The Christian life is the discipled life. … It is for for a people traveling together down the narrow path that leads to life. You must follow and you must lead. You must be loved and you must love. And we love others best by helping them to follow Jesus down the pathway of life.
Mark Dever provides a working definition of discipleship: “helping others to follow Jesus.”
Discipling is one of a series of books in the 9Marks series of practical resources for building healthy churches. This particular series addresses each of the Nine Marks of a Healthy Church individually. I’ve been waiting for some time for the last two, of which Discipling is one (we’re still waiting on Biblical Conversion).
According to Dever, “any claim to love for God that does not show itself in a love for neighbor is a love of a false god, another form of idolatry,” and that “discipling others … demonstrates this love God and others as well as anything.”
Thus, “discipling is basic to Christianity.” Dever warns believers that “we might not be his disciples if we are not laboring to make disciples.”
Is this stern assessment biblical? Dever lays out well the biblical evidence that it is, without being judgmental. His approach is not merely to warn against unbiblical practice, but to also demonstrate the way to conform practice to biblical norms. Discipling is full of practical helps and suggestions regarding how the individual church member, the church leader, and the congregation can all play a role in creating a “culture of disciplemaking.”
One weakness in Dever’s treatment is an omission of how the church should approach its discipling responsibility for those who don’t want to be disciples. In a chapter entitled “Choose Someone,” Dever lays out the characteristics of a good candidate for discipling. One of these is “teachability,” and Dever says “You don’t want to spend time trying to teach someone who thinks you have nothing to teach them, and that they have nothing to learn.”
For the individual church member, this fits with the description of discipling that Dever gives in the book. Yet for church leaders, who should also be concerned to disciple all members of the congregation, both as personal examples and as those charged with the whole congregation’s maturity, advice to teach only the teachable falls short of the biblical reminder that leaders will give an account for every soul under their care, both the “teachable” and the “unteachable.”
I would have liked to hear what Dever suggests leaders do to ensure that the congregation is attempting to “present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28-30).
Yet even without that instruction, Discipling is a valuable resource for the believer who wants to follow Christ, and to help others follow Christ.