Transforming Discipleship - Review

I picked up "Transforming Discipleship" based on the recommendation of The Canadian. His church is re-examining their discipleship model and I was sharing some of what I've been experiencing in life-on-life discipleship at McKinney over the past couple of years. He mentioned that "Transforming Discipleship" might really augment some of my thinking, so I was excited to pick it up.

Greg Ogden has spent the last couple of decades involved in intentional discipleship. As a part of a Doctor of Ministry project, he began to investigate different sized groups, from one-on-one to much larger groups, and came away feeling strongly that groups of 3 (triads) are the most effective.

The first half of Ogden's book pursues a biblical model for discipleship, looking mainly at the ministries of Jesus and Paul. One-on-one proponents often point to Paul's relationship with Timothy as the "biblical model" for discipleship, but Ogden shows compelling evidence that Jesus and Paul did not limit their discipleship to one-on-one relationships, especially with mature believers.

Knowing where he is going, there are times in the first half of the book that Ogden seems to argue that the triad method is the biblical method. This is especially apparent in the section where he talks about the Bible being a "method book" as well as a message book. I don't think that is Ogden's intent, but I think it is important to note that the Bible never commands us to use a specific method in making disciples; it simply tells us to do it. Whether you choose to use triads, small groups, or the life-on-life method, the biblical mandate is to involve others in intentional, accountable growth relationships centered around the Word of God and the person of Jesus. Ogden's book will help provide one way to do that, but certainly not the only acceptable way.

Ogden argues that a one-on-one method might not be the best discipleship method because it places too much responsibility on the discipler, could result in dependency, provides limited dialogue, limits a disciple's growth to the strength and weaknesses of the mentor, and can be difficult for a disciple to feel confident reproducing. All of these are valid concerns of the life-on-life model, though they can be issues in triads as well.

"Transforming Discipleship" is a really well done book. All of my discipleship has been done using the life-on-life method, but I'm certainly open to experimenting with Ogden's method. Whether or not you land on Ogden's method specifically, you need to pay attention to his argument (and plea) for discipleship of some kind.

If you're considering how you can leave a legacy in the lives of people around you, whether you're a pastor or do ministry in the marketplace, this book needs to be one you have read.