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You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit

, 2016
ISBN: 9781493403677

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In this book, award-winning author James K.A. Smith shows that who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the one for whom we were made. Smith helps readers recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practices. He explains that worship is the “imagination station” that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and heart of Christian formation and discipleship.

Following the publication of his influential work Desiring the Kingdom, Smith received numerous requests from pastors and leaders for a more accessible version of that book’s content. No mere abridgment, this new book draws on years of Smith’s popular presentations on the ideas in Desiring the Kingdom to offer a fresh, bottom-up rearticulation. The author creatively uses film, literature, and music illustrations to engage readers and includes new material on marriage, family, youth ministry, and faith and work. He also suggests individual and communal practices for shaping the Christian life.

This book is a Christianity Today 2017 Book Award winner.

Resource Experts

Key Features

  • Presents an accessible look at the influence of culture in modern Christianity
  • Explains the importance church, fellowship, and discipleship


  • You Are What You Love: To Worship Is Human
  • You Might Not Love What You Think: Learning to Read “Secular” Liturgies
  • The Spirit Meets You Where You Are: Historic Worship for a Postmodern Age
  • What Story Are You In? The Narrative Arc of Formative Christian Worship
  • Guard Your Heart: The Liturgies of Home
  • Teach Your Children Well: Learning by Heart
  • You Make What You Want: Vocational Liturgies

Top Highlights

“‘You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’” (Pages 7–8)

“You are what you love because you live toward what you want.” (Page 13)

“In short, if you are what you love, and love is a habit, then discipleship is a rehabituation of your loves. This means that discipleship is more a matter of reformation than of acquiring information. The learning that is fundamental to Christian formation is affective and erotic, a matter of ‘aiming’ our loves, of orienting our desires to God and what God desires for his creation.” (Page 19)

“Liturgy,’ as I’m using the word, is a shorthand term for those rituals that are loaded with an ultimate Story about who we are and what we’re for.” (Page 46)

“Augustine’s third insight: because we are made to love the One who made and loves us—‘we love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19)—we will find ‘rest’ when our loves are rightly ordered to this ultimate end. But Augustine also notes the alternative: since our hearts are made to find their end in God, we will experience a besetting anxiety and restlessness when we try to love substitutes. To be human is to have a heart. You can’t not love. So the question isn’t whether you will love something as ultimate; the question is what you will love as ultimate. And you are what you love.” (Page 10)

Praise for the Print Edition

James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love provides a user-friendly introduction to the sweeping Augustinian insight that we are shaped most by what we love most, more so than by what we think or do. If sin and virtue are disordered and rightly ordered love, respectively, and if the only way to change is to change what we worship, then this will lead us to rethink how we conduct Christian work and ministry. Jamie gives some foundational ideas on how this affects our corporate worship, our Christian education and formation, and our vocations in the world. An important, provocative volume!

—Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City

What do you love? is the most important question of our lives. With his characteristic ease, energy, and insightfulness, James K.A. Smith explores in this compelling book not only what it is that we should love but also how we can learn to love what we should.

—Miroslav Volf, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale Divinity School

In this wise and provocative book, Jamie Smith has the audacity to ask the question: Do we love what we think we love? It is not a comfortable question if we strive to answer it honestly. Smith presses us to do so and then shows us the renewed and abundant life that awaits Christians whose habits and practices--whose liturgies of living--work to open our hearts to our God and our neighbors.

—Alan Jacobs, Honors College, Baylor University

Desiring the Kingdom influenced me more than any single book of the past decade. I—and the rest of the church—owe a great debt to James K.A. Smith’s scholarship, now made particularly accessible in You Are What You Love. As a means for reimagining the task of discipleship, this book should be required reading for every pastor, lay leader, and parent.

—Jen Pollock Michel, author of Christianity Today’s 2015 Book of the Year, Teach Us to Want

James K.A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was editor in chief of Comment magazine from 2013 to 2018 and is now editor in chief of Image journal. Smith is the author or editor of many books, including the Christianity Today Book Award winners Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, and is editor of the well-received Church and Postmodern Culture series, and has written for Christianity Today, First Things, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Washington Post.


Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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  1. GregW



    This is a book that needs to be read by every church leader. Smith starts by challenging us that we don’t really know what we ultimately love, and need “liturgies” of habits that will point us into discipleship. Smith highlights our loss of liturgy and its replacement with entertainment and challenges us to start identifying those liturgies in our lives that lead us in other directions. This book, along with Webber’s “Ancient-Future worship” have been foundational in my own thinking and reflection on worship in recent years. I would have appreciated more examples of how we outwork this and make the necessary changes in a church context, but that would probably be my only criticism of the book.
  2. Raphael Haeuser
    This is a fantastic book, but over priced. Kindle version is under $6.
Save 25% off during the Memorial Day Sale!


Regular price: $24.99
Save $6.25 (25%)