The Sovereign Call to Discipleship

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The shocking call of Jesus.

The way Jesus commenced his ministry was quite distinct from other teachers of his day. In fact it was remarkable that Jesus called others to follow him, and did not merely teach that they should be devoted to God. Studies from this period reveal to us that, “rabbis did not summon others to follow them. Instead, would-be disciples sought rabbis out and asked to serve as their disciples.”

But Jesus was different, he is the one who initiated the call, and further, he didn’t wait for a response. His call to be followed was effective. “He sovereignly and authoritatively called them to do so.” They dropped everything and followed him.

Other evidence from this period shows that disciples would typically study under a rabbi for a few years, graduate, and then attract their own students. Not so with Jesus, “disciples are called upon to follow Jesus literally and to leave their families.” Again, he doesn’t teach them that they should only follow God, “rather, he emphasizes the difficulty of following him and the cost of discipleship.”

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It’s often easy for modern day readers to be ignorant of the religious culture of Jesus’ day. This ignorance tends to flatten out much of the significance of what was actually going on in many of the events. A Jewish person would have been much more shocked at the actions of Jesus than we are. It’s easy to read past the significance of the details in the story. But it’s in these details that we see the uniqueness of the person of Jesus. Jesus acted the way he did because of his divine call. And within Jesus’ call for disciples to follow him instead of the ways of God lies the point that these details help reveal to us:

The deity of the Son. Jesus is God.

-all quotes taken from New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ by Thomas R. Schreiner

Book Review: Reaching and Teaching

In Sills previous book he examined The Missionary Call. Reaching and Teaching is a great follow-up in his desire to educate about missions. This is an accessible book that will expose many in the church to the complexities of missions methodology in the present age along with the challenges that we face.

M. David Sills. Reaching and Teaching, (Moody Publishers, 2010), 256 pages

In an age where we have more information than ever about the UPG’s (Unreached People Groups) of the world, our fast paced western society has bred in us a desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled as quickly as possible, as if Jesus “provided the formula for facilitating his return.”

This has resulted in a western influenced missiology that culminates in: The need for speed.

“If we are not training national believers in biblically sound Christian doctrine while training them to interpret the Word of God correctly, the day will soon come when those who represent Christ in this world will be preaching a gospel that Jesus never gave.”

The speed of the modern missionary movement has been detrimental to sustaining the work that is being done on foreign soils. The goal to reach the UPG’s of the world as fast as we can has resulted in a thirst for conversions that simply reaches the lost with the gospel, and then leaves them… but what are we leaving them with?

What is the goal of missions? Is it not “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20)

Many questionable missions methodologies have evolved from the need want to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible. This has in turn affected the ecclesiology of missionaries and the peoples being reached. The definition of what the church is can vary from missionary to missionary, and even these requirements are not always entirely biblically sound.

So, Sills proposes that we need to be effective in “teaching” and discipling new Christians. He argues there is a necessity for more theological training for the leaders of the church in the countries that we are “reaching”. For, if these new Christians and churches are not left with sound doctrine (Rom. 16:17; Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim 1:3; 10, 4:6, 6:3; Tit 1:9; 2:1, 10) and pastoral training, the churches that are being planted will become weak and very susceptible to infiltration by Satan and heresy, which will ultimately lead to syncretism.

I would definitely recommend this work. A caution, though. While mostly accessible, this book may need to be, at times, skimmed by the average reader (anyone who is not a missionary or missiologist). Sills treats many of the topics broadly, yet at some points we are taken to a very specific level. A level too exhaustive and in-depth for the common reader, directed more specifically at missionaries.

The book is filled with quotes from pastors, educators, and missionaries, and Sills also pulls in many of his own case studies and teaching experiences while serving overseas.

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*This book was a free review copy provided by Moody Publishers*

The Master Plan of Evangelism

Incidentally, this post is not the 4th in my series on evangelism. However, I think it may need to be added to that series simply because the weight this book has had through the years. It’s a giant on the subject of evangelism. I discovered an old copy from 1980 at Goodwill last week, and on the cover it says, “Over 580,000 copies in print”. The most recent editions say, “More than 3 million copies sold” That’s quite an increase.

Robert E. Coleman is Distinguished professor of Evangelism and Discipleship at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Robert E. Coleman. The Master Plan of Evangelism, (Revell Books, 2006), 192 pages

This book took me by surprise. I think it ranks right up there with J.I. Packer’s work on evangelism. I say this because Coleman, like Packer, looks to the life of Christ, as portrayed in the Gospels, to show us what evangelism truly is. They both follow the storyline of the Scriptures to reveal evangelism.

Coleman also doesn’t attempt to reduce evangelism to a practical, methodology. Or rather add a methodology to evangelism. He considers specifically and exhaustively Christ’s time on earth. Primarily focusing on his interaction with the twelve apostles. Christ and the apostles spent all their time together. This is where the learning took place. There weren’t many times of formal teaching. It was simply the apostles watching Jesus, seeing how he responded to different circumstances, how he handled them. They were simply observers.

Coleman then expounds many different verses showing us how Jesus taught the disciples through demonstration, supervision, expectations, etc. He does a great job of identifying what Jesus is doing in the narrative of the Gospels. Valuable information.

Some books seem as though they were written for a specific time, and they begin to age over the years. This book however has the mark of a truly timeless book. If you happened to pick up a new copy and read it, I’m quite sure you would later be surprised to find out it was originally published in the early 60’s.

I believe that when a book captures the essence of the Scriptures so well it becomes timeless. Its principles are as relevant today as they have been to any generation, in any culture, since it was penned. Coleman’s book does this.

It’s interesting that we continue to discover these books over and over again, too. Of course, I’m grateful that we do, but it’s convicting also because it makes me wonder if we just haven’t quite gotten the message of them. Yet these works continue to survive, they endure.

I hope this book is one that we will begin to get its message… for it is the message of Jesus. It is the message of evangelism. In our day, we desperately need to heed E.M. Bounds words more than ever, “men are God’s method.”

For if we don’t commit to discipling men the way Jesus did, then we will never really know what it is to fulfill the Great Commission.

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