In recent years the local church has rediscovered the importance of discipleship.
Discipleship should be a fruitful by-product of living in our church community, relational in nature and naturally occurring. But for those of us who have tried to engage in long-term discipleship with one another we know that fruitful, relational, natural discipleship require intentionality.
Therefore, below I suggest my top five books for discipleship/discussion. These books will offer a good basis for conversation either in a one to one, or a group setting. They will also provide sound biblical material for that everyone can learn from (whether you are supposed to be the disciple-er or the disciple-ee).
- Francis Chan with Mark Beuving – Multiply: Disciples making Disciples (2012).
This book makes it to top of the list because it is a book written specifically for the context of discipling relationships.
This is reflected in the way the book has been written. The authors help us to think in a gospel centred way about discipleship by using short sections of teaching followed by probing questions to get us thinking – all without burdening us with guilt.
One great benefit of the material is that the authors have also provided online help (which includes videos) on how to teach this material in a one to one setting. This will encourage and guide those who are engaged in discipling for the first time.
The material covered in the book is excellent – living as a disciple, living as part of the church, how to study the Bible, understanding the Old Testament and understanding the New Testament. There is a logical progression to this material which aids in building others up in their faith.
- Kevin DeYoung – The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the gap between gospel passion and the pursuit of godliness (2012).
The Hole in Our Holiness isn’t a book on or about discipleship exactly but it does address an issue that is being misunderstood by some in the church today that has a significant impact on our discipleship.
One of the great blessings of the young, restless and reformed movement is the vast number of young people who are clear about the gospel. Justification in Jesus was understood magnificently. Sadly though, this did not always progress towards a correct understanding of sanctification in the Spirit.
DeYoung tackles this issue by calling the young, restless and reformed movement (and all other Christians) to a life of holiness without becoming moralistic.
Not only is the book on a great and important topic but there are also discussion questions provided for each chapter. I know of one group of Christian young people who have used this book as a basis for group discussion to good effect.
- Bruce Milne – Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief (1982, 1998).
In recent years Biblical theology has also been rediscovered by the church. This rediscovery has been of great benefit to the church as preachers, pastors and theologians proclaim a more coherent theology of Scripture.
This has left systematic theology out in the cold a little. This is not to our benefit. Neither biblical nor systematic theology is more important but both need to be held together.
This book is not a systematic theology, but it does reflect the shape of a systematic theology and would give any young Christian a solid footing in the faith. I was given this book by an older more mature Christian just two years after my salvation. We worked our way through part of the book and I found it hugely beneficial, which led to an increased interest in theology.
There are seven sections to this book – the final authority in matters of faith, the doctrine of God, humankind and sin, the person and work of Christ, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the church and the last things. And there are discussion questions at the end of each section.
- Vaughan Roberts – God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible (2003).
To balance Milne’s excellent book I suggest Roberts’.
This is effectively a primer on biblical theology. Vaughan Roberts paints God’s big picture, showing us that all of Scripture is tied together as God unveils his universal plan.
Roberts is a clear writer, making this book useful even for younger readers. He breaks the Bible into eight kingdoms (pattern of, perished, promised, partial, prophesied, present, proclaimed and perfected). Each chapter has a Bible study on a particular passage as well as a number of questions.
If in a one to one, or a group setting, we were able to guide a group of people through both Milne’s and Roberts’ books they would come out the other end with a very firm foundation in biblical interpretation.
- John Stott – The Cross of Christ (1986, 1989 with Study Guide, 2011).
This is a magnificent book – a beautiful blend of rigorous scholarship and pastoral counsel. It is a book you will come back to again and again.
Stott masterfully examines both the meaning of the cross, and its implications. Christ is portrayed in all his splendour as his work on the cross is explained carefully and methodically.
As with the other books on this list, The Cross of Christ is helpful because of a study guide which has been published with it. This study guide provokes a closer look at both the text of the book, and more importantly, the text of the Bible. It is a book worth wading through with another person or a group of other people.
While it is an excellent book, it comes fifth on the list because it requires a basic knowledge or acquaintance with biblical and theological language. A slightly more mature Christian will get much more out of this book.
Having said all of this, it is undoubtedly true that the best book to work through in a discipleship setting is the Bible. The books mentioned above will aid in bringing people to the Bible and helping them understand it. However, they do it in a roundabout way.
If you want to dig straight into the biblical text in a one to one or group discussion setting I would recommend the use of the following material.
First, I would highly recommend The Good Book Company. They publish many study guides which either go through books of the Bible or offer thematic studies. The benefit of these books is their conservative evangelical foundation, and the fact that they bring you face to face with the text of Scripture. They are a great resource.
Secondly, I would encourage you to explore a new set of Bible studies being produced by the publisher Crossway called knowing the Bible. These are excellent, in-depth bible studies on books of the Bible. There are many great features in the conclusions to the studies such as gospel glimpses, whole Bible connections and theological soundings. These features draw together the ideas of seeing Jesus in all the Scriptures, and the twin themes of biblical and systematic theology. The range of studies available is relatively small at present but I look forward to the forthcoming volumes.
Finally, I would tentatively suggest undertaking an inductive Bible study method. One in particular that I have found helpful is The Swedish Method. This offers five questions which an individual can ask of any text. This is a simple template and easy to follow. A great first Bible study for a young Christian (as long as you know your text well).
To conclude I would encourage you to pick one of these resources and find someone to work through them with – but to do some humbly because even the more learned and mature Christians have much to learn as we grow together as disciples of Jesus.