noun. It’s something you are, not something you do.

Comer has written multiple books on practical theology, and much of his recent work warns Christians to guard against busyness and looks to ancient wisdom as a guide for faith. His new book, Practicing the Way (WaterBrook 2024), takes these same themes and applies them to this question of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. But the answer he gives is flawed.

Since “disciple” has become such a familiar word in churches, Comer prefers to use “apprentice,” emphasizing that believers are students and Jesus is our teacher. The goal of an apprentice is threefold: Be with Jesus, become like Him, and do as He did.

Being with Jesus includes the Bible reading and prayer that evangelicals typically think of as “quiet time,” but Comer desires more for his readers. He recommends meditating on Jesus, feeling His presence. He wants Christians to stare into the face of God and bask in His light, knowing that God is ­staring back.

Becoming like Jesus involves what’s typically thought of as spiritual formation, which Comer defines as “the process of being formed into people of love in Christ.” Spiritual formation doesn’t just happen to a person. Comer says more willpower and Bible study don’t lead to a changed life characterized by love, and people are resistant to spiritual formation because our sinful hearts have already been conformed to this sinful world. Comer claims that teaching coupled with intentional practice in the context of community leads to change.

When it comes to doing as Jesus did, Comer reminds Christians of their commission to make disciples. He says we need to “make space for the gospel” in our lives, by which he means showing hospitality to those who need the gospel. Finding the time for hospitality often requires shedding other commitments, but once we’ve made space for others in our schedule we have the opportunity to preach and demonstrate the gospel to them.

Much of the advice Comer offers is helpful, but Practicing the Way is an eclectic book, blending typical evangelical Protestantism with elements from the charismatic movement and Roman Catholicism.

An eclectic book, blending typical evangelical Protestantism with elements from the charismatic movement and Roman Catholicism.

In the last section of the book, Comer looks to the medieval church for inspiration, arguing that Christians ought to follow a “rule of life” that mimics the rule that governs a monastery. Here Comer misses the point of a monastic rule: Practitioners don’t create the guidelines themselves, whereas Comer tells his readers to be flexible and make up their own rule of life. He offers suggestions like fasting, seeking solitude, and practicing sabbath, but ultimately it’s up to the reader to decide what works for them.

Similarly, his discussion of the importance of being in the presence of God goes astray when he relies on the experiences of Christian mystics who were part of the 16th-century Counter-Reformation in which Catholicism attempted to regain ground from the newly formed Protestant churches. He talks about mysticism as if it is central to Christianity, but mysticism isn’t ­distinctly Christian, showing up in various religious traditions, and throughout the history of the Church it has remained on the periphery, ­having more critics than advocates.

Comer ends up implicitly creating a two-tier Christianity in which super-­spiritual “apprentices” of Jesus climb to a more exalted state through practicing spiritual disciplines and the rest of the Church is merely saved. The book ­contains some worthwhile suggestions, but readers should guard against any temptation to return to this spiritual dichotomy that the Protestant Reformation rejected.

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



Please wait while we load the latest comments...