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Monday, November 23, 2015

"Rediscovering Discipleship" (Robert Gallaty)

TITLE: Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus' Final Words Our First Work
AUTHOR: Robert Gallaty
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015, (240 pages).

Robert Gallaty has done it again. As one who wakes, sleeps, eats, drinks, and talks discipleship, he has become a living crusader for all things discipleship. Focusing on Jesus' last words to his first disciples, this book brings into the fore the need to "rediscover" discipleship. One question which many people may be asking is: "Is there anything more to be written about discipleship that is not already written?"

For Gallaty, it is a resounding yes. Simply because most people's spiritual lives are still very much in limbo. Quoting statistics on the failures of Church discipleship programs, there is a general decline in spirituality among church goers. In spite of all the resources available out there, there is still a "discipleship deficit" today. One main reason is the lack of measurables. We are good at organizing, planning, and implementing various programs. Unfortunately, we are not as good when it comes to measuring their effectiveness. So convicted is Gallaty that he calls the return to discipleship as "the reformation of the twenty-first century." Not only is this time-tested, it is also culturally relevant. With discipleship, believers will be empowered for ministry, for witness, for growth. We realize the "great" in the "Great Commission." The Church must keep the "main thing" the main thing, and not be distracted by minor concerns. The Great Commission to make disciples is the "main thing." Gallaty states:
"Until disciple-making becomes the ministry of the church and not a ministry in the church, we will never see our discipleship efforts impact the world the way that Jesus envisioned. Until disciple-making becomes the ministry of the church and not a ministry in the church, we will never see our discipleship efforts impact the world the way that Jesus envisioned. This generation, as with every generation."

For all the programs we have in our churches, how are we tracking them? It cannot be simply counting the number of believers but "weighing" them in terms of their depth of discipleship. Here, Gallaty proposes the use of MARCS as an effective measure of this "main thing." Every discipleship group needs to be Missional; Accountable; Reproducible; Communal; and Scriptural.

In order to get ourselves back on track to rediscover discipleship, we need two things:
  1. Know the Man
  2. Know the Methods
In order to be men for the mission, we need to know the Man we are on mission for. After all, how can we share about the Person if we have not personally known him? This means we need to know the contexts of Jesus in the first century. Know how Jesus lived as a rabbi, how he teaches, and how as a young boy, he was so immersed in the Torah. Gallaty calls it "rabbinic discipleship" where knowledge about God comes from the Scriptures. We can learn of Jesus on how he made disciples. First, minister and let the disciples watch (Matt 5-7). Second, he allowed his disciples to assist him, and that became part of their training, just like how the disciples brought bread and fish, and helped distributed the food (John 6:1-13). Third, the disciples ministered while Jesus assisted (Mark 9). Fourth, the disciples ministered while Jesus watched (Luke 10:17). This is the same strategy the author has made in his previous book, "Growing Up." In knowing the Man Jesus, we need to understand the Hebrew mindset that learns in pictures rather than bullet points. We cannot presume that disciple-makers are born. They are diligently made. Learn how Jesus made disciples through his daily interactions with them. Sadly, modern discipleship strategies tend to be focused on a program or product rather than the process.

Gallaty is a strong voice for intentionality in discipleship. In Part Two, he notices the "McChristian Culture" we are in that opts for the "now," the list of to-dos, quick-fixes, drive-through conveniences, and a  general sense of hurry, even in the Church. Disciples making needs lots of patience. It requires repetition. It needs to be shared with another person. Gallaty is not afraid to question conventional beliefs. Like the popular use of "one person at a time." For all its effectiveness and personal effects, there are serious limitations: We may miss out on the rest. He suggests five other types of discipleship audiences:
  1. Crowd
  2. Congregation
  3. Community
  4. Core
  5. Close
Each of these groups will require different approaches but the same goal: Make disciples. We can learn from Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger's four-fold vision for simplification of churches: "clarity, movement, alignment, focus." When applied to disciple making, Gallaty defines: "Discipleship is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ." Be clear about the purpose of discipleship. Be intentional about the movement toward disciple making. Align all of the Church's resources and strategies accordingly. Focus and keep on focusing. He then distinguishes between evangelism and discipleship in terms of the former for unbelievers and the latter for believers. For the gospel is received through evangelism, and sustained through discipleship. Both are essential. He quotes Derwin Gray's "If our churches are not evangelistic, then our discipleship process has not been holistic." Gallaty leaves the description of the MARCS strategy of the D-Group to chapter 13. If the first twelve chapters are about rediscovering what discipleship means, chapter 13 is the practicum for instilling a deeper sense of making disciples after rediscovering discipleship. 

Very clear and very passionately written, it is not easy to read this book without nodding the head or saying "wow!" There are many important observations made about many existing Church climates that have no sense of direction for anything discipleship. Those that claim to do discipleship are often dependent on mere programs or some educational curriculum. Gallaty cuts through all of these by explaining the need for both theory and practice to go together. His simply observation of the Master Jesus strategy should leave us pondering about our own more and more. Written with implementation in mind, every chapter is filled with useful practical tips and insightful quotes from Christian leaders both past and present. Gallaty himself has poured out his life and ministry into the work of Christ, and this book is an extension of his wonderful work. Read this book. Put the principles into practice. Make disciples intentionally. If you do not know how to start the process of disciplemaking, pick up this book. You won't go wrong.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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