Book Summary: Deep Discipleship (Part 2)

Some more thoughts about J.T. English’s book, DEEP DISCIPLESHIP

After using the first 2 chapters to lay a foundation, chapter 3 kicks into the meat of the book. In a nutshell, this is basic outline of for the last 5 chapters of the book. The author’s goal is to provide a template for shaping a discipleship strategy:

Chapter 3: The SPACE of Discipleship

Chapter 4: The SCOPE of Discipleship

Chapter 5: The SEQUENCE of Discipleship

Chapter 6: The SENDING of Discipleship

Chapter 7: The STRATEGY of Discipleship

CHAPTER 3: SPACE: WHERE DOES DISCIPLESHIP HAPPEN IN THE CHURCH?

In chapter 2, the author sought to make the point that the primary place for discipleship is within the life of the church. In chapter 3, he seeks to be more specific about how discipleship happens best in local churches.

Early in the chapter he shares how he realizes community is an important part of church life, but then states that “while small groups are great at a lot of great things, the are not that great at creating learning outcomes.” He also acknowledges that when groups turn into larger gatherings for learning, community diminishes. Basically, he brings up a tension that many churches struggle with. They are, typically, either good at creating fellowship and connection, or they are good at teaching and training. The challenge is for each church to figure out which spaces work best for building disciples. In the author’s words, “We need to have spaces in the local church in which learning, in the context of community, is the highest stated value.” Another thought-provoking quote was this: “community is indispensable to discipleship, but community is not discipleship.”

Much of this chapter focused on the author’s observation that Christians of our current day are woefully lacking in discipleship. He write, “Study after study shows that Christians do not know their Bible, the basics of the faith, or how to practice spiritual disciplines. We are basically illiterate when it comes to the Christian faith, yet we are adopting philosophies of ministry that deemphasize of learning about the Christian life. For some reason we have grown skeptical of learning and education in the church.”

There is “no one size fits all” approach to discipleship; each church must figure out what works best in their context. Some churches develop core classes on Sunday mornings while other churches create a year-long institute model. Whatever the case, the author encourages our leaning spaces to be active, always searching for ways to avoid learning that is too passive. Our learning spaces  should also be challenging and pressing participants toward transformation and submission to Christ

Book Summary: Deep Discipleship (Part 2)

Some more thoughts about J.T. English’s book, DEEP DISCIPLESHIP

After using the first 2 chapters to lay a foundation, chapter 3 kicks into the meat of the book. In a nutshell, this is basic outline of for the last 5 chapters of the book. The author’s goal is to provide a template for shaping a discipleship strategy:

Chapter 3: The SPACE of Discipleship
Chapter 4: The SCOPE of Discipleship
Chapter 5: The SEQUENCE of Discipleship
Chapter 6: The SENDING of Discipleship
Chapter 7: The STRATEGY of Discipleship

CHAPTER 3: SPACE: WHERE DOES DISCIPLESHIP HAPPEN IN THE CHURCH?

In chapter 2, the author sought to make the point that the primary place for discipleship is within the life of the church. In chapter 3, he seeks to be more specific about how discipleship happens best in local churches.

Early in the chapter he shares how he realizes community is an important part of church life, but then states that “while small groups are great at a lot of great things, the are not that great at creating learning outcomes.” He also acknowledges that when groups turn into larger gatherings for learning, community diminishes. Basically, he brings up a tension that many churches struggle with. They are, typically, either good at creating fellowship and connection, or they are good at teaching and training. The challenge is for each church to figure out which spaces work best for building disciples. In the author’s words, “We need to have spaces in the local church in which learning, in the context of community, is the highest stated value.” Another thought-provoking quote was this: “community is indispensable to discipleship, but community is not discipleship.”

Much of this chapter focused on the author’s observation that Christians of our current day are woefully lacking in discipleship. He write, “Study after study shows that Christians do not know their Bible, the basics of the faith, or how to practice spiritual disciplines. We are basically illiterate when it comes to the Christian faith, yet we are adopting philosophies of ministry that deemphasize of learning about the Christian life. For some reason we have grown skeptical of learning and education in the church.”

There is “no one size fits all” approach to discipleship; each church must figure out what works best in their context. Some churches develop core classes on Sunday mornings while other churches create a year-long institute model. Whatever the case, the author encourages our leaning spaces to be active, always searching for ways to avoid learning that is too passive. Our learning spaces should also be challenging and pressing participants toward transformation and submission to Christ

Book Summary: Deep Discipleship (Part 1)

I recently read through the book DEEP DISCIPLESHIP by J.T. English. Over the next few days, I’ll offer an overview of the book’s contents, along with any commentary I think might be helpful.

The premise of the book (as described on the back cover) is that “the majority of Christians today are being discipled by popular media, flashy events and folk theology because churches have neglected their responsibility to make disciples. But the church is not a secondary platform in the mission of God; it is the primary platform God uses to grow people into the image of Jesus.”

In the first few chapters of the book the author lays the foundation with these teachings/observations/declarations:

CHAPTER ONE: A GOD-CENTERED VISION FOR DISCIPLESHIP

  • Discipleship in the evangelical church is too deep, but it is far too shallow. We have tried to treat our discipleship disease by appealing to the lowest common denominator, oversimplifying discipleship, and taking the edge off what it means to follow Christ.”
  • Instead of asking “What do disciples want?,” we should ask “What do disciples need?” Instead of asking “How do we maintain disciples?,” we should ask “How do we grow disciples?”
  • Success in ministry is not found in building programs but in building disciples.
  • Ministry that is not oriented to the presence of God is dead. The why behind the what of deep discipleship is God. The source of true discipleship is not better programs, better preaching or better community. All of these, and more, are hugely important tools, but the source of discipleship is God Himself.
  • God is not interested in creating an audience; He wants participants.

The author identifies 2 challenges to deep discipleship:

Challenge #1: Self-Centered Discipleship. We have replaced the transcendence of God for the transcendence of self. In this turn toward self, the church has, perhaps both intentionally and unintentionally, tailored its discipleship strategies to accommodate, and even perpetuate, the cultural shift toward self. According to Jesus, discipleship is not about self-actualization or self-preservation; it is about self-denial.  We will best know ourselves when we are carrying our cross. In summary, discipleship is not a path to autonomous self-improvement that leads to a throne; it is a path of self-denial that leads to a cross.

Challenge #2: Spiritual Apathy. In the church we are more concerned about apostasy than we are with apathy, but both are deadly to a vibrant walk with Christ. IA domesticated Jesus will never produce deep disciples; a domesticated Jesus is not worth following. If our excellence in ministry is keeping people’s attention rather than the beauty of Jesus, then we have failed. That’s because becoming bored with the true Christ is impossible. One of the reasons our people have grown bored with Jesus is that many church leaders have as well. We have settled for a cultural Christianity that is anemic and will not sustain disciples of Jesus.

CHAPTER TWO: THE CHURCH: WHERE WHOLE DISCIPLES ARE FORMED

Many people believe they have to leave the church to find deep discipleship. But let’s be clear: the church is called to make disciples and it is time for us to stop delegating our responsibility. The local church is meant to be the primary spiritual guide for disciples who are on the journey of growing deeper in the love and knowledge of God. Virtual discipleship cannot create deep disciples because deep discipleship is intensely local. Formation is meant to be personal, embodied and incarnational. The  local church is able to supply a place, people and purpose for growth. The local church is uniquely appointed, in God’s providence and wisdom, to make disciples. Thus, it is a responsibility that ought not be delegated or out-sourced. Simply put, churchless discipleship is aimless discipleship.

A few questions posed by the author at the end of the first few chapters:

  • Is your church raising or lowering the bar of discipleship?
  • How is a God-centered vision for discipleship different from other discipleship paradigms?
  • What do you see as a greater challenge in your church: self-centered discipleship or spiritual apathy?
  • Do you agree that the local church should be the primary vehicle for discipleship?
  • Why does the church sometimes pass the responsibility of discipleship off to other people and ministries?