Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making Disciples

As part of our churches ongoing study and discussion of how to restructure the ministry in order to more fully engage in the Great Commission I am reading a number of books on the topic of disciple-making. Over the next couple of months I will review those books here on this blog. Today’s review is of the book “The Disciple-Making Church” by Bill Hull (ISBN 978-0-8010-6621-4). A number of years ago I read his book “The Disciple-Making Pastor and was challenged by a number of the things he had to say. At a later date I intend to review that book.

In this book Hull clearly defines disciple-making as consisting of two things. “The first part, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them,’ implies an intentional effort on the part of disciples to tell others about Jesus – what we call witnessing and/or preaching the gospel” (pg. 12). “The second part of disciple-making activity is ‘teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ Teaching people to obey is called discipleship or apprenticeship” (pg. 13). The use of the word “apprenticeship” is a very helpful way to think about the process because it involves so much more than the impartation of Bible knowledge, encouraging the memorization of Scripture, sharing your faith, and learning ministry skills (pg. 40). It involves the process of helping a person grow in the likeness of Jesus. Because none of us has arrived at that perfect likeness it is folly to think that discipling in one-on-one terms will fully accomplish what God intends for His people (pg. 39). Instead Hull makes the case for what he calls a “churchocentric” model (pg. 38) of disciple-making that involves a leadership team coaching a multilevel, diverse congregation toward maturity in Christ (pg. 40). To use Colin Marshall’s terminology (see review of Trellis and the Vine) “moving people to the right.”

In order to successfully accomplish a community based model of disciple-making the author advocates a decentralization of pastoral care (pg. 49), pastoral training (pg. 50), and a commitment to small groups (pg. 19). Hull develops these concepts with numerous examples in the balance of the book, and includes several appendices that typify an active small group discipleship ministry based upon the “churchocentric” model.

One quote from the book which stood out in my mind was something he credited to Winston Churchill “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us” (pg. 107). As a pastor of a church which is richly blessed with facilities developed around the traditional Sunday school classroom model I often feel the truth of that statement.

This book is well worth reading and thinking through the principles that are articulated herein. I recommend it to any church leadership team that is dissatisfied with the typical programmatic approach to ministry and disciple-making.

Humility: An Essential Christian Virtue

"God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). "But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Is. 66:2). God is very serious about humility in His people and is actively working to undo the proud and elevate the humble.

Some time ago I was given C.J. Mahaney's little book "Humility: True Greatness; 170 pages, (ISBN 1-59052-326-1). As I read I was both convicted and encouraged in my pursuit of this essential Christian virtue. Mahaney has an easy writing style that is self-effacing and loaded with practical examples and illustrations. The book has a number of very powerful and quotable statements such as "Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" (pg. 69), but for me the best part of the book was its emphasis on the Gospel as the remedy for pride and the seedbed of humility. Mahaney's focus on the cross makes this book very practical in helping to cultivate humility.

I also greatly profited from chapter eight "Identifying Evidences of Grace." This reminder of the need to specifically look for, and communicate to other people the evidences of God's work in their lives, as a means to encourage them to press on, is something that has helped me to relate to my adult children.

If you are looking for something short, accessible and impactful to take on vacation with you this summer - this book is it.