You are what you love. But you might not love what you think.
In this book, award-winning author James K. A. Smith shows that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made. Smith helps listeners recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practices. He explains that worship is the "imagination station" that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and heart of Christian formation and discipleship.
Following the publication of his influential work Desiring the Kingdom, Smith received numerous requests from pastors and leaders for a more accessible version of that book's content. No mere abridgment, this new book draws on years of Smith's popular presentations on the ideas in Desiring the Kingdom to offer a fresh, bottom-up re-articulation. The author creatively uses film, literature, and music illustrations to engage listeners and includes new material on marriage, family, youth ministry, and faith and work. He also suggests individual and communal practices for shaping the Christian life.©2016 Brazos Press (P)2016 Baker Publishing Group
Book blogger at Bookwi.se
It is good to re-read books. I can not remember where I read it, but I remember a discussion about the difference in reading habits of people a couple hundred years ago. The short version is that books used to be very expensive. So you would read and re-read a book several times because you only had a few options of what books to read.
Today books are cheap. I routinely pick up books for a couple dollars or even free. So we tend to read a book once and move on to the next idea. I have put a goal on myself to re-read at least one book a month. I rarely re-read books quite that often, but almost every time I re-read a book I am reminded about the importance of re-reading. Maybe others are more careful readers than I am. But I almost always find significant ideas that I either missed on the first reading or I have forgotten.
The most important idea from You are What You Love that I missed on the first reading is the clear understanding of the difference between what Smith calls Expressive and Formative worship. For Smith, expressive worship, the predominate focus of modern evangelicals, is about the importance of bringing praise to God. Smith does not say it is wrong to expressively worship. But he is not sure that expressive worship should be our primary focus and this is for several reasons. 1) Expressive worship is focused on what we do for God instead of what God has done. 2) Because of our age of authenticity, the temptation for expressive worship is to always seek out the new and innovative because repeated expressive worship feels less authentic. 3) Because of point one, the only real place for the congregation to participate in expressive worship is the music portion of worship. So expressive worship ends up minimizing the full range of worship in a service.
Instead Smith believes that we should approach worship as primarily formative. Formative worship is focused on what the activity of worship does to us. Music reminds us of themes of worship, creeds reminds us of the historical and catholic character of Christianity, the eucharist reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ and the power of the Spirit to act in us on a daily basis, the word reminds us of the message of the gospel.
I think that I have been so shaped in my evangelical formation on the importance of expressive worship that I have missed Smith’s distinction between expressive and formative worship in the first reading.
The main focus of the book is that we are shaped by habits that occur in the pre-cognitive portion of our brain. Things that we do without really thinking of them. So we should strive after creating habits that help us move in the direction that we want to go as Christians.
Similar to my first reading, I still think that while Smith’s cultural liturgies are important, there is so much cultural baggage with them that it is often hard to see deeply into the liturgies. I think Smith is too negative sometimes about his look at cultural liturgies. For instance when talking about the mall he never talks about the mall as safe space in a positive sense. After all, that is why kids get together at the mall, it is seen by parents as safe and limited (whether it is or not is another thing.) And the inside waking space for elderly at 6 am is not mentioned although there is some real positives there. I think that while Smith is right to alert us to some of the negatives of cultural liturgies and their formative power. But we also need to spend time on their positive formative power to really get a full picture of what cultural liturgies are trying to do.
On the negative side is also hard to get enough distance from a cultural liturgy to actually see it without significant cross-cultural contact. I think that is a place where advocating for a diverse church would have been a helpful addition to this book (although I am pretty sure I have heard Smith speaking about this in other contexts.)
One note about the audiobook edition. (When possible I try to change formats that I read a book for the second reading.) I thought it was fine, but for authors like Smith, who I have heard speak via video a number of times, I miss the actual author’s voice. There were several mispronounced words that would not have happened if Smith was the one narrating. I know not every author has time to spend narrating their own audiobooks, but most of the time I really do think an author should read their own books whenever possible.
This book calls to mind the words of Jesus: 'if you put these words of mine into practice...'
A recovery of the ancient practices of the Church as means of grace and formation is greatly needed in our age of skepticism and scattering. This book is helpful in pointing not only to those, but to the vision or 'telos,' of beauty that God has for his creation.
A few years ago I read desiring the kingdom. It was a bit too erudite for my taste. This is a much more approachable work, without being at all watered down. Very thankful.
For any serious thinker of the Christian Faith, this is a must read. James K. A. Smith causes the reader to get right at the core of what it means to love God and how the love translates within a fallen world. Challenging and insightful, "You Are What You Love" will move the reader towards honest introspection and a renewed commitment towards God.
Unique thoughts on motives and our actions or lack of action. What is our vision?
JKAS is persuasive in his assessments and singularly focused on persuaded everyone to pursue the Anglican way, which is a great way. Would've benefited by providing more helpful and tangible correctives for those who don't want to just leave non-denom, Baptist-ish churches behind. See Rhythms of Grace by Cosper
If your heart is not on what God's is on, it doesn't matter how 'devout' you are with your religion, because thinking is different from loving. Sounds simple, but so many of us today have fallen into the trap of 'going through the motions' in our walk with God, that we've lost sight on the way we SHOULD be walking with God. You Are What You Love is an intense and powerful look into the role of worship in creating followers who are true disciples working toward following God's heart, with our own.
As important as this book is, it's made much more impactful through the narration of Claton Butcher. Claton's relaxed way of speaking lets one truly believe they are listening to the author himself. His voice is both soothing and commanding, bringing about the air of authority that allows you to KNOW he's channeling the author, and presenting the content in the way the writer intended to. If it were possible to give more than 5 Stars, I would.
Anyone interested in how to grow closer to God moment by moment as an individual or in community should partake in and dwell with these ideas. It makes one want to want better.
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