Monday, July 01, 2013

BookPastor >> "Discipleshift" (Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington)

This review was first published at "Panorama of a Book Saint." The book is one of the best books I have read on making disciples.


TITLE: DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples (Exponential Series)
AUTHOR: Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013, (240 pages).

Most of us will be familiar with the phrase: "Paradigm shift." It represents an out of the box or a seismic transformation of thinking and doing, in order to bring the purpose of an organization or a movement forward. It has to do with a change of mindset. It requires boldness and an openness for fresh and effective approaches.   Joel Barker first popularized the notion of a "paradigm shift" back in the 70s. Since then, the idea has been used in many different places. Before one shifts at anything, one needs to recognize the need to shift. Beginning with a critical observation of spiritual lethargy and how little discipleship is happening in churches, Putman and Harrington observe that many leaders have approached church ministry wrong at the onset. They look at numbers driven strategies. They search for a one-size-fits-all solutions. They seek to apply wholesale programs thinking as if the program is the magic for church growth. Those attending conferences and training tend to look for "silver bullet" solutions. At the core are two issues at stake. What is the destination? This is followed by "What kind of leadership style is needed to move toward this?" Effectiveness is keenly sought after. That is not all. What concerns the authors is that Christians not only fail to practice discipleship making, Christians are also becoming more worldly in their approach and their lifestyles. They separate Church from daily living. They dichotomize responsibility sharply between the clergy and the lay. They fail to make disciples.

We are reminded to distinguish a change of style versus a change of purpose. The former can change. The latter does not change. The methodologies and strategies can vary. The objective of making disciples remains the same. In this book, the authors Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington try to do both, by homing on the big idea of helping disciples make disciples, through five different shifts. It is hoped that through each shift, doing church can be more effective as Church people moves toward "relational discipleship" that is biblical and effective. In sum, the two words to consider are: "Focus" and "Methodology." Right focus and right methodology makes for a powerful discipleship strategy.

Briefly, I have summarized the five shifts as follows:
  1. From Reaching to Making.
    FROM: Discipleship is understood in terms of reaching out to bring converts.
    TO: Discipleship is about making disciples to be disciple-making disciples.
  2. From Informing to Equipping.
    FROM:  Discipleship is understood more of a transference of information.
    TO: It is about making disciples through equipping, educating, teaching, and creating an environment for making disciples.
  3. From Program to Purpose.
    FROM:  Haphazard programming
    TO: Meetings and programs that accomplish a purpose, whether building relationships or demonstrating Christlike discipleship, through Share, Connect, Train, and Release.
  4. From Activity to Relationship.
    FROM: Discrete ministries and programs that do not have an integrated focus
    TO: Cultivating a culture of relationship building and ministries that are aligned toward Disciplemaking
  5. From Accumulating to Deploying.
    FROM: Measuring success based on buildings, budgets, bodies.
    TO: Developing and Releasing people to let them serve inside and outside; using a blueprint of share-connect-minister-disciple.
This book is powerful in at least three ways. Firstly, it provides a guide for discipleship drawn from real life experiences. Readers will be quick to notice that there are many stories that backed up the ideas and strategies mentioned. There are real people. Their stories add to the reality of ministry. There are frequent flashbacks on traditional methods that have led many churches to become stagnant and die. There are also warnings to wake people up from the sleepiness of ministry to the wakefulness of discipleship. The biblical mandate is weaved throughout the book.  Secondly, the book is written with practice in mind. Many books on discipleship tend to be heavy on the theoretical portion, but relatively light on the implementation aspect. Not this book. Putman and Harrington energize readers to take the plunge as soon as possible through practical steps, logical flows, memorable visuals, and exciting ideas. The discipleship strategies, phases, and movements are diagrammed clearly through a circle chart. Four concentric circles summarize the gist of the shifts needed in any Church. You can read them from the outside in.
  • First Circle: Moving from Sharing -> Connecting -> Training -> Releasing (SCTR for short);
  • Second Circle: About the scope of relational ministry based on SCTR;
  • Third Circle: About the Stage of Spiritual Condition (Dead - Infant - Children - Young Adult - Parent)
  • Fourth Circle: Identifies the language and behavioural traits of each spiritual condition.
Thirdly, the book contains lots of focus on actively equipping and engaging the people of God more. It does not throw away the old completely, though it points out that old models of a superman minister cannot be sustained. It concentrates on the biblical model of a humble minister, serving out of love and building a relationship of people helping people. The church is about people ministering to people. It is about a many-to-many ministry, not a top-down or a one-to-many ministry. It is about everyone serving one another in the name of Jesus.

The examples help readers know that the ideas have been tested and tried. That is not all. The authors close each chapter with a summary of the key points so that readers can be refreshed and are able to use the summary as a reference index in future. Those who have read the whole book, and have been impressed by it, will appreciate this summary to enable them to get back in quickly. Each chapter includes a "Ask Dr Coleman" section, which is an interview with the famous master-teacher of evangelism and discipleship. In fact, these interviews are alone worth the price of the book. I savour every page of this book and appreciate the candour of the authors and the real-life implementation strategies. With this book, Churches will certainly be equipped with a powerful tool to aid their design and strategy of a discipleship culture for their churches. If your church does not have a discipleship strategy right now, or are in need of a refresher, or a re-start, why not begin with this book? For all we know, what we need is not simply a new idea about discipleship. What we need is to re-ignite a passion for discipleship, a purpose in discipleship, and a growing desire to make disciples on all people, nations, and beyond, beginning with ourselves. The following sums up very well what discipleship is about.
  • Demonstration: I do. You watch. We talk.
  • Assistance: I do. You help. We talk.
  • Delegation: You do. I help. We talk.
  • Observation: You do. I watch. We talk.
  • Spreading: You do. Another watches. We talk.

One more thing. If you want to have a good night's sleep, do not read this book before bedtime. It can make you jump up and want to start putting it into practice. This is one of the best books on practical discipleship I have read.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Zondervan and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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