Matt LeRoy and Jeremy Summers are church leaders who are passionate about spiritual disciplines and their transformative power. They got together and wrote Awakening Grace: Spiritual Practices to Transform Your Soul (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012). Below is an interview on their work together.
What is the Big Idea of Awakening Grace?
This is a book about grace (and the practical implications of the world’s most impractical idea). We explore nine ancient and innovative spiritual formation practices and examine how God uses them to transform us, for the sake of the world. But instead of viewing them as disciplines to be mastered, we encourage readers to submit to God’s grace at work in these pathways. These are not tools in our hands (for improving your prayer life or getting more out of worship), but they teachers of our souls. The aim is not to conquer steps or master techniques. The aim is submission to the shaping power alive in these practices.
How did writing this book take shape—how are your own stories involved?
This is our second book together. On the first, we were co-editors of The Way Forward (Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), a collection of the classic voices of the holiness movement. We worked on that when we were classmates at Asbury. So this book grew out of that experience, and our long time friendship. It was a pretty natural process for us. We both are immersed in the work of spiritual formation. Jeremy gives leadership to the discipleship effort for The Wesleyan Church at a denominational level. He is constantly engaged with coaching pastors, leaders and local churches in missional discipleship around the country. Matt is a co-pastor at Love Chapel Hill, a church plant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So he is also intimately engaged with the work of shaping disciples at a grassroots level. So this book flows out of our friendship, our different experiences and our love for the Church’s call to make disciples.
How are these spiritual practices connected to the Wesleys’ ministry?
We both continue to be profoundly influenced by the ministry of the Wesley brothers. We were raised, trained and now serve in the Wesleyan movement. So the heritage of John Wesley is important to us. But the language of John Wesley shaped this book as well. His repeated references to spiritual practices as ‘means of grace’ grabbed us. This forced us to see that we are not the agents of change in these disciplines, but grace is. Even the title was influenced by him. He talks about prevenient grace as the “first light of dawn in the human soul,” awakening us to need for God and drawing us to Him. And of course, we are influenced by his practical theology. A student of theology and a masterful mind in his own right, Wesley was able to bring the theory of theology into the street. His brilliant mind and warmed heart were manifested through dirty hands and dusty boots. We try to do the same here. We believe that the rich theology of transformation must be expressed through the real lives of real people.
What makes the approach of Awakening Grace different from other ways of doing spiritual transformation?
This is not an attempt to market shortcuts to growth. Too often, we buy into sure-fire formulas that promise immediate results. This book is not about that. We believe that discipleship is an invitation into a journey that is often slow, dangerous and unpredictable. It is not a formula, but an experiment. Jesus is never surprised by where discipleship takes us. But we almost always are. So we don’t try to make any grand promises, but we do issue a challenge. It’s a challenge to embrace a counter-intuitive approach to formation. To aim for submission instead of mastery. And allow the heart of the Father and the power of the Spirit to shape you into the likeness of Christ, for the sake of the world.
Jeremy Summers is an ordained pastor, serves The Wesleyan Church as a denominational leader, and is passionate about missional discipleship and spiritual formation in the church. He is married to Andrea and is the proud father of four: Macy, Ava, Micah, and Ty. Follow him @jeremysummers.