Kenneth Erisman. Grounded in the Faith: An Essential Guide to Knowing What You Believe and Why. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. 288 pp. $17.99.
A few years back a younger student who approached me interested in being discipled. I was already ministering to a number of guys, so my schedule wasn’t open to another. But I knew an older man in the faith whom I thought could be a perfect match for this young guy. This man had raised godly children, had a strong marriage, had served as a church leader for a number of years. He loved the Scriptures and exemplified godly discipline. Everything you’d ever want in terms of Christian maturity, this man had. And yet when I asked him about meeting with a younger college student, he was completely overwhelmed. He didn’t know what to do. And this student was as easy as they come—a fairly normal college guy who was serious about growing in his faith and even took the initiative to meet with an older believer. Still, this older saint was lost. He knew he needed to be teaching disciples, but he had no clue how to begin.
My hunch is there are many more people like this one—godly men and women who want to make a difference in the lives of others, but are completely stuck as to how to start. That’s why I am thankful for a book like Kenneth Erisman’s Grounded in the Faith: An Essential Guide to Knowing What You Believe and Why. A pastor and church planter, Erisman recognizes the need for theological training in a disciple. As a result, he’s given us a resource that can function as training wheels for those who want to help ground fellow believers. It’s not a book in the normal sense. You just don’t read it. You read it, discuss it, and then apply it. Think of it as an extended catechism that majors on the majors while attempting to apply the truth to one’s life. And while the book could function as a sort of devotional guide for private use, I imagine the benefit would be multiplied if used in weekly meetings between younger and older believers.
As a campus minister I work with students who have just become Christians as well as with those who come from typical evangelical churches that have excelled in creating passion but haven’t done a good job rooting people in God's Word. It would be a great joy to have a number of older men and women in my church pick up Grounded in the Faith and begin to meet with these younger students, walking them through the basics of the faith. Erisman does a fabulous job of touching on the key points: justification, biblical reliability, knowing God’s will, the Trinity, and so on.
I suppose there’s always more to be said (worldview and church are two that come to mind), but you can only say so much in one volume. For the most part Erisman covers all the bases. And for aspects of the faith that are a bit more heady, he explains and unpacks the theology in a way that’s both truthful and accessible. Each chapter contains questions that help apply the truth. In short, the content and structure make for a great resource.
Vision for the Church
It’s entirely possible to be busy with good, Christ-honoring things and not be making disciples. While the church should be known for a number of important things, the center of ministry is the Word of God and prayer in the lives of God’s people. Grounded in the Faith helps us get back to the simplicity of the church. Though we should certainly strive for organized churches, we should also be okay with a little chaos if it means older believers are sitting down and working through a book like Erisman’s. Christian busyness doesn’t ground a person as well as do slow, personal conversations concerning the truths of the faith and their effect on one’s life.
Perhaps you are like my older friend. You want to make a difference but don’t know how. You see the lack of depth in the next generation, but for whatever reason you don’t know what to do about it. The good news is that Erisman has made it easier for us. This Sunday, simply look for a younger believer and invite them over for a meal. Ask basic questions about their life and share a little about yours. See if they’d do a weekly study with you, and let Erisman take it from there.
The great disciple-making imperative may be daunting. But there aren’t many things better than helping ground another believer in the faith. Erisman has served us by doing the hard work. We get to reap the benefits. So take a small risk and try and set up that meeting. God will be pleased, and a disciple will be taught.