Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries, By Gerald L. Sittser

Water from a Deep Well

Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries

by Gerald L. Sittser
Foreword by Eugene H. Peterson

Water from a Deep Well
  • Length: 364 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: May 21, 2010
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 3745
  • ISBN: 9780830837458

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In Rome in A.D. 165, two men named Carpus and Papylus stood before the proconsul of Pergamum, charged with the crime of being Christians. Not even torture could make them deny Christ, so they were burned alive.

Is my faithfulness as strong?

In the fifth century, Melania the Younger and her husband, Pinian, distributed their enormous wealth to the poor and intentionally practiced the discipline of renunciation.

Could living more simply deepen my trust in God?

In the sixteen hundreds, Philipp Jakob Spener's love for the Word of God and his desire to help people apply the Bible to their life moved him to start "Colleges of Piety," or small groups.

In what ways could commitment to community make me more like Christ?

The history of the church has shaped what our faith and practice are like today. It's tempting to think that the way we do things now is best, but history also has much to teach us about what we've forgotten. In Water from a Deep Well, Gerald Sittser opens to us the rich history of spirituality, letting us gaze at the practices and stories of believers from the past who had the same thirst for God that we do today. As we see their deep faith through his vibrant narratives, we may discover that old ways can bring new life to our own spirituality.

"Ever since that day at noon when a Samaritan woman asked for living water, people have turned to Jesus for the water that satisfies the thirst of the human condition and wells up to eternal life. In Water from a Deep Well, Gerald Sittser has followed the lives of significant Christians down through the centuries who have tasted the water, shared it with others and, in some cases, carried it to foreign lands. This book will serve as an excellent resource in the classroom, in our personal libraries and in our prayerful consideration of the 'great cloud of witnesses' who have drunk from the well before us."

Albert Haase, O.F.M., director, School of Spirituality at Mayslake Ministries, and author of Coming Home to Your True Self

"Open this book, and walk with holy fools and prophetic rebels as they struggle against all that would separate them from God. And what a blessing to have Jerry Sittser as a guide through the history of Christian spirituality! He writes not just as a scholar and a teacher, but also as a Christian who has long walked the narrow path, keeping company with God, and both his wisdom and his winsomeness mark every page."

Lauren F. Winner, assistant professor, Duke Divinity School, and author of Girl Meets God

"This fine book is as useful as it is informative. In lucid prose and with a gentle spirit, Gerald Sittser offers a careful primer on the history of Christian spirituality, a gracious guide to spiritual experience today and most of all a winsome invitation to experience the reality of Jesus Christ, who inspires all true spirituality. In words spoken to St. Augustine, 'tolle, lege' (pick it up, read it). The book will make a real difference."

Mark A. Noll, McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

"Jerry Sittser is a rare kind of writer: a scholar with a scholar's depth, and a man with the spiritual health of his readers ever before him. . . .The chapters are full of anecdotes that inspire and amuse, and practical suggestions to help us appropriate the wisdom that is the deposit of the church's great men and women through the ages. Water from a Deep Well is a thoroughly worthwhile read."

Ben Patterson, campus pastor, Westmont College, and author of He Has Made Me Glad and Waiting

"Much of the current interest in 'spirituality' suffers from a kind of amnesia--forgetful or oblivious that there is indeed a centuries-long well to draw from, full of an inheritance which can enrich our lives. Jerry Sittser has provided a bucket by which we can draw from that well, whether simply to taste, or better to drink deeply. This is a book to humble us, discovering how much more there is to know, but also to bring fresh hope that God works beyond our small personal experiences, and beyond our own lifetime. Read it--enjoy, and be stretched."

Leighton Ford, author of Transforming Leadership

"Gerald Sittser offers us two enormous gifts in this compelling history of Christian spirituality--a wonderfully flowing narrative that catches us up into the lives and practices of great saints, and voluminous endnotes so that we can pursue more thoroughly the topics and characters he describes. This beautiful book will widen everyone's spirituality, for Sittser introduces us to an extensive range of eras and their greatest contributions. Taste and see--this book will deepen you!"

Marva Dawn, author of The Sense of the Call and Keeping the Sabbath Wholly

"Gerald Sittser's Water from a Deep Well is a remarkable combination of sound and thorough scholarship with a warm heart for spiritual life in Christ and his people through the ages. The author speaks with profound theological insight and obvious personal experience. His book anchors spirituality now in the sometimes raw substance of the life of saints through the ages. I highly recommend it for those who, today, want to enter into the realities of Christ in his people for all times. For perspective on evangelical spirituality, in particular, it is highly useful."

Dallas Willard, author of The Spirit of the Disciplines

"Gerald Sittser opens up windows into worlds of spiritual practice that we truly need--both because they intensify our thirst for God, and because they stimulate our imaginations for the varied ways God meets and leads the people of God. While this book feeds me, it also does something even more important: it leaves me hungry, which is where I need to be in order to grow as a disciple, husband, father, friend and pastor."

Mark Labberton, pastor and author of The Dangerous Act of Worship

"What Gerald Sittser gives us is not a guidebook . . . but something which reads more like an extended declaration of love. A history of Christian spirituality it may be, but such spirituality is understood less as a benefit to be acquired neutrally through detachment than a matter of being enthralled and enticed by the beauty which is Christ. Each chapter is instructive and informed, and Gerald Sittser provides the kind of clarity and simplicity which only grows out of deep knowledge."

Iain Torrance, president, Princeton Theological Seminary, and former moderator of the Church of Scotland

Water From a Deep Well will reward readers who appreciate thorough research and detailed reporting, enlivened by telling asides and black-and-white illustrations.

Monica Tenney, Congregational Libraries Today, November/December 2008

The lives of the saints are provided to inspire, encourage and invite us to join them on our own journeys of transforamtion. Consider a copy of Sittser's excellent, well-researched book for your home or church library.

Gail Welborn, The Cypress Times February 17, 2009

Sittser utilizes the metaphor of food and drink to serve up a timely corrective to one-generational approaches by inviting sojourners to an elaborate feast with the family of faith. This tried and true recipe deserves consideration not only as a personal or collective devotional but also for courses in church history, ecclesiology, and spiritual formation.

Martin William Mittelstadt, Religious Studies Review, September 2008

Water From a Deep Well is a good book for a time when some evangelicals seem intent on de-rooting themselves from their family tree.

Matthew P. Ristuccia, WORLD Magazine,Nov. 29/Dec 6, 2008

Even if we cannot be a Saint Francis ora monk, there are lessons to be learned from reading about our predecessors in the Christian faith. Recommended for anyone who is interested in strengthening his or her spirituality.

John B. Shewmaker, Catholic Library World, December 2008

Because it is such a well-written, well-researched, and well-conceived book, it will immediately become an indispensible book for anyone interested in Christian spirituality and the history of Christian spirituality.

Michael Glerup, Journal of Spiritual Formation Soul Care

"Sittser's lucid prose and earnest manner of addressing his readers' own spiritual needs makes Water from a Deep Well an exceptionally accessible book, and thus 'popular' in the best sense of the word. But the helps and critical apparatus at the end make the book suitable for academically rigorous settings."

Richard B. Steele for Catholic Books Review, April 2008

"Excellent, well-researched book."

Gail Welbourn, Montgomery's Journey, April 2008

"The lives of the saints are provided to inspire, encourage and invite us to join them on our own journeys of transformation."

Gail Welborn, Christian News Northwest, March 2008

Water From a Deep Well is a hard-to-put-down book. . . . The author's aim is to help us mine the riches of our wide heritage, and he does it admirably. . . . His grasp of the subject, ability with words, and his experience learning these lessons shine from every page."

Donna Eggett, Christian Book Previews, February 2008

"My supply of adjectives fails me in describing the worth of this book."

Betty Waller for The Lamplighter, February 2008

"An excellent resource for devotional study and personal spiritual development."

Pulpit Helps, December 2007

"Sittser's wonderfully capacious book gives us ecumenism at its best."

Christianity Today, November 2007

"[A] compelling history of spirituality. . . . Sittser concludes each chapter with . . . ways that certain spiritual practices can be incorporated into contemporary observance. . . . [A] valuable tool."

Publishers Weekly starred review, September 24, 2007

"Gerald Sittser’s volume Water from a Deep Well is a great gift to Christians. He leads us from the early martyrs to medieval mystics, from Reformers focusing on the Word to pioneering missionaries proclaiming that the captives have been set free. Sittser tells us about the past that we might better appreciate our family of faith."

Kelly M. Kapic, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 2017


Foreword by Eugene Peterson
Introduction: There is More!

1 Witness: The Spirituality of the Early Christian Martyrs
2 Belonging: The Spirituality of Early Christian Community
3 Struggle: The Spirituality of the Desert Saints
4 Rhythm: The Spirituality of Monasticism
5 Holy Heroes: The Spirituality of Icons and Saints
6 Windows: The Spirituality of the Sacraments
7 Union: The Spirituality of the Mystics
8 Ordinariness: The Spirituality of the Medieval Laity
9 Word: The Spirituality of the Reformers
10 Conversion: The Spirituality of Evangelicals
11 Risk: The Spirituality of Pioneer Missionaries

Conclusion: Where Do We Go from Here?
Discussion Questions
Annotated Reading List
Illustration Credits


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Gerald L. Sittser

Gerald L. Sittser (PhD, University of Chicago) is professor of theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He is the author of The Adventure, A Cautious Patriotism, A Grace Disguised, The Will of God as a Way of Life, and When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer. He has also written many book reviews and articles. He speaks frequently at churches, college campuses, and scholarly and Christian conferences. Sittser has won numerous awards and honors including a Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for his book When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer.