The Bible x The Church = Disciples

Review of Multiply by Francis Chan and Mark Beuving

By COYLE NEAL

Francis Chan can be a bit of a, well, unique individual, and that’s why I like him. He’s unique in a way that reminds us of things that have been forgotten, but without sacrificing solid theology. His latest book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples (co-authored with Mark Beuving) is yet another book in this line—he takes a relatively obscure term like ‘discipling’ and shows us where it fits into the Christian life and why we shouldn’t neglect it.

Multiply has two major sections. In the first section (Parts I-III), he outlines what a disciple is and the context in which disciples are made and grow. The short version is that “disciples” are people who want to dedicate their entire lives to following Jesus (pg 16-17); this happens within the church by means of Scripture. In the second section (Parts III-V), he first explains how to study the Bible in a way that leads to growth and then provides a broad Biblical theology intended to help disciples begin that study.

And really, this is the chief value of Multiply. Since becoming a more serious book reviewer, I’ve had to read a lot of tripe. And while I think there are many good reasons to read such tripe, it is refreshing from time to time to review a book that takes seriously the traditional doctrines of the Christian faith. Here, the two big doctrines taken seriously are the local church and the centrality of Scripture.

You will not grow as a Christian unless you are studying Scripture faithfully, regularly, devotionally, logically, privately, and doing so with others in your church. Being a Christian disciple does involve fighting sin, evangelizing others, living a holy life, finding joy, and understanding great spiritual mysteries (all subjects addressed in the many less-than-adequate books I’ve reviewed) but the tool which we are given to guide and help and comfort us in these tasks is God’s Holy Word. Deviate from it, and we wander into disobedience. Cling to it, and we cling to a foundation that will last forever.

Nor are we left to try to understand Scripture on our own. While salvation is a matter between us and God wherein we are brought to faith in the atoning life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, sanctification is something we do both on our own and in the company of a body of believers. Among other things, one function of a church is to be a place where we work together to understand the Gospel better and increasingly apply it to our lives. The authors don’t go into specifics about how that works on the ground (for good resources to help you think about that check out 9Marks), but even pointing out that the local church is essential is a much-needed corrective in our individualistic, “just-me-and-Jesus” American society.

Overall, this was an excellent introduction to discipleship written clearly, concisely (yes, it’s 300+ pages, but much of that is space left blank for jotting down answers to questions for reflection), and on a solid Biblical foundation. Highly recommended.

This book was provided for free by the publisher for review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Dr. Coyle Neal lives in Washington, DC.


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