My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I downloaded Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus' Final Words our Work from NetGalley sometime last year because I thought the book would be pretty useful and interesting. Little did I know that when I started reading it this year, it would also somehow coincide with a whole series of Discipleship sermons in church.
In some ways, it's been good. It's formed a stronger background to what discipleship is and should be.
But on the other hand, it's also stirring up anger at the church - at the perceived failures of the church - in relationship to discipleship and their empty rhetoric. FACT: I wrote a whole rant about it on Medium because I was comparing what I was reading against what I was hearing.
"...you cannot apply a text differently today from how it was applied in the context in which it was written. In other words, a text interpreted today cannot mean something entirely different from what it meant back then. Texts must be understood in their context."
I had an idea for a blog post about this once...
Anyway, Gallaty starts off the book by delving deep into what discipleship was in Jesus' days: something like an expected mentorship, or an apprenticeship - things that we do not practice anymore, and can hardly comprehend. He goes into the details of a Jewish upbringing, throwing into stark contrast the way Jewish children learnt about God and the way Christian children today learn about God. Is one better than the other? I don't know. It's just different. But it does bring up the point of why so many Christian children, growing up in godly families, fail to develop a faith of their own.
He then shifts gear into how discipleship in the church has looked like over the years, from Jesus to Augustine to Wesley, rounding it up with how he leads discipleship groups in his church and his 5 MARCS of a disciple - Missional, Accountable, Reproducible, Communal and Scriptural - giving solid and simple practices to emulate.
One of the strongest things that has been reinforced for me is that discipleship is really about intentional community. It's about walking after the master, being open and transparent about successes and failures - not just the disciple's, but also the master's. It's not about just hearing someone preach. (Stop being a tadpole) But about seeing their lives as it really is - the good, the bad and the ugly. And then passing it on. Doing it again. And it comes back to that main, simple point: knowing who Jesus really is.
"You cannot know the God of the Word unless you know the Word of God. In order to understand God, you must know Jesus - the walking Word (John 1:1, 14) - which is impossible apart from the Scriptures."
Final thought: the goal of discipleship isn't how many people you can bring into church. The goal is to grow your disciples spiritually. I recently watched a great video on this - look, everything is related isn't it? - The question is not really about whether you meet some pre-defined "good standard". It's about growth: how far you've come from where you were.
"Could it be that believers minimise discipleship in the church because they never had the privilege of being discipled? That might be the first step you need to take as a leader. It is difficult - nearly impossible - to lead someone on a journey on which you have never been yourself."
I don't know where I'll go from here. But this book fails in its mission if I don't at least start somewhere. We've talked a lot about "accountability groups" in church and "spiritual parenting" in addition to the care cells. The problem has always been the practical application and carrying out of these discipleship movements. In retrospect, this sounds uncannily similar to the problematic statement of "no problem! You can do it yourself!" but with this caveat - Gallaty points out clearly that the ultimate disciple-maker, and the person we are all called to emulate, is Jesus himself.
If we profess to know the Jesus of the Bible and to follow Him, then we should take on this mandate to make disciples and trust Him to lead us along the way.
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