Reading Francis Chan’s latest book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples has helped me see how far away from the conservative evangelical theology of my youth I’ve truly gotten.
This book is promoted as a resource or tool for guided disciple-making, with chapters that are meant to be read together with someone you are actively discipling, along with video messages from Chan and co-author Mark Beuving to be watched and discussed together.
Like the pseudo-systematic theology Multiply sort of delivers, this is a system really designed by conservative evangelicals for making conservative evangelical followers of Jesus. Progressives, even progressive evangelicals like myself, will be bothered by a lot of things, including the male pronouns for God but more pointedly the motivation of fear that underlies just about every aspect of this discipleship program.
From the opening chapter to the last, there is this message that “you better be doing this or else.” For example, Chan takes Jesus’ hopeful and inspiring message from Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and turns it into this:
“If someone warned you to be prepared because a king and his army were coming, what would you do? You would make sure you were ready to face him. If you weren’t prepared to fight this king, then you would do whatever it took to make peace with him. … Every person reading this sentence has done things that are evil and offensive to this King. … Because of our sin, which is an offense to God, we should expect death.”
The greatest irony of Multiply is that, while it attempts to critique the Churchianity that most people practice, the very delivery system of this discipleship program fits neatly and perfectly into that same pre-programmed church structure.
“We have subtly and tragically taken this costly command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations and mutated it into a comfortable call for Christians to come, be baptized, and listen in one location. … Discipleship is all about living life together rather than just one structured meeting per week. However, it’s shocking how quickly time gets away from us, so it’s good to establish at least one regular meeting time each week. … At the core of the Multiply material are weekly sessions, which involve study guides and videos.”
I agree with Chan that discipleship happens best in the day-to-day, life-on-life experience, and that’s precisely why I’m deeply skeptical of any program like this that seeks to programmatize it all for us — especially one with this narrow of a theological agenda. Unless you’re really just committed to perpetuating that conservative evangelical theology, I would recommend steering clear of the Multiply program.
What do you think? Am I being too hard on Chan and Multiply?