Nachfolge is the German word “discipleship”. This summer I started a theology reading group with CRAVE, the college ministry that I lead as pastor at Christ Community Church. I decided to offer a theology reading group this summer because I’m committed to the idea that the church should encourage and engage in theological inquiry. As one of the students said, when asked at our first meeting why did he want to participate, “I want to love God with my mind!” Amen. I want to be around deeply devoted believers who pursue loving God with their minds. I think this is one of the more fun (perhaps most fun) elements of my pastoral ministry.
For the reading group I chose Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Nachfolge (“Discipleship”, known in earlier English editions as The Cost of Discipleship) because right now I’m obsessed with him. Over the spring I read Eric Metaxas’ biography and am now in the middle of a much briefer and perhaps more scholarly biography by Schlingensiepen (try to pronounce that German name 10 times!). I also purchased the 1000-page authoritative biography of Eberhard Bethge but will likely not read it any time soon. I left my friend Joel Lawrence (Bethel Seminary) a voicemail recently telling him how envious I was that he did his Ph.D. thesis on Bonheoffer. How lucky was that?! By the way, Joel has a great little book on Bonhoeffer’s thought called Bonhoeffer: A Guide for the Perplexed (Guides For The Perplexed).
I will undoubtedly post numerous times on my reflections from Nachfolge. Here I want to say how powerful it is to work through the German edition of the book. I am always in need of practicing German reading so I’m taking the opportunity to read the German with the Fortress English edition next to me. What a thrill! I’ve spend much of my time reading academic things in German so it is such a privilege to read a spiritual classic like this in its original tongue. While its not inspired Scripture, it is a similar experience of reading what Bonhoeffer wrote and not simply the translator’s rendering. For me this takes about a half-to-three quarters more time, than it would if I just read the English; but its worth it.
The famous line many know: “and because nothing can be cheap to us which is costly to God” in German is:
und weil uns nicht billig sein kann, was Gott teuer ist.
Have you ever read The Cost of Discipleship? What has this book meant to you? Where would you rank it as a spiritual classic?