Multiply by ChanDisciples make disciples. Though this three word sentence is as clear as a cloudless sky and given by Jesus in one of the clearest passages of Scripture (Matt. 28:19), it has been one of the most largely undeveloped and neglected aspects of church and Christian life. That is, disciples of Jesus Christ are not so adept at making new converts to Christ into disciples of Christ. While some groups can be very productive in evangelism, that is often where it stops and thus the church is filled with undiscipled disciples of Christ. Granted, once one becomes an adopted child of God they are a disciple of Christ in its most bare sense of the word. However, being a disciple of Christ is not merely a static state of existence one has in relation to Christ once saved. Rather, it is a dynamic relationship that is growing. Thus, discipleship is properly a description of the ongoing growth of a self-identified disciple of Christ.

This idea of disciples making disciples is the passion behind the new book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan and Mark Beuving. Chan and Beuving’s desire is to help believers understand what it means to be a disciple (follower) of Jesus Christ. The goal of discipleship is to be like the person you are following. For the Christian that is Christ. “That’s the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate Him, carry on His ministry, and become like Him in the process.” (p. 16)

Though disciples are individuals, discipleship is not accomplished individually. “The proper context for every disciple maker is the church. It is impossible to make disciples aside from the church of Jesus Christ.” (p. 51) After all, how would one fulfill and be a recipient of the over 50 “one another” passages in the New Testament on their own outside of the local church? Further, if disciples are to obey the command of Christ to make disciples of all nations, they cannot do that one their own. Discipleship happens in the life of the individual within the life of the church.

While discipleship for the follower of Christ happens within the local church, it is not merely contained within the local church. Growing disciples of Christ will naturally develop an outward focus on the world around them. This is how the church fulfills the great commission to make disciples of very nation. As unbelievers are evangelized and brought within the local church for discipleship, they in turn are driven to evangelize others so that they too might become disciples of Christ and being their discipleship journey within the local church as well. The authors rightly point out:

We are called to make disciples, and strengthening the other members of the church body is an important part of this. But if we are not working together to help the unbelieving world around us become followers of Jesus, then we are missing the point of our salvation. God blessed Abraham so that He could bless the world through him (Gen. 12). (p. 74)

So the natural question that arises is “What does discipleship look like?” Finding root in Matt. 28:20, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” Chan and Beuving spend the rest of the book (about 230 pages worth of it) discussing how to study the Bible and the content of the biblical story line. So, what is all important to discipleship is knowing Scripture since it is within Scripture that we find all that Jesus has commanded His disciples.

After giving a brief introduction to basic Bible interpretation principles, the authors spend the bulk of the book walking from Genesis to Revelation and drawing out the redemptive biblical story line. I will not rehash it but it is divided into the Old and New Testaments and follows the Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation structure while filling out much of the redemptive portion. With this the book ends. What might become readily apparent to those who are more familiar with books on discipleship is that Chand and Beuving have taken a markedly different approach to discussing what discipleship looks like. Most books on discipleship cover the typical topics of prayer (though this is touched on), Bible study, the fruits of the Spirit and the like while not addressing the issue of the whole message of the Bible. This may be because most discipleship books are geared towards (though not always stated as such) Christians who have been saved for a while but are looking for more growth in these areas. Chan and Beuving have perhaps shifted their focus (though it is not stated) more towards new Christians who have not been reading their Bibles and would not be familiar with the overall message of Scripture.

Since the content of Multiply seems to be driven in this direction the book is more for new Christians rather than seasoned ones. And that is fine because for new believers this is an excellent resource. In fact, the book is accompanied by a series of videos you can find online at www.multiplymovement.com. Here you can listen to each chapter read aloud. In addition, there is a corresponding video for each chapter in the book in which Chan and David Platt discuss the content of the chapter. As such, Multiply is designed not just for individuals to read on their own but to go through with others in a group with a leader.

Multiply is a great book to get into the hands of new believers. There is nothing worse than seeing a person commit their lives to be a disciple of Christ to only sputter along in their Christian life never really growing as a disciple of Christ. This book provides a needed tool to help new believers understand their identity as disciples, get properly oriented within the context of the local church as the place their discipleship takes place and to get an early grasp on the message of Scripture so they can understand all that Christ has commanded them. I recommend buying several copies of this book to have ready to give to new believers!

NOTE: I received this book for free from David C Cook and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

There is no doubt that education in American is in trouble. There are more criticisms then there are answers and even fewer answers worth considering. We need only look to the reading, writing and spelling skills of the average teen (and college student for that matter) in order to prove this point.

But illiteracy within general public education is not the only problem. In fact, there is an equally severe, if not worse, condition of illiteracy within the evangelical church today – biblical illiteracy.

There are a number of contributing factors to the contemporary churches problem of biblical illiteracy. In Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way, J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett suggest that the change from a pastor centered model of Sunday School (now called Adult Bible Fellowship) to a more lay lead model is perhaps the most notable factor – and I agree. There are other factors that would need to be dealt with separately but the fact remains that there is a general lack of biblical literacy within the church today.

So how does the church and its leaders combat this biblical illiteracy problem? In today’s issue of ChruchLeaders.com, Mark Steiner provides 7 Bricks for a Solid Foundation. While these are not the only 7 things we can do to fight biblical illiteracy within the church they are a good start.

Here are #3 and #4:

3.  Embrace children’s discipleship with confidence and conviction.

Some pastors soft-pedal children’s ministry. They assume that “Kids are too young to be discipled.” Not so! Please don’t rob them of a fulfilling future! Children are the best candidates for discipleship. They represent our most fertile fields for reaping a bountiful harvest.

Christian kids are the key for turning the tide on biblical illiteracy. They have fewer distractions, greater faith, and 100% of the Holy Spirit. I’ve dedicated the last 20 years to developing children’s curriculum designed to lay a solid foundation of biblical literacy. I invite you to visit our resource site and give it a careful look. If it meets your standards, use it. If you are aware of a better Bible curriculum for kids, please tell me about it!

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown. —Mark 4:20 (NIV)

4. Equip your parents to build their children in the faith.

God has given parents primary responsibility for the spiritual training of their children, but many parents don’t know where to begin. They feel overwhelmed with this responsibility. So parents often entrust this task to the Church, or to chance. That is why disciplemaking is the most pivotal ministry that churches can provide. It is time for churches to encourage and equip parents to carry out their responsibility. The vitality of the next generation of Christians pivots on its willingness to do so. Churches must plan purposeful ministries to disciple parents and children.

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. —Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV)

You can read the rest here.

For further reading on Christian education in the church I recommend three books to get started:

  1. Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old Fashioned Way by Packer & Parrett
  2. Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful: A Biblical Vision for Education in the Church by Parrett
  3. A Theology for Christian Education by Estep, Anthony & Allison

Mark 2:14 says, “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he arose and followed him (ESV).”  It is here that “Jesus summarizes His call to discipleship (p. 25).” So what does it mean to follow Jesus? This is what Jonathan Lunde seeks to answer in his book Following Jesus, The Servant King: A Biblical Theology of Covenantal Discipleship.

The title of the book is loaded with meaning making a brief explanation of the words and phrases necessary. As Jesus he calls people to follow him as their leader.  As Servant Jesus “has come to serve, and give his life a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).” Throughout Jesus’ ministry Jesus is seen serving various kinds of people culminating with His death on the cross as fulfilling the role of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. As King Jesus gives commands to His disciples which “mirror the relationship God had with Old Testament Israel (p. 26).” Jesus is the promised Davidic king who rules His disciples and makes sure “God’s covenantal stipulations were upheld in the nation (p. 26).” As a biblical theology Lunde explores discipleship as the theme progressively unfolds from the OT to NT. Finally, as a covenantal discipleship, Lunde explores the overall meaning of discipleship through the lens of the covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic & New Covenant). This covenantal discipleship is defined as,

Learning to receive and respond to God’s grace and demand, which are mediated through Jesus, the Servant King, so as to reflect God’s character in relation to him, to others, and to the world, in order that all may come to experience this same grace and respond to this same demand (p. 276).

On the grand scale the book is structured around answering three questions. First, “why should I be concerned to obey all of Jesus’ commands if I have been saved by grace (p. 28)?” If Jesus has fulfilled the righteousness of the Law for me then why does He give me any commands to follow? Lunde seeks to counter both “lackadaisical” and “legalistic” disciples (p. 30). Second, “what is it that Jesus demands of his disciple (p. 29)?” To answer this question Lunde focuses on a few of the many commands Jesus gives as a means of providing examples for how to understand them all. Finally, “how can the disciple obey Jesus’ high demand, while experiencing his ‘yoke’ as ‘light’ and ‘easy’ (p. 30?)” Obeying commands seems to be such a burden so how can Jesus say his “yoke is easy” and his “burden is light” (Matt. 11:30)?

Answering the Why Question – Why should I be concerned to obey all of Jesus’ commands if I have been saved by grace?

The answer to the Why question is found in the biblical covenants. Lunde goes through the covenants five times in order to explain the basic relationship disciples have with Jesus. After defining both grant and conditional covenants (p. 39-40), Lunde introduces the reader to the basic content of the biblical covenants. Here Lunde sets the “gracious context in which each covenant is established”, he explores “the demands that God places on those who enter into covenant with him” and he explains how “faith and works of obedience relate to reception of the blessings” of each covenant (p. 42). While explaining the relationship that disciples have with the covenants, Lunde also gives us a glimpse into how Jesus ultimately fulfills the demands and works out the tension of faith and works of obedience within the covenants. This “climactic fulfillment” is displayed in Jesus’ fulfillment of the New Covenant (p. 111). Lunde explains:

While the grace that has come through Jesus is deeper and wider and higher and better than any of the gracious provisions in the prior covenants, it is at the same time continuous with those prior expressions, even as their fulfillment (p. 111).

The ultimate implication of Jesus’ covenantal fulfillment for his disciples is that

Those who are led by the Spirit will inevitably produce the fruit of the Spirit and fulfill the law of Christ. As Spirit-enabled New Covenant partners, those who follow him ought to be continually concerned regarding obedience to all of Jesus’ covenantal commands (p. 113).

Answering the What QuestionWhat is it that Jesus demands of his disciple?

The means through which Lunde answers the What question is by exploring the “ways in which the covenantal demands are mediated to us through Jesus (p. 115).” Here Jesus’ role as King and Prophet come to the forefront. As Prophet Jesus provides authoritative teaching (Matt. 14:15; 21:46) and acting (Matt. 5:21-48). Further, the Father Himself commands Peter, James and John to “Listen to him! (Matt. 17:5).” As the Prophet King Jesus authoritatively summons us to discipleship. Lunde states,

Jesus commands his hearers to follow him as the embodiment of God’s kingly reign over them. He is indeed the Prophet, but his prophetic cloak is worn under his royal mantel, as was David’s before him (Acts 2:30). As David’s great heir who reigns faithfully as Yahweh’s Anointed King, then, Jesus appropriately summons us to an absolute discipleship (p. 123).

To help us see how Jesus mediates the law to us Lunde employs three metaphors that “characterize the distinct ways in which Jesus has brought the law to its fulfillment (p. 127).”

First, Jesus is the Filter. That is, He fulfills certain aspects, commands and practices of the Law “rendering the continuation of their practice inappropriate (p. 128).” For example, Jesus fulfills the sacrificial system (Matt. 26: 17-29; Heb. 7-10), the Food Laws in Mark 7:19-23 (p. 132), circumcision by fulfilling the New Covenant promise (p. 137 – 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6) and the Divorce law (p. 138). That Jesus fulfills these laws is not to be seen as an excuse for a disciple to become slack in his life. “What continues on in each case is a summons to a life of righteousness befitting the New Covenant era, to which each superseded element was pointing all along (p. 140).”

Second, Jesus is the Lens.  As the Lens, Jesus “brings back into focus an aspect of the law” and strips away the traditions the religious rulers made “as he reestablishes and recovers the law’s teaching so that its original intent and demand might be perceived (p. 141).” For example, Jesus brings into focus the intent of the Greatest commandments (Matt. 22:34-40) over against the rabbis quibbling over what were the weightier and lighter aspects of the law.

Third, Jesus is the Prism. As a prism, “Jesus demands the heightened righteousness befitting the era in which the covenants have come to their fulfillment (p. 154-56).”  Lunde walks through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and repeatedly shows how Jesus raises the bar for New Covenant disciples in relation to the commands.

Answering the How QuestionHow can the disciple obey Jesus’ high demand, while experiencing his ‘yoke’ as ‘light’ and ‘easy’?

As the ultimate fulfiller of the New Covenant, Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom on earth here and now (Matt. 11-12). However, this Kingdom is not complete and so New Covenant believers look forward to the completion of the Kingdom (p. 188). There is both “this age” and “the age to come”. Though the promise of the Spirit has come and we are receiving the blessings of the New Covenant, the present state of the Kingdom is not the intended fulfillment of the completed Kingdom pictured by the Prophets (p. 190). Recognizing this tension Lunde says, “Since the kingdom has only been inaugurated in Jesus’ coming, we should not be surprised if some of the aspects of the New Covenant initiated by Jesus are similarly only inaugurated (p. 192).”

One of the key ways in which covenant disciples can fulfill the high righteous demands of Jesus is by living in the grace that He has provided prior to the demands. It is this

Prior and sustaining grace, in all of its forms, is always to be understood as the enabling context in which God’s demands are to be responded to. That is, covenant faithfulness will only be possible as disciples experience the enabling power of grace (p. 195).

We can accomplish this by living the three-fold pattern found in the Mosaic Covenant: (1) “the frequent remembrance of God’s provision” (motivation for obeying the Law – Deut. 6:12; 8:2, 7-18), “the present celebration of the reception of those provisions” (part of the purpose for Sabbath keeping – Ex. 31:16-17a; Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15) both of which lead to “the enabled response of obedience and faithfulness (part of the purpose for the Festivals – Ex. 12:15-27; Deut. 16:9-11; Num. 29:1-6; Lev. 23).

There a four concluding actions that Jesus performs that enable us to get a better picture for how Jesus fulfills the New Covenant promises as they relate to the How question.  First, Jesus is the covenantal Representative. Jesus is the mediatorial New Covenant representative as he identifies with Israel through his baptism (p. 216 – Matt. 3) and reenacts Israel’s history in his wilderness wandering (p. 219 – Matt. 4). Second, Jesus is the Redeemer. Jesus acts as redeemer by fulfilling the prophecies in Isaiah, namely Isaiah 51-65. Finally, Jesus is the Restorer. As the restorer, Jesus begins the restoration of Israel (Ezek. 39:27-28; Matt. 9:35-11:1; Matt. 28:18-20). For Lunde, Jesus restores by

Reconstituting Israel without attempting to recover the former definition of its makeup. Membership in this restored nation, therefore, does not fall along tribal lines. Rather, this is determined solely by the response to Jesus’ call to discipleship. Israel is being reconstituted and redefined at the same time. In this way, God’s promises to Abraham that he would be both the conduit of blessing to the nations and the father of many nations are coming to their fulfillment through Jesus. Since Jesus is the true Son, true Israel is being defined Christologically (p. 245)!

Lunde closes his book with some implications for what it means to follow Jesus as a covenantal disciple. Disciples are in covenant relationship with Jesus. Jesus the Servant King has graciously paved the way for us to be able to live up to the demands of this relationship as the Spirit enables us. Since Jesus has inaugurated his kingdom, Jesus summons us “to enter into this kingdom (p. 279).” This has implications for our evangelism (p. 279-80), for how we actually do discipleship as a church (p. 283-85) and how we provide resources to disciples (p. 286).

Some Observations

First, while the book is intended to be a biblical theology of discipleship it is heavily rooted in the OT where most of the references and quotes come from. As a biblical theology I would have liked to see more interaction with the NT. Second, related to my first concern, as great as this book is, I think it provides us with more of a foundational understanding of the nature of discipleship. That is, that discipleship needs to be rooted in our covenantal relationship with Jesus. The book is more about Jesus’ relationship to us as servant, king, prophet, redeemer, restorer and representative to and for us than it is about what our discipleship looks like every day in light of those things. Finally, Lunde does take the position that what is traditional interpreted as The Abrahamic covenant in Gen. 15 & 17 is actually two separate covenants with Abraham each focusing on separate promises and yet related (p. 55, 75 & 93). Readers will have to grapple with whether or not they agree with Lunde.

I think Lunde hits a home run by rooting our identity as disciples within covenantal context. God relates to his people through covenants and it is through those covenants that he both promises salvation and accomplishes it through Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate fulfiller and mediator of those covenantal promises. God makes covenants with his people (both Israel & the Church) so it makes sense that as individual disciples we covenantally relate to God through Christ. This covenantal discipleship provides the foundation for our relationship to Jesus the Servant King as his disciples.

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