Following Jesus in the “Real World” – Discipleship for the Post-College Years

Richard Lamb
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995


Richard Lamb, the author of Following Jesus in the “Real World”- Discipleship for the Post-College Years believes that the transition from college to post-college life represents a “kairos” period for recent college graduates during which making decisions based on gospel-centered values is critical to their discipleship process.[1] The author develops this thesis through ten chapters that focus on the themes of choosing God’s Kingdom over worldly values, actively participating in the body of Christ, and letting go of attachments that diminish commitment to advancing the gospel.[2]



In Lamb’s first chapter, he addresses the assumptions of recent college graduates about the “real world” and how these expectations influence their decisions for good or ill.[3] Lamb evaluates these assumptions about life after graduation through the framework of repentance, particularly repenting from placing hope for ultimate security and happiness in education, housing, marriage, friendship, money, church, lifestyle, and jobs.[4] In chapter 2, Lamb argues that college graduates should apply the gospel principles they practiced during college to the new context of post-college life and be willing to lose all for the sake of gaining the kingdom of God.[5]  In his third chapter, Productivity and Prayer, Lamb provides scriptural support emphasizing the importance of discipleship training in order to bear much fruit in ministry and argues that prayer is essential to disciples’ effectiveness in the real world.[6]

In his next chapter, entitled Meaningless Work and Fruitful Labor, the author describes the difference between working to live and living to work, and asserts that recent college graduates should use income from work to provide for the needs of others. Lamb further develops his theme of the clash between kingdom values and worldly values by showing how this conflict of values manifests itself in the area of work. He emphasizes the importance of Christian community in his fifth chapter and argues that discipleship is not a solitary process. According to Lamb, Christian community encompasses three core characteristics—fellowship, accountability, and partnership.[7] He centers his arguments in this chapter on the benefit of economic sharing for the vitality of life in Christian community. In the subsequent chapter, Strategies for Church Involvement, Lamb provides helpful strategies for participating in the life of Christian community in the form of joining a church. He argues that post-college young adults should seek to become members and partners in ministry rather than drift into the more distanced roles of church attender, critic, or consumer.[8]

In chapter 7, Lamb reasserts his argument that ministry encompasses the whole life of the disciple and encourages the kingdom values of hospitality and generosity. In chapter 8, Lamb further develops the concept of God’s economy by asserting that disciples receive the blessings of peace and joy and continued resources for ministry when they seek to meet other needs’ in ways that glorify God rather than themselves.[9] In his ninth chapter entitled Finding God’s Will for Your Life, Lamb argues recent college graduates should focus on doing the will of God where God has already revealed it. Lamb returns to love of God and others as guiding principles and interprets these commands as trusting God and serving others. Lamb closes his book with a chapter entitled the Joy of Obedience by returning to the theme of persevering in the race towards the goal of discipleship. As in earlier chapters, the author highlights the potential stumbling blocks, in this case the possible threats to disciples working consistently towards advancing the gospel.



Lamb’s experience of working for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and living in Christian community and economic sharing contexts deeply influence his instructions for college graduates. Unfortunately, he presupposes that this type of experience is the purest form of discipleship—implicitly claiming that this kind of economic sharing and communal living is the best way for disciples to lose themselves for the sake of advancing the gospel. While admirably offering an alternative to the dominant contemporary contexts that reinforce the illusion of scarcity, Lamb does not address the high probability of conflict within such Christian communities, or the idea that this kind of life might not be for everyone.  



The two most obvious guiding theological principles for Lamb are ecclesiology and God’s sovereignty. The author grounds his arguments in the centrality of the body of Christ and claims that gospel work includes not only inviting others to faith in Christ, but also into the body of Christ. Lamb considers vitality of Christian community as the energy behind ministry and its ultimate goal.[10] This work of God is seen through the Church—whether in a traditional sense, or in a communal living sense. Lamb relies on God’s sovereignty and God’s promised provision to support his arguments for relying on God’s economy over that of the world.[11] 



The author attempts to provide a practical guide to recent college graduates for sustaining and deepening their discipleship walk during the transition from college to post-college life and work. He calls on post-college disciples to strive to advance the Kingdom of God by committing all of their lives to God. Through Scripture, his own life stories, and general reflections, Lamb speaks to recent college graduates rather than about them.



Lamb’s book could be a helpful resource for recent college graduates who are seasoned disciples transitioning into secular careers or full or part-time ministry. His practical ideas supported by Biblical and real-life examples offer more than just distant advice. Disciples well past college age may also benefit from reading Lamb’s book as a window into the stresses and decisions recent graduates encounter and a guide to how best to partner with graduates. Lamb’s book would be particularly useful in discipleship training around economic justice issues related to economic sharing of resources and housing given the radical nature of the living situations he has embraced. Lamb provides a rare glimpse into potential alternatives Christians might embrace in response to the capitalist system of modern-day America.

There are some weaknesses to this book as well. First, published in 1995, it is now quite dated. While many of the same principles might apply, there are new challenges that college graduates face now that are not addressed. Another drawback to its usefulness is its checklist format, which implicitly presents his message as formulaic. A formulaic approach sets readers up for a sense of failure, which is likely not what Lamb intended in his motivating call for undivided and radical discipleship. Additionally, Lamb’s arguments reveal multiple blind spots, including his overly optimistic depiction of post-college life. Lamb does not adequately address the hurts young adults may be nursing from prior church involvement. Also, by failing to account for the level of potential temptation from substance and behavior addictions during post-college life, Lamb diminishes his arguments by failing to be realistic about the “real world.”

[Review by Amanda Newell]

[1] Lamb, R., Following Jesus in the “Real World,” 11.

[2] Ibid., 208.

[3] Ibid., 23-34.

[4] Ibid., 24.

[5] Ibid., 38-55.

[6] Ibid., 59-63.

[7] Ibid., 95.

[8] Ibid., 121-123.

[9] Ibid., 165-180.

[10] Ibid.,168.

[11] Ibid., 91-94.