As I begin my full-time ministry at First Central Bible Church one of the foremost thoughts in my mind is discipleship. You’ll likely see some post here on that subject in the future, beginning with this book review. Some of the questions which come to mind when you think about discipleship might include, “What is discipleship?” How do you effectively disciple others if you have not been discipled yourself?” or “Does the Bible give us any guidance on how to disciple others?” Greg Ogden deals with these and other questions in his book Transforming Discipleship as he makes a case for intentional, relational discipleship as means of growing self-initiating, reproducing, fully dedicated disciples of Jesus Christ.
Here is the Book outline as I see it, slightly different from the one given in the book:
- Self-evaluation of a church’s discipleship ministry: Chapters 1-2
- The symptoms of healthy or poor discipleship in the Church
- The root causes of healthy or poor discipleship in the Church
- An evaluation of Christ’s and Paul’s methods of discipleship: Chapters 3-5
- Critical elements of a discipleship making process Chapters 6-8
- Steps toward a church or ministry based discipleship strategy Chapter 9
After making a case in the first two chapters that the church has mistakenly replaced discipleship with educational programs (also providing a self-evaluation tool for churches), he turns to the disciplining models of both Christ and the Apostle Paul. The way Ogden maps out Jesus role in the discipleship process is particularly helpful. While there are some differences in language used between the two models, the fundamentals are the same; both Jesus and Paul made personal investments in those whom they were disciplining.
Ogden’s model is fairly straightforward: A believer prayerfully considers inviting two other believers into a covenantal, mutually upbuilding discipleship process for approximately one year. During that time they walk through a Bible-based curriculum (He has written one called Discipleship Essentials) while encouraging and building each other up as they share in what they are learning and the practice of spiritual disciplines. During the last third of their time together the two people invited will begin to prayerfully consider who they will invite into a discipling group. At the end, the disciple picks two new partners to disciple, and those he walked with will each pick two people to disciple themselves. Though this description leaves out some of the specifics, you can see that this is a simple method which, if done intentionally, has the potential to grow many in their faith. There are some pitfalls, which Ogden also discusses in his book.
One of the more helpful chapters is chapter nine, where Ogden lays out a step-by-step process for beginning this type of discipleship relationship (and some ways not to do it) in a variety of ministry contexts, including church renewal, church plants, and quickly growing churches with many new converts. In all contexts, Ogden warns that this is not a quick fix, but rather a long-term investment with the potential for lasting growth.
While I mostly enjoyed his book and will move to put parts of it into practice, it does have some shortcomings. The one which stands out is his warning not to gather a bunch of laymen, train them in the use of his book, and then begin the process en masse. He explains it by saying that the leaders themselves need to go through the process as a whole in order to be effective themselves. The problem with that logic is that it makes me wonder, “why am I reading this book?” since no one has gone through it with me. With that being said, Transforming Discipleship is worth the read and would be helpful to anyone who needs some direction in creating a sustainable discipleship process for training and equipping the saints through a systematic, Bible-based curriculum and life-on-life relationships. I am also using his curriculum Discipleship Essentials, which I find very good and helpful.
Greg Ogden (DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is the author of several books such as Unfinished Business, Discipleship Essentials, Transforming Discipleship, Leadership Essentials (with coauthor Daniel Meyer), and The Essential Commandment. He is also a partner in a ministry called Global Discipleship Initiative which seeks to train pastors and Christian leaders to build multiplying discipleship networks with the goal of growing self-initiating, reproducing, fully dedicated disciples of Jesus Christ.
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: IVP Books; Revised and Expanded edition (October 1, 2016)