I’m currently taking Discipleship in Mark with Hans Bayer. The two assigned books are Bayer’s A Theology of Mark: The Dynamic Between Christology and Authentic Discipleship and Ogden’s Transforming Discipleship. Making disciples is the primary task of the Church and it is something that we do poorly at the moment. Bayer’s book is about what discipleship is and Ogden’s is how to go about it. Both are very important books. Today I will be reviewing Ogden’s book. I’ll hopefully review Bayer’s book in a future post.
Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden introduces a helpful, Biblical model for relational discipleship that he has used successfully for years. There are three parts to the book. In the first part, Ogden presents discipleship in the American church, or rather the lack there of. In the second part, he looks at how Jesus and Paul made disciples and why they did it that way. In the last part, he presents what he calls a church-based strategy for disciple making.
Before Ogden presents his discipleship strategy, he first informs the reader of the current situation. Ogden paints a rather bleak picture; although there are many people in the United States who claim to be evangelical Christians, few are being or have been discipled. American Christianity is presented as a spectator driven and shallow religion. Quantitative growth seems to be the aim of church leaders as opposed to depth. Ogden presents several reasons for this. Pastors, in general, have forgotten their duty to disciple and when they do attempt it, it is done through programs, not relationships. Other reasons include a reduction of the Christian life to external benefits, a wrong understanding of discipleship, a low view of the church, and ignoring the goal of maturity.
To come up with a solution to this problem, Ogden looks to Jesus and Paul for guidance. Jesus discipled twelve men who would then carry on his work after he was gone. He did this in stages. First, he was an example to them, then their teacher, then their coach, and lastly a delegator sending them to carry on his work. While Paul and Timothy are typically understood to be the ideal picture of a discipleship relationship, Ogden believes a better picture of Pauline discipleship is Paul as a parent to his churches. Paul parents his churches from infancy to adulthood, transformation and maturity being the goals.
Ogden then presents his discipleship model. Instead of the prevailing model of people plus program equals disciples, he favors relational discipleship plus time equals disciples. Having studied discipleship with variously sized groups, he believes groups of three are ideal. These commit to a discipleship relationship for a year to year and a half. During this time they will go through a discipleship curriculum of their choice. There is an emphasis on relationship, with the inherent sharing of life – sharing, confession, encouragement, and reproof – that goes with that. The goal at the end of these groups is to have two new disciplers who can then start their own discipleship triads, thus multiplying Christ’s disciples rapidly but also with depth.
The last chapter and the appendix are about how to apply these concepts practically. That is why I like this book so much – he not only presents the most compelling strategy for discipleship I’m aware of, but also tells you how to actually do it.