Disciples make disciples. Though this three word sentence is as clear as a cloudless sky and given by Jesus in one of the clearest passages of Scripture (Matt. 28:19), it has been one of the most largely undeveloped and neglected aspects of church and Christian life. That is, disciples of Jesus Christ are not so adept at making new converts to Christ into disciples of Christ. While some groups can be very productive in evangelism, that is often where it stops and thus the church is filled with undiscipled disciples of Christ. Granted, once one becomes an adopted child of God they are a disciple of Christ in its most bare sense of the word. However, being a disciple of Christ is not merely a static state of existence one has in relation to Christ, once saved. Rather, it is a dynamic relationship that is growing. Thus, discipleship is properly a description of the ongoing growth of a self-identified disciple of Christ.
This idea of disciples making disciples is the passion behind the new book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan and Mark Beuving. Chan and Beuving’s desire is to help believers understand what it means to be a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ. The goal of discipleship is to be like the person you are following. For the Christian that is Christ. “That’s the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate Him, carry on His ministry, and become like Him in the process” (p. 16).
It takes a church
Though disciples are individuals, discipleship is not accomplished individually. “The proper context for every disciple maker is the church. It is impossible to make disciples aside from the church of Jesus Christ” (p. 51). After all, how would one fulfill and be a recipient of the over 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament on their own outside of the local church? Further, if disciples are to obey the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations, they cannot do that one their own. Discipleship happens in the life of the individual within the life of the church.
While discipleship for the follower of Christ happens within the local church, it is not merely contained within the local church. Growing disciples of Christ will naturally develop an outward focus on the world around them. This is how the church fulfills the great commission to make disciples of very nation. As unbelievers are evangelized and brought within the local church for discipleship, they in turn are driven to evangelize others so that they too might become disciples of Christ and begin their discipleship journey within the local church as well. The authors rightly point out:
We are called to make disciples, and strengthening the other members of the church body is an important part of this. But if we are not working together to help the unbelieving world around us become followers of Jesus, then we are missing the point of our salvation. God blessed Abraham so that He could bless the world through him (Gen. 12). (p. 74)
What does discipleship look like?
So the natural question that arises is “What does discipleship look like?” Finding root in Matt. 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” Chan and Beuving spend the rest of the book (230 additional pages) discussing how to study the Bible and the content of the biblical story line. So, what is all important to discipleship is knowing Scripture since it is within Scripture that we find all that Jesus has commanded His disciples.
After giving a brief introduction to basic Bible interpretation principles, the authors spend the bulk of the book walking from Genesis to Revelation and drawing out the redemptive biblical story line. I will not rehash this section, but it is divided into the Old and New Testaments and follows the Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation structure while filling out much of the redemptive portion. With this the book ends. What might become readily apparent to those who are more familiar with books on discipleship is that Chan and Beuving have taken a markedly different approach to discussing what discipleship looks like. Most books on discipleship cover the typical topics of prayer (though this is touched on), Bible study, the fruits of the Spirit and the like, and do not address the overall message of the Bible. This may be because most discipleship books are geared towards Christians who have been saved for a while but are looking for more growth in these areas. Chan and Beuving have perhaps shifted their focus (although this is not stated outright) more towards new Christians who have not been reading their Bibles and would not be familiar with the overall message of Scripture.
Since the content of Multiply seems to be driven in this direction, the book is more for new Christians rather than seasoned ones. And this is fine because the book is an excellent resource for new believers. In fact, it is accompanied by a series of videos you can find online at www.multiplymovement.com. There you can listen to each chapter read aloud and watch a corresponding video in which Chan and David Platt discuss the content of the chapter. As such, the book is designed not just for individuals to read on their own but to go through with others in a small group with a leader.
There is nothing worse than seeing a person commit their life to be a disciple of Christ only to sputter along in their Christian life never really growing as a disciple of Christ. Multiply provides a needed tool to help new believers understand their identity as disciples, get properly oriented within the context of the local church as the place their discipleship takes place and get an early grasp on the message of Scripture so they can understand all that Christ has commanded them. I recommend buying several copies of this book to have ready to give away liberally!
[node:disclaimer body collapsed]