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The good folks at the Patheos Book Club asked me to review Francis Chan’s newest book, Multiply, co-authored with Mark Beuving. And I agreed.
Let me say a few words about Francis Chan to begin with . . . things I’ve never stated publicly, until now. Over the last five years, I’ve received a steady stream of emails about Francis Chan from readers. Here are some examples:
Hey Frank, I just saw a video of Chan talking about the church. Looks like he’s been reading your earlier work on the church, he even used one of your titles.
I’m curious about your thoughts on him [Francis Chan] since it seems like a lot of his views have shifted recently (and dramatically). I’m sure you’ve been an influence.
Frank, you and Francis Chan need to get together. He’s saying many of the same things you have been saying in your books. Does he know you?
I respect the fact that Francis Chan has taken the bold step he has in leaving his mega-church to go after more “organic” style church. However, I think he could learn a lot from your writings and influence.
Did you hear that Francis Chan stepped down from being a pastor? I’ve heard him speak a few times and it sounds like he’s been reading your work. I’d like to see you two do something together. Do you know each other?
Frank I just heard Francis Chan at a conference and it’s like he’s speaking straight from your books. Have you two met? If not you both need to get together.
I’ve lost count of the emails and Facebook messages I’ve received like the above, all humming the same tune. My answer has always been the same.
Chan and I have the same publisher (David C. Cook). And I’d be happy to chat with him if he so desires.
I’m accessible to anyone. Though I’m not sure how easy it is for people to reach Chan. (One person told me it’s easier to reach Brad Pitt.)
Anyways, the good people at Patheos asked me to review Chan’s book, Multiply, and I accepted. Hence this post.
Multiply is a 336-page softcover that belongs in a long stream of discipleship books and manuals designed to give “catechumen instruction” for new converts. It provides a summary of the basics of the Christian life and encourages readers to study their Bibles, attend church, follow Jesus’ commandments, and make disciples — the typical themes emphasized in contemporary evangelical Christianity.
When I was in college, I was part of many different parachurch organizations: Campus Crusade, InterVarsity, the Navigators, etc. Multiply is very similar to the various discipleship books and booklets that those organizations were using at the time to disciple new converts. Multiply is set up like a workbook. Short chapters followed by study questions. It’s written well (so kudos to Francis, or Mark, or both). And like all of David C. Cook’s publications, the packaging is neat.
That said, I’d like to ask Francis Chan five questions about the book. So if you know Chan, feel free to encourage him to come on the bog and answer them. Or he can write me directly at TheDeeperJourney@gmail.com.
1. Most of the discipleship books and programs today fail to mention the essential ingredient of being a disciple according to both Jesus and Paul. That ingredient is – learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ. This is the central tenet of New Testament revelation, yet it’s grossly neglected today. What is the reason why this wasn’t discussed in your book?
2. While there’s a lot of discussion on how to read the Bible, I didn’t see a presentation of God’s Eternal Purpose, which is the grand narrative of Scripture. It is also God’s ultimate intention in creation, redemption, and discipleship. While there were elements of it referenced here and there, there was no discussion on what it exactly is and how all Scripture and authentic spiritual experience is tied together by it. Why was this left out?
3. There’s a recent emphasis in Christian circles today about making disciples rapidly. We know from the book of Acts that the way that the apostles carried out Jesus’ word to make disciples was to plant ekklesias. (I’ve addressed this elsewhere.) Paul, who was the premier church planter, strove for quality rather than quantity (he planted about 14 ekklesias in his lifetime). How do you distinguish the emphasis to make disciples rapidly from the principles of network marketing in the business world?
4. One thing I’ve observed is that many of the authors who are promoting “discipleship” today are unaware of the history of the Discipleship Movement in North America in the 1970s and the tremendous damage it caused. I believe that if we don’t learn the mistakes of the past, we will unwittingly repeat them. Given that you are now promoting the modern-day discipleship movement, what are you doing to safeguard God’s people from falling into the same errors of the former discipleship movement?
5. The modern idea of discipleship is intensely individualistic. So I was glad that you and Mark talked briefly about community in the book. But talking about community is one thing. People recontextualize what they read into their own experience. In my on-the-ground experience over the last two decades, I’ve not seen discipleship be very effective unless believers were living in a close-knit, face-to-face community that is seeking the face of Jesus Christ regularly outside of scheduled corporate gatherings and which includes a regular gathering for every-member functioning under the direct headship of Christ. Every letter in the NT was written to such face-to-face communities. Those face-to-face communities were the native habitat in which spiritual growth and transformation took place. Many churches are nothing like what I’ve described here, despite the fact that they might use the rhetoric of “community.” So if we get the church wrong, we get discipleship wrong also. Do you think that’s possible?
This blog post was originally written in 2012.
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