“How are you and God doing?”
That is a question I have been asked numerous times in various accountability type groups. I have to be honest. I’m really never sure how to answer it. Do I just say, “uhmmm pretty good. He died for me and because of His work I know that I’m ‘doing good’ with God”? Or do I look into my Christian activity? Do I be honest and say that on Thursday I lived like an atheist and pretty much thought like one? So, I’m not really sure how God and I are doing.
That question and my muddy responses displays the difficulty (problem?) with many accountability groups. They either become places of legalistic sin searching or surface relationships of cheap grace. I’m either beat with the stick of “accountability” for my bought with anger towards my kids last week or I find false fellowship and cheap grace because my accountability partner struggles with anger too. Though I leave my accountability group with more moral resolve (though beaten to a pulp) or a false peace because I’m “not alone in my struggle” my sin still runs rampant and wild because it has never been confronted with the gospel.
Jonathan Dodson in his book Gospel-Centered Discipleship presents a model for discipleship and fighting sin that steers clear of legalism and license and finds its center in the gospel. Though only 150 pages Dodson gives not only a model for discipleship he also shares a theology and the biblical motivation for discipleship.
The book is divided into three parts. In the first part Dodson attempts to define discipleship by considering the goal of discipleship. He looks at a few of the pitfalls in modern definitions of discipleship and gives the reader a biblical definition of “fighting for image”. The second part gets to the heart of discipleship. Here he considers our motivations for discipleship (both false and what should be the central motivations). In this section he also focuses on the Essential Role of the Holy Spirit. Part three is the application section. Here he introduces the reader to “fight clubs” and also shows ways to implement them.
The first part of the book is a very necessary foundation building. But for someone who has read and finds themselves firmly within the gospel-centered movement there will not be a ton of new information. I found myself in the first 5 chapters nodding my head agreeing with Dodson, underlining a few really good quips, but honestly not being profoundly changed by the book.
To be truthful I was a tad disappointed. Not that the book was in error or something that I could not embrace. It just didn’t seem all that new. Or to be honest, all that necessary as a new book. I was hoping this book would help with implementing a gospel-centered discipleship philosophy within the church. Knowing that these chapters were necessary I still found myself hoping that Dodson would shift gears in the latter half of the book.
He did. Boy, did he shift gears! I went from thinking this book was good and solid to thinking through ways of going through it with a few people in our church and implementing some of it. Chapter 5 was convicting and absolutely rocked my socks off. I was very convicted that I was painfully neglecting the very One that was doing the convicting in that moment. No wonder some of my discipleship and ministry efforts seem so empty—I’m occasionally ministering as an atheist would. Dodson brings this neglect out in a painful yet gospel-saturated way.
Chapter 6-8 is where the book will really help pastors and church leaders. Dodson’s idea of fight clubs is very helpful. It is something that the leadership within our church has been looking at doing but not quite sure how to get it done. Dodson’s book, I believe, will help with this. Fight clubs are pretty simple to implement but probably very difficult to live out. I look forward to trying.
Should You Buy It?
I would. It’s a very solid book on discipleship. Even if you are new believer I think the first section will help a new believer not fall into the various pitfalls of beginning steps of living the Christian life. It is also helpful for seasoned believers that are looking to disciple other people. I highly recommend this book. In fact we may take a few people in our church through this book and try to start some Fight Clubs (or whatever we decide to call them) here at FB Jasper.
You can buy it here: Gospel-Centered Discipleship for just a little over 10 bucks.