Francis Chan

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Before you read this review, I want to give you my book DISCIPLESHIP IN CRISIS: 9 Reasons Why Discipleship Isn’t Working Today * Problems & Solutions. Just click the banner to get your free copy.

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.

Chan is best known for the pop Christian book, Crazy Love, written with Danae Yankoski.

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 a few examples:

I read your blog from yesterday . . . just curious. Would Francis Chan be one of those guys? I realize that you probably wouldn’t be able to tell me, but I’m curious about your thoughts on him 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?

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.

Multiply is the first book by Francis Chan I’ve ever read. I’m aware of his other books, but I haven’t read them. Now before you tell me, “Frank, you gotta read xyz . . .!” let me ‘splain something to you, Lucy. :-)

Take a deep breath.

I receive hundreds of books each year from publishers and fellow authors. Seeing that I release one to two books a year myself, run a podcast and a daily blog, it’s difficult for me to find time to read books outside the Bible. Since I have to pick my battles with the clock, I have three criteria for reading a book:

  1. If the Lord clearly leads me to read a particular title.
  2. If I know the author personally.
  3. If I’m using it in my research.

If I don’t know the author personally or have never spoken to him or her, the chances of me reading their books are slim to none. (And slim often leaves town.) Keep in mind that virtually every book someone recommends to me are “must reads.” But I just can’t read them all.

If you’re interested in what kinds of books I deem to be seminal, check out my Best 100 Christian Books Ever Written List. There’s also a Kindle edition and a Theological/Commentary edition on that page as well.

The only other exception to the above (this is #4) is if Patheos asks me to review a book! Hence why I’m writing about Multiply today. :-)

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 what the Christian life is about and encourages readers to study their Bibles, attend church, follow Jesus’ commandments, and make disciples (hence the word multiply).

There’s also a companion video series that goes with the book. This makes Multiply a discipleship program of sorts.

Francis Chan: Multiply

David Platt, whose new book I also reviewed, wrote the Foreword.

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 very well (so kudos to Francis, or Mark, or both). And like all of David C. Cook’s publications, the packaging is impressive.

The Alpha Course is a popular discipleship program that includes a workbook and a video series as well. To my mind, Multiply is the non-charismatic equivalent to Alpha. So if you’re looking for a basic introduction and overview of what it means to follow Jesus to a brand new convert using an evangelical framework and evangelical language, this is a good resource.

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. (By the way, I’ve had these same questions after reading other books on discipleship in recent years.)

  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 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 this is possible?

If anyone writes a discipleship book, program, or course that includes these 5 elements, please send me the book. I’ll read it even if I don’t know the author and Patheos never asks me to review it!  ;-)

Get my new eBook FREEDISCIPLESHIP IN CRISIS: 9 Reasons Why Discipleship Isn’t Working Today * Problems & Solutions.

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  • Glenn

    Frank, I for one come from a group (I left) that still promotes and teaches from the shepherding movement. I have found since leaving this group that every church that places an emphasis on one on one discipleship is mistaken. You are right one with an emphasis on the indwelling Christ! What I see happen over and over is the discipler who is human and imperfect trying to take on the role of Christ by giving concrete advice with an expectation that the advice will be followed in non-essentials, by telling the disciple what specific passages of scripture mean (out of context) for him/her (tithing, submission, etc. are great examples!), or by giving correction when Christ him self should be the primary teacher, advice giver, and correction navigator! I have even seen this with Multiply as they encourage everyone to find and make disciples! I do not believe every Christian is prepared and able to do this. I don’t think many in the shepherding movement did this well as the fruit shows.

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  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com Kelly J Youngblood

    Preston, I think you are definitely on to something there regarding backgrounds. It’s one reason why I feel fortunate to have experienced so many different denominations (from the time I was born, even, because my parents went to different churches). I t think that’s helped me in my own faith journey, but none of them really talked/taught much about the Holy Spirit or the indwelling life of Christ and so that’s my current interest. I think the only time I ever heard anything about it was when I did Alpha.

  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com randi

    oh and P.S.

    “One can easily build a large movement by network marketing principles mixed with the raw material of youthful enthusiasm, but gold, pearl, and precious stone it doth not make.”

    YES YES YES, thank you for saying that so directly!!! That comment was very impactful to me, too. In my 20s, full of enthusiasm… I graduated college successfully with a marketing degree…. then I was in network marketing….then helped “start a church” (whatever that means) which I had a vision for but the leaders quickly went to the marketing approach you’re speaking of (for many reasons)….. and it just felt so wrong to me. Something wasn’t sitting right & I knew the fruit that was going to come out of it….. which has proven true since we separated from them a few years ago. As I kept reading the scriptures for myself (the most powerful to me was Ephesians)…. God continued to confirm my unease about what was going on. God used this revelation (very similar to the statement you’ve made here) in my life in a major way – which changed everything about how I viewed His Church and the way *He* would build it. Which lead me to pick up From Eternity to Here & Pagan Christianity – which then changed everything that much more!!

    I’m soo with you Frank on this statement too!! Thanks for saying it.

  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com randi

    This was a really good conversation, thank you all. Very exhausting for me actually and very hard to get through….. but I definitely got some good out of it.

    I like Frank what you’ve said here, “It’s a matter of living by the Tree of Life, so to speak, which is embodied in the resurrected Christ who is now a “life-giving Spirit.”

    and I agree that this message is very much missing from any discipleship ‘programs’ I have used, read, experienced, listened to, heard of.

    My takeaway about this subject that I’ve been living for a few years now is that discipleship (and walking with the Lord in general actually!) is not about passing information….(Him to us, us to each other)….but about internal transformation because of where (in Whom) we are nourished.

    When we are nourished, that will spill over onto those around us & it will create a hunger in others to know what we are feeding on, the tree of life, Christ, because we are satisfied (this is my new way of saying this – thanks to the Jesus Manifesto tree of life chapter!).

    It is about being transformed because of Who meets our satisfaction and gives us our joy, peace, righteousness, strength, love. Information passing will flow out of that too….but the information passing from one brain to the next isn’t first or primary.

    Though I know we ought not to focus on “results” – because that is God’s work & there is so much that can not be evaluated and that is going on that we can *not* see…. I must say when God changed my mindset from what I guess I would describe as external focused discipleship or brain-focused discipleship…. to internal-focused… caring to create that hunger for Christ…. it is amazing what God has done in me and through me…..love Him!

  • http://prestonsprinkle.com Preston Sprinkle

    Frank,
    Very helpful thoughts, again! Isn’t it funny how much our previous church experiences contribute to our current emphases? Often as a negative foil! You and Francis probably come from very different backgrounds, yet are inching toward the same sort of stuff. His background was all Christ and little Spirit, where yours seems to be the opposite. He may be reacting against his background, hence emphasizing the Spirit a bit more, while you’re doing the opposite. Yet both you and he are pushing toward a similar goal, I think.

    Thanks for taking the time to dialogue. It’d be cool to meet up some day!

  • Frank Viola

    Thanks, bro. I can’t do justice to the Eternal Purpose in a comment. I’ll send you the book (“From Eternity to Here”) or you can listen to that audio which is linked in the post itself under that particular question. It will answer it, I believe.

    Btw/ Steve Brown (Reformed professor) made the remark that he’s older than dirt and has heard everything about the Bible and Christianity dozens of times, but when he read the book, it was a brand new viewpoint to him. Humbling comment.

    Amen to everything else! I have no burden to write a discipleship manual as you and Francis have done. My books “Jesus Manifesto” and “Revise Us Again” would certainly fit the “discipleship” genre and they delve into areas that are often neglected today on the subject (like the 5 elements I asked about).

    But practically, my ministry is to work with churches and communities face-to-face and to share with them in a hands-on way how to live by Christ together in close-knit community. There are ingredients in that endeavor that I will never put in a book because (1) it would be cheapened, as so many intangible things of God have been when they are printed and marketed, and (2) it’s not effective as some things have to be “shown and caught” and not just taught via the frontal lobe.

    But I’m thankful there are tools like your book on the market as I know God uses them as well.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and send my warm regards to Mr. Chan. ;-)

    Your brother,

    fv

    Psalm 115:1

  • Frank Viola

    Preston. I think you may be reading too much into my comment. I pointed out in my response that these are separate but distinct aspects of the believer’s experience with the Spirit. Absolutely, Paul equates living by the Spirit and living by Christ.

    But it’s more than semantics. I grew up in the Pentecostal/charismatic world and was tutored in God’s extraordinary and supernatural power in those circles, but I would describe their experience with the Spirit as “outer garment Christianity.” An emphasis on the Spirit’s outwork presence and work dominates in those circles (generally speaking). But very little is understood about the indwelling life of Christ via the Spirit. These are two very different manifestations of the Spirit’s work from an experiential point of view.

    I’ve also spent a lot of time in Reformed and Church of Christ circles, which (in general) the matter of the indwelling life of Christ via the Spirit isn’t emphasized or (in many cases) understood from an experiential standpoint.

    I’m very familiar with Paul’s teaching on the church being in Christ and have taught much on it (which for many is merely “positional” – but it’s much more than that, I’ve discovered). But that’s not what I’m talking about in my question to Francis.

    Most of the talk today about the Holy Spirit is a matter of thinking/believing “the Spirit will help me” and then we try to do things in our own power. This is very prevalent especially among young people, but it’s normative among seasoned believers also. But I’m speaking of Christ living in and through the believer . . . just as Jesus lived by the Father’s indwelling life.

    It’s a matter of living by the Tree of Life, so to speak, which is embodied in the resurrected Christ who is now a “life-giving Spirit.” And this is something that’s little known today experientially. I know because I speak on this subject in conferences and churches regularly.

    Anyway, I was just observing that this is a missing note in much of the modern discipleship movement today and I would have liked to see it in practical terms in the book. That’s all.

    Oh, and I loved your observation that these exhortations are plural. Something I’ve emphasized often since today’s Christianity is so individualistic and God’s people read the word “you” as “me/myself/I” instead of to a corporate body of believers who are living a shared life together.

    Thanks for weighing-in, Preston. Maybe our paths will cross someday and we can talk about our glorious Christ face to face. And I look forward to hearing from Francis directly sometime. ;-)

  • http://prestonsprinkle.com Preston Sprinkle

    Thanks Frank and Mark for the stimulating dialogue. Very helpful thoughts! One thing caught my eye at the beginning of the interchange. Frank, you said that you were “aware that you [viz. Mark] talk about the Holy Spirit in the book. But I was speaking of ‘living by Christ’s indwelling life’ specifically.” This struck me as a bit odd, since the Spirit (as far as I can see) mediates the presence of Christ to the church. The NT doesn’t seem to separate the work of Christ and the Spirit so drastically as you seem to imply in your pushback, but maybe I’m not understanding you correctly. (Or, perhaps I’m just wrong!) Here’s what I mean.

    You cite John 6:57 (“As the Father has sent me and I live by the Father, so he who partakes of me shall live by Me”) to support your point, but in the same chapter, Jesus says that “It is the Spirit who gives life” (6:61). Living “by Christ” (Frank) and living “by the Spirit” (Mark) don’t seem to be two different things in Jesus’ mind. Moreover, throughout the gospel of John, it’s the Spirit who carries on the work and presence of Christ to and through his disciples (chs. 14-16, esp. 16:7; cf. 20:21-22). The same seems very clear throughout Luke-Acts as well.

    All that to say, I think that what Mark was saying in the book (I haven’t read it so I’m going off your summary) aligns with good, NT Trinitarian thought. The Spirit—specifically, the Spirit of Christ—mediates the presence and work of Christ to the church.

    This Trinitarian dynamic is laid out best in Rom. 8:9-11, where you have “Christ in you” (plural), “Spirit of Christ,” “Christ in you,” “the Spirit,” “the Spirit of Him” (Christ), and “his Spirit.” The Spirit, in other words, mediates and carries on the presence of Christ to the church. All that to say, I wouldn’t want to say that Mark’s emphasis on the Spirit’s presence in/among believers therefore neglects the work/presence of Christ. Separating the two feels a bit modalistic rather than Trinitarian. But I’m not a theologian so I could be way off.

    Also, by “living by Christ’s indwelling life” do you mean “Christ dwelling in us” or “us dwelling in Christ?” It seems that the latter receives a much stronger emphasis in the NT. A few NT passages talk about Christ’s presence in or among believers as a corporate body (Col. 1:27 “Christ in you” [the ‘you’ is plural]), and one time Paul talks about Christ living in him as an individual (Gal. 2:20). But by far the most common language Paul uses is: us “in Christ,” not Christ “in us.” Over 100 times Paul talks about “us” dwelling “in Christ,” not “Christ indwelling” us. But again, maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

    Thanks again for the very helpful dialogue!

  • http://facultyblog.eternitybiblecollege.com/ Mark Beuving

    Thanks for all the clarification, Frank.

    Continuing the discussion on question 1, I better understand where you’re coming from now. I’d just say that the “Christ in you” language is there and important, but I’d see that as a role primarily attributed to the Spirit. In other words, Christ dwells in us through the Spirit—he is the “Spirit of Christ,” after all (Rom. 8:9). We’re probably pretty close to on the same page here, since you referred to this as an “aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry.” But I can’t go with you in making a big distinction between the indwelling of Jesus and the indwelling of the Spirit and then referring to one half of the distinction as “the essential tenet of New Testament revelation” and “Discipleship 101.” So I’d say again that we’ve got a difference in emphasis here, or possibly only a difference in terminology.

    With regard to question 2, I’d be interested to hear the specific way you’d like to see the eternal purpose of God defined. As you said, there are too many good books out there to read, so it would probably be helpful to spell it out here briefly so we (all readers included) can engage with it. And let me quickly add that I am 100% with you in seeing God’s eternal purpose as something other than “getting us to heaven.” That type of thinking has deeply affected the church to its detriment. I am deeply opposed to any type of “Lifeboat Theology” or man-centered view of God’s purpose. Glad we can agree on that.

    As for everything else, it just strikes me that this is why we need one another. Francis and I have enjoyed our partnership in writing together because very often one of us will see something that the other doesn’t. We play off of each other’s strengths and fill in each other’s weaknesses and oversights. None of us should be living the Christian life in isolation. Bible reading, interpretation, teaching, writing, etc. should all be done within the context of the Christian community.

    So I love the fact that Francis and I can write a book on discipleship, and you can write your books and posts on a broad range of topics, and these things can be combined in a way that is far richer than anything that we could produce by ourselves. Our unique focuses and emphases all need to be heard. So, as you said in your initial post, I too look forward to someone (maybe it’s time to go for it, Frank?) writing a book on discipleship that includes an emphasis on these elements.

    Thanks for the discussion!

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  • Frank Viola

    The Blog Manager alerted me that Mark Beuving – coauthor of “Multiply” – responded to my questions to Francis. His questions are below and my answers follow each one:

    Here’s what Mark wrote.

    “This is Mark Beuving, co-author of Multiply. I’m not sure if Francis will have the time to drop in or not, but in the meantime, I took a stab at furthering the discussion by answering your questions. I think your concerns are very important . . . Mostly I think we’re talking about minor differences in emphasis, and even so, I think we’re largely on the same page here. I’d love to hear your thoughts:”

    MY RESPONSE:

    Thanks for your gracious reply, Mark.

    I had hoped that Francis would interact, but I understand about generals sending their soldiers out to fight their battles. I’m totally teasing you . . . and Francis. ;-)

    I appreciate your attention to my questions. David C. Cook has my personal email address and Francis can contact me off list. I don’t ever see him dialoguing online or via social media, so he would probably prefer talking that way. But I’ll just sketch out a few quick responses to your points.

    Frank’s Question 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?

    FROM MARK: The only disagreement I have here is the assertion that it’s not addressed in the book. It’s true that we spent the first sections of the book exploring the command to make disciples, but we definitely discussed the indwelling presence of God as a necessary empowerment for the task. When we discussed the New Testament in Part V, we included a whole chapter on the Spirit of God. (We also touch on it in Part IV in the chapter on God’s Presence on Earth.) Perhaps we’re talking about a difference of emphasis, but this is a reality that both Francis and I consider essential and all-important for the Christian life, and I don’t believe we short-changed the role of the Spirit. No one would expect you (Frank) to keep up on every book that Francis has written, but he has demonstrated his concern for the church trying to fulfill its mission apart from the Spirit in Forgotten God and in his BASIC video series.

    MY RESPONSE TO MARK:
    Yes, I am aware that you talk about the Holy Spirit in the book. But I was speaking of *living by Christ’s indwelling life* specifically. Jesus said over and over again that He lived by His Father’s indwelling life. That was the engine of His amazing life. In His resurrection, Jesus became “a life-giving Spirit” (1 Cor. 15) and the passage moved. So what the Father was to Jesus, Jesus is to us now. He’s our indwelling Lord. “As the Father has sent me and I live by the Father, so he who partakes of me shall live by Me.” Paul said the mystery of the ages is “Christ in you,” the hope of glory. Jesus also distilled being a disciple down to “it is not I, but Christ who lives in me.” Or as he put it in Colossians 3, “Christ our life.” I believe that the issue of how to live by the indwelling life of Christ is overlooked by most who talk about discipleship today. But it’s Discipleship 101. Without that, we repeat the mistakes of the past. So it’s a neglected aspect of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in need of exploration and recovery. I linked to an audio that introduces the subject in my answer. If you and Francis want a better idea of what I’m talking about exactly, you both can give it a listen. http://ptmin.podbean.com/2010/10/04/living-by-the-indwelling-life-of-christ/

    Frank’s Question 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 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?

    FROM MARK: I don’t know what to say to this. In Parts IV and V, we devote nearly 200 pages to God’s eternal purpose as revealed in the Old and New Testaments. In discussing how to read the Bible (Part III), we are trying to give people the tools to begin reading the Bible so that they can hear directly from God’s word as to what his grand purpose is. Then we guide them through God’s mission as it is revealed in the storyline of the Bible. I’d be curious to hear if there is something specific you were hoping we would say in this regard.

    MY RESPONSE TO MARK:
    Regarding the Eternal Purpose, yes, I did point out that there were elements here and there. But not what I consider to be a clear explanation of His Purpose that runs from Genesis to Revelation. If I asked a reader of your book, what is God’s eternal purpose? Why did He create the universe in the first place? I am not sure they would be able to answer that accurately. I think there are many assumptions about what God’s purpose is. Some say it’s going to heaven. Others say it’s the salvation of humans. Others say it’s God’s glory, which is never fully explained and many assumptions are given to it that make it very unclear. Others say it’s making the world a better place. If you send me your address, I’ll send you and Francis a copy of From Eternity to Here (David C. Cook), if you’re interested. The book unveils what I mean by “the Eternal Purpose of God” in concrete terms. If you read it, you’ll understand why I felt it wasn’t really treated in the book. Oh, the title even borrows a word from your Bible college. :-)

    Frank’s Question 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. 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?

    FROM MARK: I’m not sure there is an emphasis on making disciples rapidly. That’s a slippery term, anyway. What we wanted to emphasize was not the rate at which disciples are produced, but the ratio of Christians who are involved in the disciple-making process. In Part I, we explore Jesus’ command to make disciples and define what a disciple looks like. But in Part II, we explain that discipleship and the church are inseparable, that an isolated Christian is a contradiction in terms. So I agree with you completely in this concern, but I don’t believe we gave the opposite impression. Multiply in itself is designed to help people understand what discipleship is and to get them in the game of making disciples. But we certainly didn’t intend to put a growth rate on it or suggest that each disciple must be making x disciples per month.

    MY RESPONSE TO MARK:
    Discipleship is often seen and viewed as a “program” of sorts. Not as part of a habitat, much of which happens naturally. Rapid multiplication of disciples (and churches) is a thrust in some quarters of the discipleship movement today and mirrors (strikingly close) the principles of network marketing. So I’m glad to hear you’re not trying to sell that. One can easily build a large movement by network marketing principles mixed with the raw material of youthful enthusiasm, but gold, pearl, and precious stone it doth not make. But many Christian movements used that material to build their movements and I see it happening today. (Again, history repeats itself.)

    There’s also the matter of operating by spiritual instinct when it comes to making disciples vs. operating out of religious duty and/or guilt. The latter dominates today and without a clear explanation of the difference, people naturally fall into the 2nd. They try it for awhile and either fail or eventually burn out. And the guilt just increases. I have scores of letters from many who have this testimony. I’ve seen their tears and heard their agony in the conferences where I’ve preached. Youthful enthusiasm eventually runs dry. From my experience of ministering to young people throughout the years, I believe we need to teach and show them how to operate on something higher and more sustainable. This gets back to living by an indwelling Christ. If you ask most young people today what that means (do you know how to live by Jesus Christ?), they have no idea. Many older Christians don’t know either. Here’s another place where I talked about it to many young people: http://ptmin.podbean.com/2011/09/04/epic-jesus-the-christ-you-never-knew/ I think it may help you to understand where I’m coming from.

    Frank’s Question 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?

    FROM MARK: I’d love to hear what specific mistakes you have in mind here, and specifically how Multiply falls into those traps. Our intention was not to look back to the 1970s and revive an old movement. Rather, we were looking back to the overall mission of God as expressed in the story of the Bible and to Jesus’ command to make disciples. You are right that the church has latched onto these things in misguided and even harmful ways at times, but that’s no reason not to promote biblical concepts like discipleship. So I’d be curious to hear if this was a concern relating to the way discipleship was presented in the book or if it’s a general concern that comes to mind when you hear people talking about discipleship. Either way, it’s an important concern that we’ll want to address.

    MY RESPONSE TO MARK:
    I never thought you were reviving an old movement. Rather, I was expressing a concern that unfamiliarity with it can unwittingly end up repeating the same mistakes of the past. One philosopher said that the only thing that we know about history is that men never learn anything from it. The discipleship movement of the 1970s began with the same goals and intentions that today’s discipleship movement is beginning with. The men who spawned it were in their 40s. They were pastors and ex-pastors who became traveling teachers. The movement was made up largely of young people. New converts from The Jesus Movement. Anyways, I’d encourage you and Francis to study it. And I’m available to talk to you both about it off line should you wish to. I’ve given years to studying it and talking to both the leaders and the casualties of it. The second part of “Reimagining Church” reflects some of that. I’m amazed at how often history repeats itself by those who don’t know it. So I want to avoid seeing this happen if I can help it.

    Frank’s Question 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 this is possible?

    FROM MARK: Amen. The church living as a vital community is essential. I’m not sure if this is a straight question or a concern about the book though. It’s a book, and all we can do in a book is “talk about community.” I agree that modern people read things individualistically. That’s why we emphasized the church and the essential nature of community. We were careful to emphasize it throughout. To answer your question at the end: I think you’re right that when we view church as a service we attend rather than a community or a body of which we are an essential part, we end up getting discipleship wrong.

    MY RESPONSE TO MARK:
    Glad you agree on this one. But I read that section as if I were a member of a traditional church. A pew warmer “who went faithfully to church” and listened to sermons, paid tithes, took notes, etc. That’s most Christians today. As someone who has written a series of books on radical church restoration, I’ve discovered that getting past the “familiarity filter” where people naturally interpret what they are reading – even about “community” – through the grid of their own traditional church experience requires making some radical comparisons to define what one means and doesn’t mean by “community.” Just an observation and nothing more.

    FROM MARK: I hope that’s helpful. We certainly don’t claim that Multiply is perfect or that we will agree 100% in content or emphasis with every solid Christian. Whenever you emphasize x, it can be difficult to convince people that you are not inherently denying y. What we wanted to do with Multiply was renew the church’s focus on discipleship—a focus that we believe has gotten lost in the church-activity shuffle—and give people a tangible first step in guiding others down the road of true discipleship. Thanks for treating the book so carefully and for raising your questions with a gentle and edifying touch.

    MY RESPONSE TO MARK: Thx. You wrote a good book, Mark. And I’m sure many will read it. Again, I’m available to discuss these issues with Francis further off list . . . as well as the issue of the church, which many have inquired about where we are concerned.

    I’ve lost count of the men who left the institutional church system and who set out to reinvent the wheel on their own, only to repeat the mistakes of the past. It’s a humbling thing to learn from those who have gone before us and who have successfully pioneered in the trenches.

    If I should ever hear from him, it would make some people quite happy and it will be nice to stop getting emails from people asking me if we’ve ever talked! ;-)

    Yours in the costly but glorious quest,

    fv

    Psalm 115:1

  • Frank Viola

    Thx. Randi: The upcoming book hasn’t released yet. For those who are new, go to: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/freebook/

  • http://seedsinmyheart.blogspot.com randi

    I will look forward to YOU writing a program, book or course for discipleship with those 5 elements!!

    By the way — I haven’t gotten the link for that new free book even though I subscribed to this new blog when it first started.

    THANKS FOR ALL YOU DO!!! :) Sister in Christ, Randi in NC

  • http://ineloquentanthem.blogspot.ca Tyson Liske

    If anyone writes a discipleship book, program, or course that includes these 5 elements, please send me the book. I’ll read it even if I don’t know the author and Patheos never asks me to review it!

    - working on it!

  • Frank Viola

    Ha!

  • Frank Viola

    Sure. I’ve answered this in detail in “Reimagining Church” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/publications/

  • http://middletree.blogspot.com James Williams

    Frank, I’d be interested in hearing you expound on the individual vs. community aspects of what the Christian life should be like.

  • http://www.beingfilled.com/ Chuck McKnight

    Since it’s not possible to subscribe to comments here (any plans on changing that?), would you be able to notify your readers if Chan does stop by? Thanks!

  • Luke Laffin

    Are there any discipleship manuals/workbooks that you would recommend that could be used as tools within community?

  • Frank Viola

    Actually, there’s a great deal in common, especially in how the earlier movement began. The goals are identical and so is the evangelical approach and understanding of what constitutes “discipleship,” with the exception of the supernatural elements of the Spirit, which was emphasized in the earlier movement. I’ve written a post on it elsewhere, but I might republish it here someday. If Chan answers my questions, we’ll discuss it right here in the comments. ;-)

  • Frank Viola

    Those touch on *some* of the 5 elements, others they neglect. I’ve sketched out all 5 in “From Eternity to Here” … “Reimagining Church” … “Finding Organic Church” … and “Revise Us Again” . . . but none of these volumes or the ones you’ve mentioned are workbook/discipleship program sorts of works. Without the right habitat, even the best discipleship program/workbook is going to have serious limitations. Sort of like asking fish to breed outside of water.

    Anyways, I look forward to hearing from Chan on my questions. Keep checking back. :-)

  • Nate

    While they do not outline ‘programs’ for discipleship, I think what what NT Wright is getting at in After You Believe, James KA Smith in Desiring the Kingdom (and his forthcoming book Imagining the Kingdom), and Jonathan Wilson in Living Faithfully In a Fragmented World with regards to the relationship between communal practices, virtuous character, and narrative formation are significant contributions to the bigger picture of discipleship that you are after.

  • http://www.beingfilled.com/ Chuck McKnight

    Also, I am not familiar with the “Discipleship Movement” you describe, but looking it up now, I see absolutely no similarities between it and what Francis describes in his book, other than the term “Discipleship.”

    However, since I don’t know anything about it, perhaps you could write a post or two talking about the movement, the problems with it, and any comparisons you actually see between it and what Chan describes?

  • http://www.beingfilled.com/ Chuck McKnight

    I’m reading through this right now, and I’m finding it to be excellent! Granted, I’ve been following Chan’s ministry for some time, and I’ve read and loved all of his books.


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