Discipleship is an essential topic in the framework of the Christian life, and there is certainly no shortage of such resources. We might be overwhelmed by the number of philosophies and approaches offered as a seemingly straightforward command from our Lord.

Winfield Bevins, lead pastor of Church of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, seeks to cut through the morass of options relating to discipleship and present a modest, historically informed methodology of training up disciples based on the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments. As such, Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith is penned as a helpful tool dedicated to rediscovering the essential historic means of discipleship for the formation of contemporary Christians.

The layout and content of this work is uncomplicated as the author divides the book into three parts, each devoted to one of these historical components. The Apostles’ Creed receives the lion’s share in this work as more than half of the book is spent delineating its contents. After several chapters of breaking down the document, which seeks to articulate basic doctrine in a concise fashion, Bevins moves into the Ten Commandments and then the Lord’s Prayer to finish out. Each chapter contains a segment dedicated to a profile of a historic Christian figure, a “Going Deeper” section, and questions for reflection, which make the book ideal for group study. Bevins does a masterful job of going through these three essentials of the historic Christian faith and skillfully writes in such a way as to be understandable to a new Christian. As such, it serves as an excellent tool for discipleship, because it is succinct, readable, and doctrinally astute.

Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith

Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith

NavPress (2011). 140 pp.

When the doctrinal, ethical, and spiritual foundations of the faith are presented together, they offer a balanced model for the Christian life. This pocket guide summarizes these foundations by studying the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Ideal as a discipleship tool to equip new believers or as a refresher for seasoned Christians, Creed provides the essentials of the faith in an easy-to-understand format. Includes discussion questions for group discussion or personal reflection.

NavPress (2011). 140 pp.

Certainly, and I believe Bevins would also agree, there are other tools that a church can and should use as it relates to making disciples. Bevins makes his case simply by appealing to a broad swath of Christians throughout church history who have repeatedly come back to the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as a simple yet profound way to bring someone along in their faith. Serving as a believer’s doctrinal, ethical, and spiritual foundation, these essential elements are not the final goal but a sturdy groundwork from which to build. The author asserts that we in the church must be sure that we are not guilty of what C. S. Lewis described as “chronological snobbery” and seek to adopt an approach that has been advocated and used effectively over the course of the centuries.

Key Strengths

Several features of this work are worth highlighting. First, Bevins continually puts the accent of discipleship not merely on an individual getting to know these points, but more emphatically on the community of faith. He writes, “At its very essence Christianity is about vital relationships. First and foremost, it’s about a relationship with God the Father, through Jesus Christ, the Son. Second it’s about growing together with other believers who daily walk with us in the church. Disciples are made in community, not isolation” (73). Other discipleship tools would not deny this but can at times avoid ecclesial language.

Second, the author puts a refreshing emphasis on not simply knowing right doctrine, but living rightly as a result. Many discipleship approaches give the student a head full of knowledge, which is necessary but not sufficient. Wisdom must be drawn from that knowledge in proper application for Christian living. Kevin Vanhoozer has termed doctrine as both scientia and sapientia (wisdom and knowledge), and the author rightly agrees that discipleship must consist of a mind, heart, and will that is dedicated to serving our Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, while this may be less of a strength and more of a projection, it seems, based on the landscape of Christianity, particularly in the West, this resource could serve as a helpful antidote to the ills that currently plague us. David Wells in his series of books on theology and the church has demonstrated that the community of faith must pursue greater vitality in its doctrine, morality, and spirituality. Again, while not the answer to the entire problem Bevins rightly reminds us of the foundation that has stood the test of time in the church. We would do well to not only learn these three essentials as cognitive certainties but also as applicational realities.

Further Attention

Several items could be given further attention to provide this work with even greater effect. For example, it would be helpful if the author had interacted more with Scripture in his section on experiencing the Holy Spirit (59), as this can be a misunderstood concept, especially for new believers. Another minor issue that could be clarified by Bevins comes in the following statement: “While the Bible is historically significant, the authors were not primarily interested in recording history. They were more concerned about telling the Story of God’s involvement in changing people’s lives” (19). The author affirms his belief in the veracity of Scripture throughout the book, and his point here is one of emphasis. It just seems that this statement may unnecessarily bifurcate the Story of God and historical fact.

These slight concerns aside I highly recommend this book to pastors and churches alike as they consider what kinds of tools they might use in their approach to discipleship. The author certainly demonstrated to me the usefulness of this particular approach. While I was aware of it before, I have become convinced of the need to train new believers in these vital, historic elements of the Christian faith.