Discipleship in the Way of Jesus: a book review

Jesus last words to his disciples (as recorded in Matthew 28:16-20) instructs them ‘to make disciples of all nations…’. Yet many Christians are not actively involved in discipleship relationships where they are being challenged to grow in relationship with Jesus, and challenging others as well. In Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First WorkRobby Gallaty makes a impassioned plea for Christians to get on with the task of discipleship making.

9780310521280_1Gallaty’s book divides into two parts. In part I, Gallaty presents a biblical model of discipleship in the way of Jesus and attempts to answer some of the reasons why discipleship is not practiced more broadly in the church today. Gallaty begins by examining Jesus’ model of relational discipleship (chapter one). He goes on to explore the Word-oriented spirituality of the Hebrews, historical examples of disciplemakers (i.e. Augustine, Luther, Baxter, Edwards and the Puritans, John Wesley and the early Methodists) and how an uninspired comma in the KJV translation Ephesians 4 obscured that the ministry was the purview of the whole people of God.

Part II focuses on discipleship methods. Gallaty urges a slow-cooker method of discipleship instead of fast-food and quick fix methods (chapter eight). He argues for “D” groups of 3-5 people as the most effective way to disciple people(chapter nine). He deals with ‘road blocks’to discipleship and encourages us to move forward with intentionality and growing competence. He instructs us to invest in the faithful and available and teachable, “Look for those who are hungry and eager to learn. Seek out evidence that God is at work in their heart and in their life. Disciple those that know Jesus and want to know what it means to follow them” (174).

In his final chapter he gives a five principles for ‘D-groups.’ The groups should be (MARCS):

  1. Missional (encouraging participants in personal evangelism)
  2. Accountable
  3. Reproducible
  4. Communal
  5. Scriptural.

  I appreciate Gallaty’s relational, intentional and systematic approach to discipleship. I liked that he roots his discipleship model in the methodology  of Jesus (reminiscent of Robert Coleman’s Masterplan of Evangelism). This is good stuff.

Nevertheless I have a couple of critiques. His MARCS typology is  really helpful, but I wish his concept of ‘missional’ meant more than just evangelism though certainly it means this. Mission should include mercy, justice, advocacy and other ways believers have enacted the Kingdom. Also his concept of accountability focuses completely on the sin/holiness domain. Certainly group members should ask hard questions and call one another to task, but in the context of accountability, I think we need to share the positive word of where we see God’s Spirit at work in each other’s life. I have been in too many ‘accountability groups’ that taught me more about being a good legalist than being a gracious saint. At other points in the book, I thought he was too flippant with traditions he disagrees with (i.e . where he disparages the lack of discipleship of lay people in Catholic history).

On the whole, Gallaty’s passion and thoughtfulness on discipleship are inspiring and he give practical advice on implementing a discipleship program. I give this four stars and think that it is a good read for pastors, ministry leaders and mentors.

Note: I received this book from Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

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