In Chapter one Dr. Gallaty begins with a bit of his testimony. I think it is important to note that he tells of a young man that he encountered early in his college experience that witnessed to him. Robby rejected this witness at the time, but it always stayed with him and became prominent at a very key time of his life. The lesson here for us believers is to always be faithful in delivering the gospel and to let God choose when to apply it to the person's heart and/or conscience.
It was after a life-changing accident and a struggle with a drug addiction on two separate occasions that he remembered his conversation in college. He surrendered his life fully to God, accepting His forgiveness and committing to serve through the ministry. He struggled with figuring out what to do next and a friend suggested that Robby begin to pray for a mentor. It was not long after he began praying that God provided one. This testimony leads to the content of the book I am reviewing here.
Part of what is shared in this chapter are results of surveys which display time and again the believers aren't growing and that discipleship has not been a priority for most churches. Even churches that have what they call "discipleship" are largely ineffective in performing it. Churches often create a consumer mentality in which people come just to be "fed" rather than learning to become those who feed others.
However, it is clarified that the failure does not rest solely on the church because "...it is true that many professing Christians never commit to a growing relationship with the Lord." And the reason often is that "many professing believers count the cost [of discipleship] and decide it is more than they are willing to pay (Luke 14:26-33)."
In outlining a four-step progression of how Jesus modeled the discipleship process, Dr. Gallaty emphasizes that discipleship is a matter of multiplication rather than addition and that is why it is so vital for the church to be intentional in the process of making disciples.
The goal is to raise up each mentee to become a mentor. As mentees become mentors, they begin to raise up more disciples that make disciples that make disciples and on and on and on. In just a short time the world could be reached with and raised up in the gospel as opposed to each individual leading one person at a time to the Lord and never touching their life beyond the conversion.
So what is discipleship? The book defines it this way: "...it is intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ" (emphasis his). It is important to note that being a "Christian" is much more than wearing a label. It is not who we are, it is what we do. We are called to be disciples, and simply defined, a disciple is someone who learns.
If you have never been discipled, then you are likely apprehensive about discipling someone else. Therefore, the first step is to think of someone you know who you could ask to meet with you and disciple you. We can all usually think of someone whom we look up to spiritually. Those are the ones you start with. Ask them about their most common spiritual practices: What are some of the habits or patterns in their spiritual life that they feel draw them closest to the Lord? How do they "dig" into and understand the tough parts of scripture? What resources do they use to grow in their spiritual disciplines? How do they know what to say in their prayers? Some of this may seem easy to answer for some of you, but for others, these may be questions you have struggled with for a long time. Find someone to help you. Pray and ask God to show you someone or send you someone.
Another aspect of this discipleship journey that can be a tough bridge to cross is to ask this mentor to help keep you accountable. This means you have to build a trust in them because you will have to be vulnerable enough to tell them your struggles and your failures so they can regularly challenge you to overcome them and regularly ask how you have been doing in those areas of weakness. The positive side is that they will be your best source of encouragement. If you have a good mentor, they will not shame you in your weaknesses and failures, rather they will give you encouraging words of scripture and support and they will pray and even cry with you for victory over the most difficult struggles of your life.
As already stated, the goal is to develop new disciples so they can make disciples. However, we have to overcome some of the myths about ministry the become road blocks to the goal. These myths are debunked in this chapter. The first is the myth which leads disciples to believe that only professional" ministers should do the work of ministry. The second is the myth in which believers feel they are disqualified from ministry due to something in their past or their lack of training or lack of particular talents. The third is the myth in which believers believe they must be a fully mature believer before beginning to minister to others.
In contrast, Dr. Gallaty demonstrates how being active in ministry is an effective way to accelerate growth as a disciple and he also outlines three key relationships to help in this process: a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy. I encourage you to pick up a copy of the book and learn how these relationships are key to you becoming a disciple who makes disciples.
Next week, I will share the next two chapters with you. Don't forget, you don't have to wait to dig in. You can order now and get started on this discipleship journey.
For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet