What is there about discipleship that needs to be rediscovered? Has disciple-making become a lost skill among Christians? Seeing that those professing no religion (the “nones”) are increasing in our culture, you might think matters of discipleship are waning. Baptisms are in decline and many faithful teenage believers are leaving the faith and the church as they enter adulthood. So, if Christians are not growing as disciples of Jesus, what can we do?
Robby Gallaty helps us rediscover discipleship and disciple-making. This blog will introduce his book to you, looking at the first half of the book. The next blog will look at the last half of the book.
Gallaty, Robby. Rediscovering Discipleship. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.
Part 1 in Rediscovering Discipleship is called “Know the Man Before You Go on the Mission.” In this first section Gallaty reviews what discipleship is. Of course the model disciple-maker is Jesus but do you understand Jesus’ first century culture? Knowing that culture and tradition is an imperative in becoming a disciple-maker in the twenty-first century. First, understand how rabbis of the first century taught. Jesus was such a rabbi although he taught with authority. Jesus spent three years turning twelve men into disciples who could make disciples. One of them did not make it. How quickly we want to learn disciple-making in five easy steps without understanding that we must be disciples before we can make a single disciple. If we are not discipled, how can we understand how to make a disciple.
Once we understand how Jesus made disciples, we need to see how Hebrews in the first century thought. Those Jews were steeped in the Word of God. Other influences did dilute their Hebrew thinking. One dilution was Hellenization, the cultural changes brought about by the Greeks as they spread their culture all over the world. This is a lesson to us as we try to think Christianly in a non-Christian culture.
The ancient Hebrews used word pictures. This is prominent in Jesus’ teaching as he uses Old Testament references and parables to explain the truth He was communicating. Some might say Jesus was not direct in his teaching, yet in a story-oriented culture, Jesus was direct. Also see that Jesus often taught by answering questions with questions. We modern Americans hate such teaching because we just want the answers and we want them now. We want the facts but Jesus taught with principles. His teaching intrigued the mind and engaged thinking. All of this reminds us that disciple-makers are not born; they are made. If you want to make disciples, then learn disciple-making. You were not likely born a disciple-maker but you can become one. Gallaty makes this point from the Bible as well as through church history. He traces disciple-making through historical lives like Augustine, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, Thomas Crammer, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley. The church today owes a debt to such leaders. John Wesley’s Holy Club set a model for us to see how accountability small groups changed lives. We build on his principles today.
Gallaty closes Part 1 with a discussion of the term “disciple” in the New Testament. He notes that Paul, a Jew, addresses Greeks by adding the concept of family to discipleship. Indeed, disciples are a part of a family, God’s family. Life in this new family God is creating is the nexus for learning the lifestyle of a disciple. Without God’s family, disciples are not formed and discipleship is not practiced.
Scripture: Analyze Matthew 28:19-20. What is the central command? In what ways should we carry out this command?
Dig Deeper: Read Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty.
It’s Your Turn Now: Why do you think disciple-makers are not born but are made? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.