Bret James Stewart's Reviews > Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time

Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden
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Ogden’s clever title covers the two foci of the book as he attempts to transform the practice of discipleship as well as create a style or method of discipling that is transforming. Many years went into testing the theories and procedures herein, and Ogden has a system in place that offers a world-changing methodology for creating disciples. This mandate is part of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, so all Christians ought to be discipling. Therefore, this book should appeal to all Christians who aren’t already discipling and those who are but are not pleased with the results.

First, the book itself is attractive. The cover art is pleasing to the eye, and there is a texture to the cover that is pleasing to the hand. The interior is laid out well using typical features such as larger font for sub-headings that are tried and true. There are also a number of charts that serve to enhance the text and allow for better understanding of some of the concepts. An appendix addresses frequently asked questions, and there is a notes chapter regarding (primarily) source material. Alas, there is no index, which is a major omission for a book that is going to be used in a classroom or small group educational context, so I deduct one star for this.

The overall premise of the book is to promote small discipling groups of 3-5 people, with the triad (i.e. 3) being ideal. In this model, those involved can be part of a transforming relationship with others and with God. These groups are also self-replicating so that discipling takes on a ripple effect spreading through the church and world. Promoting discipleship can be divided into two broad categories: 1; convincing Christians they are supposed to do it, and, 2; showing them how to do it. Ogden addresses both, though the overall thrust of the book is on the latter.

Part One of the text grapples with identifying the problem of what he calls the “discipleship deficit.” Ogden wisely realizes cultural inertia, at least in America, is against this process as many of us expect instant gratification and generally shy away from meaningful depth in relationships, especially those involving the sometimes painful process of growing in Christ that naturally involves transparency and effort. Another issue is the self-centred cultural ideology wherein the individual feels that life and the world are “all about him” and that Christianity is mostly perceived as a one-on-one walk with Jesus (sometimes called the “Jesus and me” mentality) provided He doesn’t require much walking. In particular, highly individualistic Americans have difficulty submitting to authority and often resist being open with others and willing to commit the time and energy needed for something that has no perceived “benefit” to them, personally. The discipling process is going to require selfless effort, although the individual does benefit. Another problem is ignorance. Due to various reasons, the discipling portion of the Great Commission is often unknown and/or confused with evangelism. This is dealt with in the text. Obedience to the discipling mandate of the Great Commission is the answer to the above problems, and Ogden bases his argument upon this.

Part Two provides biblical examples of the small group dynamic. The obvious and predominant example is Christ Himself, who invested His earthly time to a small group of twelve disciples. The Apostle Paul also serves as an example. His concept of spiritual parenting, as exemplified with Titus and (especially) Timothy, is essentially discipleship under a different name.

Part Three deals with discipleship groups and the process of creating and recreating the discipleship procedure in a small group (ideally triad) context. Ogden provides a blueprint that is easy to understand and compelling. His step-by-step approach helps overcome the “analysis paralysis” that many Christians might feel when faced with the task of putting the theory of the previous chapters into practice.

I think the approach Ogden portrays is nothing short of world-changing if the church would adopt it. His book, Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ, is worth checking out as it can be used as the foundation for the triad’s study during the discipling period, though it is not required. As Jesus demonstrated, the investment in the few can have massive consequences on the faith and world, and it is this result that Ogden promotes. I would love to see the church following this or a similar programme. One thing he has going for him is an established history of the methodology as he has spent many years studying and refining the process. If the book had an index, I would rank it 5 stars. I am sure I will be reading more of Ogden’s work.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 15, 2015 – Shelved

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