Some Reviews of T4T

Some Reviews of T4T January 9, 2013

I know a number of mission agencies will begin having winter meetings in the coming weeks. This means a lot of discussion about church planting strategies and methods. To stimulate a little discussion, I’ve offer two reviews of Steve Smith and Ying Kai’s T4T: A Discipleship Re-revolution.

The first review is from George Robinson (D.Miss, Western Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Missions and Evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. His short article was originally published in Global Missiology (Oct 2011). Click here to read it.

The second is my own review, which is listed on my book reviews page.

Whether you love or hate it, the book has to be taken seriously as it reflects the thinking of so many mission practitioners.

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  • Stephanie

    I think the critique of it being a primarily pragmatic-based rather than biblically inspired methodology is a valid one. The fine line between descriptive and prescriptive is often lost. But really, could we ever have an infallible prescriptive other than the Bible?

    As a practitioner, T4T leaves some huge positives, but also some huge questions:

    1. The coaching/accountability aspect of discipleship. Or, rather, the expectation of obedience vs. knowledge. I think for me this was a huge insight in what to be aware of as a westerner who grew up in a knowledge-based church. Also, the practicing of each element (though I think there is something missing in the practice element, because in a lot of instances, the only practice celebrated in the book is the practice of a lesson is for passing on) is super helpful. Getting to step out in our spiritual gifts, setting goals, knowing what to do when you fail, are all huge parts of discipleship.

    2. Priesthood of all believers. Each person is a part of the body, and we’re missing out if we don’t immediately let him/her have a part (or expecting them to be a part–rather than working their way through the ranks of bringing snacks, helping admin, teaching sunday school, etc. to prove their salvation and get on a track to eldership). Anyone can be a disciple. Anyone can pass it on.

    3. The idea that vision-casting and being proactive with setting goals of EV (and challenging them to pray about who to be sharing with) with believers will in some ways be instrumental to the accomplishment of the GC.

    4. The idea of letting the bible speak. This gets more complicated when a culture doesn’t have people who are actively pursuing higher-level education in order to help interpret scripture for their people, but it also puts the bible as the definitive authority on everything. This healthy view of scripture, when it is encouraged by the practitioner, helps give freedom for the disciples to make decisions based on scripture and not asking them to be dependent on anyone but the bible and the holy spirit to teach them.


    1. How do we define “high value” activities in a Biblical way, centering them more in the spiritual gifts, rather than in the things that get a higher rate of conversion. We want to value people and the head of the people who animates the body.

    2. How do we correct the mistaken understanding of CPM as fast fast fast? We have seen some of the “cancer-like” growth of “CPM” in our own context. Thousands of converts, but with a “discipleship book” devoid of any scripture and full of what we would call heretical teaching.

    3. How can we intermarry the practitioner and scholar overseas? We see an exodus to the nations in this generation, but in my experience, many of the people are ill prepared to do what they have come to do. Very thankful for what you are doing, and also wondering how practitioners can be more informed and aware so that the Word of God can be the inspiration for ministry rather than a book’s methods.

    • Stephanie,

      1. The key thing I think is redefining “value.” Western culture affects the church such that value is measured precisely by numbers. Quantity can be measured, quality is more ambiguous. To change this, the glory of God has to be central in practice, because if it were then one would realize quality also honors God. After all, Jesus was always wrecking potential “CPMs” with his hard comments that would send people away. Also, missionaries and organization have to have new mentalities in terms of fundraising, which typically uses numbers to appeal to donors.

      2. The inherent problem is that CPM by definition has been defined as “rapid.” If rapidity describes a movement, one has to ask how much we can control than and to the degree we do control speed of movement, what do we risks do we incur, like false conversions or the church 10 years from now.

      3. Responsibility starts at the church and seminary level, but continues at the organization level. Organizations need to take ongoing education very seriously, now less so that do doctors, lawyers, and teachers, who need constant ongoing training. Are missionaries in any less need than these professions?

      In some sense, the cause is sheer patronizing of other cultures. People say something like, “They don’t know much over there. We just have to keep it simple. They are not that educated.” One problem is that missionaries are training pastors while in a foreign context. Contextualization and syncretism become issues in a whole new way unlike in someone’s own home context. Therefore, the missionary actually needs MORE training than the pastor in many respects.