12 Reasons to Read Life Together

This is a Classic by Dietrich Bonhoeffer Well Worth Reading

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote, life together, Christian community

I recently preached on one of the core vision components of Living Word Community Church - the theme of Life Together. When our leadership team sat down this past year and developed some new ways of thinking about our vision:  Jesus Encounters, Life Together, and Beyond Sunday - I don't think anyone said, "hey, let's use the title of Bonhoeffer's great book." On the other hand, as the phrase was used, we realized it was indeed a title of a great classic.

A classic I had not read cover to cover for about twenty years. I had dipped into it and pulled a few thoughts out from time to time. Since I was preaching on the theme - Life Together, I decided the time was long overdue for a re-read. When I went to get my copy I couldn't find it anywhere. So off I go to Hearts and Minds Awesome Bookstore (well - awesome is not in the name, but it should be) and I get a clean copy of the HarperOne Imprint - Life Together.

Wow - was I ever blown away by this classic. "No wonder it is a classic," I thought by the time I had finished it. I had a list of 30 quotes, about 10 ideas for posts and several longer reflections I did for myself as I journaled. I did some brief blogging on about seven themes from Bonhoeffer. You can see them at another of my blogsites - Ad Fontes: This link is for the first one and you can find the rest very easily.

Since I am always encouraging people to read good and accessible theology, I want to Highly Commend this classic/gem to you and here is why.

1.  It is short and wise. That is a great combination since most people don't like to do lengthy reading.

2.  It has a very high view of the church. Thank-you Dietrich. In a time when "dissing and dismissing" the church is virtually a favorite pastime... and since we live in a cultural time when everyone is both customer-consumer and critic... it is easy to have a "me-centered" and pretty utilitarian view of the church. If the church fits my mood, my needs, my theology, my personality, my time slot, etc., etc., etc. - then I will attend. But for 1001 reasons, it will be real easy to criticize instead of commune in life together. Bonhoeffer shows that life together in the community of faith is always rooted in grace, union with Christ and an understanding of the sacramental and spiritual life we have been granted/gifted. Powerful Stuff.

3.  Bonhoeffer is well read in the monastic orders of the Christian faith. And what he does in Life Together is give a contemporary (in his time) Protestant version for practicing those spiritual rhythms and routines. Very illuminating.

4.  Here is a BIG ONE. Bonhoeffer and everything he says is rooted in a profound love for the Scriptures as well as deep insight into their meaning. Bonhoeffer constantly grounds what he says in the teaching of the Bible. And when he teaches on how and why we meditate on the Scripture - you know why his writing is so moving (and a classic). Bonhoeffer has spent long hours in mediatating on the rich themes of the Bible.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote, Bible, Scriptures, read and study the Bible

5.  Here is a BIGGER ONE. Jesus is at the center of everything he says. A high Christology and a relational one as well. Mystical and down to earth. Bonhoeffer understands that our life together is only because of, in, by, through and for Jesus. Christianity, spirituality, church - and everything we do centers on and is for the glory of Christ. 

6.  What he says about Solitude and Silence and Speech is profound and is said in 6 pages. No need to read a long book on it when Bonhoeffer is so very good.

7.  What I said about Solitude and Silence - ditto on what he teaches about biblical meditation (lectio divina). In a few pages the illumination is wonderful.

8.  What I said about Solitude, Silence and Biblical meditation - what he says about Intercessory Prayer is just as short and just as powerful.

9.  I know this is going to sound repetitive, but in a few pages, he reflects on the discipline of "holding our tongue." In other words - STOP TALKING SO MUCH. Listen more, reflect more, talk a LOT LESS. For all of us wordy leaders and preachers who love to over-communicate because everything we say is so vitally important - this one may be worth the price of the book (which is, by the way - $14.99).

10.  Since leadership development is a core passion and ministry - I was very moved by his strong warning against the "cult of personality" and how we are enamored by flashy personality and impressive gifts. Bonhoeffer is not. He is writing his book in a dark and dangerous time in Germany. Hitler and Nazism is on the rise. Bonhoeffer sees the cult of personality. He sees the dangers (what a mild word). His reading of the suffering servant Christ way of leadership is short and refreshing.

11.  Almost done. I do not think there is anything better on the subject of confession of sins for Protestants. This is a part of Bonhoeffer that I have read several times in recent years and use in my teaching on What's Gone Wrong? If you haven't read what Bonhoeffer says - you are not yet positioned to have a good position on this. (Just my opinion...)

12.  And finally, I think I would sum up much of the above with this language. Bonhoeffer has provided a spiritual theology or a pastoral theology or both in this short, wise book. While the language and style is a bit dated - he wrote the German version in 1938 - it is emminently readable. 

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

BrianRice@lcileaders.org