Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review - Building a Discipling Culture - Mike Breen

Best book I've ever read on how to do church.  Hands down.
The writing is not knock your socks off.  The cool factor is fairly low.  The editing is a little lacking.
But the concepts ...  WOW!

Here is a brief rundown.
  • If you set out to make disciples, you will inevitably build the Church.  If you set out to build the Church, there is no guarantee that you will make disciples.  This is by far the most simple, most profound and most radical concept in the book.
  • Everyone needs to be discipled by someone and actively discipling someone (or at least moving toward it).  This in itself is not radical or new.  People have been talking about this for centuries.  What is unique for our era is an actual plan for how to do this and the expectation that it can, must, and will be done.  We are actually asking people to model after us - so we better get our lives in line with what we see in Jesus!
  • Discipleship takes a great deal of time, intentionality, relationship, and personal investment.  If we are genuinely going to disciple someone, we have to invite them deeply into our lives.
  • Discipleship happens best within a system of interlocking small, medium, and large groups.  This is essentially a reiteration of Wesley's system of bands, classes, and meetings.
  • The point of discipleship is shaping people into the life and mission of Jesus.  Discipleship is not merely the distribution of information, as if someone can pass a content based test proving that they have been adequately discipled.  Also, discipleship is not just teaching people how to maintain their personal spiritual relationship with Jesus.  Discipleship is much more about apprenticeship in the life and culture of faith and mission.  Discipleship is holistic - ALL of life.
  • Visuals are immensely helpful for the retention of key concepts.  The second 2/3 of the book are built around several shapes which express key discipleship concepts.  The simpler shapes have provided our church with an easily accessible language set for addressing the key issues of discipleship.  (However, the shapes get a little convoluted and unhelpful after anything with five sides.)  
  • Faithful discipleship involves a lifelong process of observation, repentance, and learning.  Sure, we're used to talking about growth and the maturation process, but this book maps out a profound process of observing what is going on inside us, talking about it, repenting of our harmful ways of thinking and acting, and moving forward with faithful actions.  (This is called the learning circle.)
  • Faithful living involves learning the rhythms of work and rest.  This is certainly not new, but incorporating it as a core element of discipleship is brilliant and should have been obvious all along, but unfortunately is a much needed correction to our workaholic society.  (This is a semicircle, with a pendulum swinging back and forth between work and rest.)
  • Healthy churches balance the relationships of UP (with God), IN (with each other), and OUT (with "the world").  Not a new concept, but this is states so succinctly and with a helpful triangle of UP, OUT, and IN.  
  • Focus your attention on people who are receptive to you.  The people who are eager to listen and to engage with you are the people God has put in your life to receive what you can give.  Don't beat on closed doors.  

If you are a pastor, church leader, or anyone committed to the mission of Jesus, you really, really need to read this book.  Really.  

I am thoroughly excited to be part of Duneland Community Church, where we are jumping into the deep end of discipleship for mission.  This is going to be great!

(For more information about the movement from which this book has emerged, go to: 

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