Ask a pastor about the best ministry book they have read recently, and you will likely hear titles in the areas of theology, understanding our North American context, and spirituality – at least that is what I often have answered in the past.

But the most significant book that I have read lately is a biography – the biography of pastor and author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, aptly titled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and subtitled A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich (Thomas Nelson, 2010).

In this tome, Eric Metaxes brings the German pastor and author to life in a way that no previous author has, in part due to access he was granted to personal letters, extended journal entries, and first-person accounts that had previously been unavailable.

Metaxes introduces readers to Dietrich’s family life, his formative school years, his family and friends, and the people and experiences that forever shaped him into a man of deep faith, love for his country, and moral conviction in the face of the evil that epitomized the Third Reich.

Although Metaxes’ work is characterized as a biography, every chapter challenged me to think about the theological underpinnings of my own faith. The detailed narrative of Bonhoeffer’s training of young pastors in monastic communities at Zingst and Finkenwald presents a truly viable model for forming church leaders in our postmodern world. And the powerful way that the author invites us into Dietrich’s heart and soul, his devotional life in God through Christ Jesus, has impacted my own spiritual journey dramatically.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and the Reading Group Guide that accompanies the paperbound edition will challenge readers to reflect on their own convictions about life, faith, good and evil, love and hatred. It will encourage them too – to live fully – no matter what the cost, and when it is time, to die well.

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