There’s been a slew of new books about discipleship this year. David Platt and Francis Chan have coauthored Multiply and Follow Me intended to be a resource for local churches in helping Christians grow in their faith. Throw in DiscipleShift by Jim Putman, Each One Disciple One by Stan Toler and Untamed by Alan Hirsch, and you’ve got a studly reading list.
I was blessed to receive a pre-release copy of pastor Robby Gallaty’s new book Growing Up for review. It released November 11, 2013. Robby contacted me and a host of other pastors, and he was gracious enough to agree to do a mutual book review of Super Center Savior in exchange for my review of Growing Up. He probably needs to read my review of his book before he reviews my book. 😉
Growing Up is the first in what will be a series of books aimed at being used as a resource in discipleship groups – Gallaty’s church calls them D-Groups.
As I was reading the book, I couldn’t help feel like I was actually reading a compilation of many different, time-tested and well-known discipleship resources, quotes and tools. From Jerry Fine’s One on One with God to Avery Willis’ MasterLife to Navigators materials to Fighter Verses, Gallaty creates a one-stop guide.
One reality is for Growing Up is that it may have helpfully compiled discipleship processes from across the past 30 years and congealed them into this series of books.
Using the acrostic CLOSER, he helpfully instructs those who wish to be disciple makers in ways to help their disciples grow in their faith in God and practice of spiritual disciplines. Putting my quick synopsis in parentheses out beside each letter, CLOSER stands for:
- Communicate (Prayer)
- Learn (Study the Bible)
- Obey (Do What It Says)
- Store (Memorize and Meditate on Scripture)
- Evangelize (Share Your Faith with Others)
- Renew (Daily Quiet Time)
While GU has some great quotes to amplify the above, the person looking for new material or models should look elsewhere. The book doesn’t chart any new territory. It does offer some helpful and simple ways to teach things such as basic hermeneutics. Even so, it reads like it’s condensing and borrowing from other sources, such as Grasping God’s Word by Duvall and Hays.
One concern I had throughout the book was a sense of legalism in the approach to the spiritual disciplines listed above. In the chapter on Evangelize, GU says:
“If you say you love God and you love the glory of God, then why are you not talking about Him everywhere you go? If you say you’re passionate about God and you’re thankful for what He has done for you, why are you not sharing that with people? Do your co-workers know about your relationship with the Lord?… Are you frequenting the same place at the same time to build relationships with the same people? You should be. If you are a disciple, you will be.”
This type of guilt-ridden approach to leading people into the spiritual disciplines bothers me. Gallaty mentions David Platt’s influence on his life, and I had the same feeling while reading Platt’s first book Radical. In my review of it, I said,
“Guilt is an excellent motivator but poor sustainer.”
Legalism is subtle, and sometimes it’s encouraged by prescribing simplistic methodologies to make one intimate with Christ. In reality, intimacy is a matter of the heart.
In another chapter, GU says:
“If you are going to be a disciple of Christ, you must have a daily quiet time with God.”
While I agree completely in principle, the tone of the chapter (and others) is disturbing to me. It seems to be prescribing a spirituality for Type A, driven people. Right brainers will be comfortable with it, but in my experience, other temperaments will meld their “quiet time” with other approaches – worship, music, nature, scripture, etc. I am completely comfortable with the type of QT he describes, but my love language (and apparently Gallaty’s) is a pen, journal, Bible and coffee. I’m a desk-bound, coffee shop journaller. Others, not so much. One can’t prescribe how I relate with God in my own unique identity and make that as a model for others. Each and every believer is called to intimacy in Christ, and joy comes from discovering how God has made us unique and relates to us through His Spirit, Word and the church in graciously creative ways.
Another critique I had of GU is that it is not a proponent of one-on-one discipleship. It urges small groups (D-Groups) of no more than five, including the discipler. GU stipulates at least weekly meetings of the group, and on top of that, recommends 12-18 months for the group.
From someone who’s seen God not only use one-on-one discipleship but multiply a sustainable movement through it, I am not persuaded with GU’s assertions about the ineffectiveness of one-on-one discipleship. I certainly don’t dispute the the model of D-Groups, but I didn’t see the need to throw other models of discipleship under the bus.
Before you think I’m down on Growing Up, overall, I think the book is a very helpful resource. For someone who has never discipled someone and who may be in a church without an established method for discipleship, it’s an excellent guide. It doesn’t cover new ground, but instead it presents some well-tested discipleship methodologies and topics. However, you can get much of the same material elsewhere. You just may not be able to get it all in one place.
Therein lies some of the attraction and appeal for GU. Instead of grabbing 12 different resources, GU presents structured and proven material in one volume (and more to come). I would not hesitate to recommend it to a church or leaders who currently don’t have a plan at all.