The process of discipleship isn’t difficult—the commitment is. In fact, it’s what’s most missing in the church today. (“It” being discipleship, or commitment? Exactly.) Still, because discipleship has become such a lost art in the church, many don’t even understand the process anymore, even if they have the desire. After reading John Thompson’s book, you’ll no longer have that as an excuse.
John L. Thompson. Changing the Landscape of Eternity: Transforming Believers into Disciples. 256p., $13.99, Deep River Books.
The opening section, “Laying a Firm Foundation” is just that, and deals more with the theological/”why” questions. If you don’t need as much convincing, you can likely jump to Part 2 (the other two-thirds of the book), “Building an Effective Discipleship Ministry”—but not before at least reading Chapter 5, “Jesus’ Requirements: Are You a True Disciple?” As well as being a gut-check before getting into the “work” section of the book, the chapter also recounts some of John’s own story—and in short, amply illustrates why learning to following Jesus is worth the cost.
Part 2, again, is the more nuts-and-bolts part of the book, as well as the warmer, more personal section in general. Because, after all, discipleship is about relationship. There’s also some good advice here for disciplers on how to approach the process:
There are a number of cautions to consider as you prayerfully watch for a person to disciple…. First, God does not necessarily direct you to disciple every person who approaches you. Most young believers have not learned how to determine God’s will. They are, and often prove to be, insincere when asked for a solid commitment to being discipled. It is up to us, as disciplers, to determine if these people are indeed ones who God is directing us to disciple.
John uses the acronym FATHER (or MOTHER, for women) to describe the process; I’ll let you discover the meaning of each for yourself. From there, we’re walked through the basics of how to establish a discipleship ministry, as well as how to deal with issues such as obstacles to growth, as well as how to tailor discipleship ministries to small groups and children’s ministries and/or parenting.
Chapters 10 and 11 are the heart of the book, as they walk us through the goal (heart transformation) and through the discipleship process itself. Here, and really throughout the book, John reminds us, “The truth is that God transforms believers’ lives, not us; we are only tools he uses in the process… Discipleship is not rocket science, but it requires thought and prayer. Since we must combat our old nature, transformation takes time, effort, and of course, God’s transforming work…. Discipleship is a lifelong process.”
Changing the Landscape of Eternity is, simply, a solid book on discipleship from end to end. If you care at all about discipleship (and you’d better), but don’t know where to start… start here.
(Disclaimer: And yes, I was editor for this book. And durned proud of it. :))