Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work by Robby Gallaty. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015. 237 pages. Reviewed by K. Brandon Dobson.
“If Jesus had a model and a plan [for discipleship] shouldn’t we have one?” (101). These were the words that transitioned a normal book on discipleship, into a convicting evaluation of my life and church. The process I went through forced me to ask the question,”if someone grew up in our church and attends everything your church has to offer what sort of follower of Jesus would they become?” Our church’s mission is to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ and with an honest assessment, I could not say that “fully” genuinely describes our discipleship process.
Across America, other church leaders are coming to similar conclusions. Many are scrambling, trying to find a solutions for the thousands of people walking away from the church, and I personally believe (and book sales suggest) a deficiency in discipleship is a major contributor.
Responding to this cultural chaos is a seemingly endless amount of books introducing a solution. Robby Gallaty, Ph.D alumnus from New Orleans Theological Seminary and pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Tennessee, presents his solution with Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work which must be considered.
Gallaty begins his book transparently, acknowledging his motive for writing the book is “not to raise the banner of discipleship; it’s a clarion[loud and clear] call for cultivating a deeper walk with Christ” (15). He believes that making disciples is an obedience issue and a byproduct of growing closer to Jesus. Clearly, followers of Jesus would agree that He had something in mind for them following His ascension. All four gospels and the Book of Acts paints this picture calling His followers to replicate themselves through making disciples ( Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-22, and Acts 1:8).
Obviously, fully devoted followers of Jesus do not walk away from Jesus…they run towards Him as their take His words seriously. Therefore, something must be done, and Gallaty insists that discipleship must be rediscovered and with a return to Scripture it can be accomplished (15).
In Rediscovering Discipleship, Gallaty chose to breakup his thirteen chapters into two major parts. Part 1 is entitled, “Know the Man Before You Go on the Mission.” In seven chapters he explains the Scriptural command and displays discipleship’s place in church history.
Gallaty highlights the reality that Jesus had an intentional plan for making disciples. As His Rabbi contemporaries, he had a four step process for discipleship (29). First, Jesus ministered and his disciples watched him. Second, Jesus allowed the disciples to assist in the ministry. Third, the disciples did the ministry themselves. Finally, Jesus watched as the disciples ministered to others (36).
Part II of the book, “The Method of Making Disciples” is where Gallaty applies the calling of Jesus- with the methodology of Jesus- to present a model for discipleship in the twenty-first century. In six chapters, he explains what he feels is a biblically informed methodology for making disciples. It is worth noting that his process is not mere theory. The author experienced a similar process which led to his own discipleship through International Mission Board President, David Platt. Gallaty would go on to turn his experience of becoming a disciple into his former church’s, Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, primary means of leading people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ (69).
It is obvious that Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work, was birthed out Gallaty’s personal convictions. His passion for making disciples and being obedient to the commands of Jesus is inspiring. From beginning to end, he uses Scriptures, church history, and Jesus’ methodology to paint a picture of possibility for local churches not mere condemnation.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed reading this book. I found it was refreshing and well written. However, I do have a few suggestions to be considered. First I believe the addition of case studies would considerably enhance and bring further credibility to Gallaty’s proposal. I appreciate hearing how his former church embraced the vision for intentional discipleship, but have other churches experienced similar success from his particular d-group methodology?
A second critique I have is concerning the thesis development. In general, I felt this book was an informative and well written. However, I noticed from reviewing this book something I had not initially noticed while reading. I believe chapters two and three could have been eliminated without his thesis losing any enhancement. I found the content to be educational, but not essential and possibly distracting from his primary message.
Rediscovering Discipleship joins a seemingly overpopulated but ever-growing list of books responding to dire situation confronting the 21st Century American Church. During a time when so many have suggestions, I believe Gallaty provides a practical and beneficial methodology. It begins a conversation that I believe has the potential to lead followers of Jesus …to take the Words of Jesus…seriously.
I truly believe that this book would help you grow in your love for Jesus Christ and His Mission. (Luke 19:10)