There are some subjects we make out to be far more difficult than they really are or than they really need to be. Often they appear difficult because we define them in difficult ways or because we fail to define them at all. “Discipling” can suffer in these ways. Perhaps it helps, then, to define discipling as simply as this: “Helping others to follow Jesus.” That’s not so tough, is it? To expand upon it, “Discipling is deliberately doing spiritual good to someone so that he or she will be more like Christ.” If discipleship is a term used to describe personally following Christ, discipling is a simple subset which involves helping someone else follow Christ.
“The Christian life is the discipled life and the discipling life.” So says Mark Dever in his new book Discipling: How To Help Others Follow Jesus, the latest entry in the “Building Healthy Churches” series from 9Marks. The series is based on Mark Dever’s 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and aims to provide a short, readable book on each of those marks: expositional preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, church membership, church discipline, discipleship and growth, and church leadership.
As he explains the need for this book, Dever says, “Christianity is not for loners or individualists. It is for a people traveling together down the narrow path that leads to life. You must follow and you must lead. You must be loved and you must love. And we love others best by helping them to follow Jesus down the pathway of life.” God’s love for us is meant to spark a chain reaction in which we love others so they in turn love God more and extend that love to others. We love them best through discipling, through helping them follow Christ. “The goal of this book is to help you understand biblical discipling and to encourage you in your obedience to Christ.”
The book succeeds well at its goal. Weighing in at just 128 pages, it is written for a general audience and makes for easy reading for any Christian. Dever divides the book into three sections. The first is an explanation and defense of discipling. He explains that we all have influence and that God calls us to use this influence for the good of others. He shows that the discipling life is an others-oriented life, and he speaks to the actual work involved: “Discipling is initiating a relationship in which you teach, correct, model, and love. It takes great humility.” It may involve deliberate instruction but must involve living out the Christian life in the presence of others, allowing them to learn from your example.
In the second section he explains the centrality of the local church in any effective model of discipling and the necessity of having pastors and leaders model it through example. The final section is the most practical, answering questions related to the how, when, and where of discipling. It’s all very simple: Choose someone, invite them to spend time with you, have clear aims to help them live better, and be prepared to pay the cost—the cost of time, preparation, prayer, and love. The concluding chapter speaks specifically of church leaders and steps involved in raising them up.
Discipling is another excellent little book in what is becoming an indispensable series. Though I have thought deeply about discipling and have committed a lot of time to it, the book still sparked new ideas and an increased belief in its centrality in God’s plan for his people. I commend it to pastors and church leaders hoping that they will first read it and then widely distribute it. May God use it to motivate Christians to commit to doing spiritual good to others so they can be more like Christ.
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