Gospel-Centered Discipleship Review

May 23, 2012

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Language & Definition

Resources and books are flooding the shelves of Christian bookstores and online bookstores which contain the word, ‘gospel.’ A quick search on Amazon alone returns over 25,000 Christian book results containing the word, ‘gospel.’ To this trove of books, Jonathan K. Dodson of Austin City Life Church has contributed another worthy book.

Why offer another book on two topics which are currently being widely written on: gospel and discipleship? Perhaps that’s the problem, Dodson would maintain. They’re not necessarily two different, unrelated topics, but rather inherently dependent on one another. 

Dodson shares how early in life he split the two themes of evangelism and discipleship, and using the two terms to describe two different things only helped reinforce that dichotomy. He writes:

Should discipleship be understood as evangelizing non-Christians or the maturing of Christians? Second, and more importantly, the separation of evangelism from discipleship implies that ‘sharing the gospel’ with non-Christians is an activity that is unnecessary with Christians… this dichotomy surfaces a false view of the gospel, namely that the gospel has the power to save but not to sanctify.

Repentance for Christian Joy

One of the book’s gems in my opinion is Dodson’s chapter on the proper motivation for discipleship and growth in Christ. Picking up on the two most evident motivations for spiritual growth in the previous chapter (religious performance and spiritual license), Dodson urges the disciple to instead be motivated by a delight in God. Drawing from Jonathan Edwards, Tim Keller, and John Piper, Dodson does his best work laying out these themes of repentance and faith and believing the promises and warnings of God’s Word. Of repentance he writes, “Repentance is not a one-time act to get us into heaven, but an entire way of life to maintain Christian joy.”

The diagram he shares in this chapter is both easy to understand and simple enough to share with someone struggling in the midst of sin. The formula is neither legalistic nor moralistic, but rather shines the light of truth into the very heart of human motivation. Dodson will actually spend an entire chapter subsequently to discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in this process. Speaking on the role of the Holy Spirit, he writes, “Perhaps the most neglected motivation for discipleship is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.”

Practical and Theological

I was surprised at the symmetry and balance throughout the book. Dodson’s work is well-researched and biblical without being inaccessible for a new believer or a struggling counselee. Never dispensing random bits of counsel and advice disconnected from their context or the life giving power of the gospel, Dodson goes to great lengths to show practically how the theological principles promoted in the book work themselves out in real living. 

One of those avenues is through gospel-community living, or what Dodson will term ‘fight-clubs.’ Without giving everything away, I was personally challenged to begin thinking through what it would be like to live life with several Christian brothers with this objective in mind.

Join the Conversation

Do you separate the themes of evangelism and discipleship? Practically, is the gospel something which ‘gets you in’ but not something which ‘helps you continue on’?

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