The Disciple Maker’s Handbook
By: Bobby Harrington & Josh Patrick
READ: September 2017
Summary: This book is OK. There are some solid discipling principles explored and practical tips given, but the closer I looked at the details the less I liked it. Most chapters have key points that are numbered, but what held them together was rarely well set-up…sometimes not at all. Each related to the chapter heading, but it would have helped to have a tighter focus. I didn’t have one particular difficulty, but rather instance after instance I found myself kind of agreeing and kind of not. A couple of examples include the notion that we can disciple non-Christians (which contradicts the definition of a disciple he puts forward in Chapter 2) or the explicit emphasis placed on multiplying through resources (which seems to contradict the need to develop skillfulness and equipping in Scripture that he mentions on page 166 and 123 respectively). Overall, I would suggest skipping this one. There are other disciple making books that maintain a tight focus throughout and that have stood the test of time. Still, if you already have this book, it wouldn’t do any harm to give it a quick read.
*I also want to note that I appreciate all the work that Bobby is doing with discipleship.org. His work continues to be incredibly valuable to the cause of disciple making.
Chapters: Part 1 – Make Disciples: 1. One Big Reason and Seven Others 2. The Greatest Cause on Earth 3. A Disciple Making Example Part 2 – The Seven Elements of a Discipleship Lifestyle: 4. Relationships 5. Jesus 6. Intentionality 7. Bible 8. Spirit 9. Journey 10. Multiply Conclusion – Join the Discipleship-First Tribe
pg. 11 highlights five myths about life that keep people from making disciples. They are myths of performance, comfort, generosity, money, and pleasure. These are effective and bring immediate focus to the book.
pg. 12 What is the great pursuit of your life? What story do you want your life to tell?
pg. 12 When it’s all said and done, the quality of our lives will be measured by these two questions, 1. Was I a disciple of Jesus 2. Did I help make disciples of Jesus?
pg. 13 “The aim of this book is to help you understand what Jesus did and how he did it—and how you can emulate his commitment to reach people and make disciples. This book is not a textbook; it’s a handbook. Understanding must lead to application. We want you to read this book and do something with it. And don’t wait until you’re finished reading. You can put these principles into practice as you read.”
Chapter 1: One Big Reason and Seven Others:
-This chapter aims to answer the ‘why’ of making disciples. I don’t disagree with any of the whys, but they felt out of focus for me. After all, doesn’t “we obey Jesus’ final command” mean that we also help people receive eternal life? And doesn’t that also mean that we change lives?
pg. 20-21 Jesus is Savior and Lord is the big reason.
pg. 22-30 The other reasons are 1. We obey Jesus’ final command. 2. We follow Jesus. 3. We help people receive eternal life. 4. We give people the personal help they need. 5. We change lives. 6. We truly love others! 7. We live out the ministry of all believers.
Chapter 2: The Greatest Cause on Earth
pg. 35 Definition of a disciple, “Someone who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus.”
pg. 37 Definition of Disciple Making, “Helping people to trust and follow Jesus.”
pg. 42-43 Seven elements of a discipleship lifestyle: Relationships, Jesus, Intentionality, Bible, Spirit, Journey, and Multiply
Chapter 3: Disciple Making Example
This chapter is the first that I struggled with. It sets out to give a real-life example of what it means to make a disciple. The example used is to start a group, specifically a men’s group. While this is a very valid vehicle it’s not the easiest or the best method for disciple making. I believe the chapter depicts a group that’s driven by system and curriculum rather than by relationships.
pg. 47 Five key steps to forming a men’s group: Listen, Recruit, Prepare, Engage, Release
pg. 50 To identify potential disciple making leaders use the AFTeR acronym. Available, Faithful, Teachable, Reliable.
Traditionally FAT is the acronym used. I’m all for improvements, but it seems like faithful and reliable are redundant.
Chapter 4: Relationships
pg. 68 “The most important sign of authentic discipleship is Jesus-like love. It is not a worship experience. It is not experiences of the Holy Spirit. It is not correct doctrine. It is not faith. It is not service to the poor and needy.
Chapter 5: Jesus
pg. 81 “The Jesus we preach and the gospel we uphold determine the disciple we get.
pg. 81 Five common ways Jesus is presented. 1. Republican Jesus 2. Democrat Jesus 3. Therapist Jesus 4. Starbucks Jesus 5. Open-minded Jesus
Chapter 6: Intentionality
pg. 98 “Disciple makers know where other people need to go and they have a plan to help them get there.”
Back to the group, he explains 4 intentional choices he made…
pg. 99, 1. Picked a number of men for the group. 2. Asked those selected to commit to a group covenant of expectations. 3. Selected material for the group to use that are easily reproduced so they could take what they’d learned and use it with others. 4. Asked one of the men to be an apprentice.
I wholeheartedly agree with intentionality, but this group sounds very programmed. And I prefer to develop men who are equipped to use Scripture, not a book/material.
pg. 100, “We can only ‘make disciples’ if we know what a disciple is and how to make one.
pg. 104-111 Intentional things you need…1. A Plan 2. Tools 3. To be a role model. 4. Discernment 5. Intentionality because it’s the key to multiplication and reaching people.
Chapter 7: Bible
pgs. 118-126 Guidelines for helping people study and apply the Bible in their lives: 1. Us the Bible when Discipling Non-Christians (I agree the Bible is helpful in evangelizing, but don’t believe that we can disciple non-Christians) 2. Look for Jesus in all parts of the Bible 3. Teach people to read the Bible for themselves 4. Approach the Bible with a humble heart focused on obedience.
I found this chapter to be lacking in concrete examples. On pg 126 he says, “We suggest that you work with other leaders in your church to find some good material to help you study the Bible.” My hope would be that there would be more focus on developing people to read and study the Bible for themselves through inductive Bible study. That sort of equipping is hinted at in the chapter, but doesn’t seem to be fully formed.
pg. 126 “You can know the Word and not be mature. But you cannot be mature without knowing the Word.” –Jim Putman
Chapter 8: Spirit
pgs. 130-138 Ways we can rely on the Spirit in our disciple making.
1. Help people see the Spirit at work in repentance.
2. Help people see the Spirit enabling their response
3. Help people with spiritual practices and suffering
4. Give people encouragement about God’s help
Chapter 9: Journey
pg. 143, “We teach that there are three parts to the discipleship process, 1. my part as a disciple maker 2. the disciple’s part 3. God’s part.”
pgs 145-154 Five stages of the discipleship journey
1. Infant-Lacking Knowledge
2. Child-Self-Centered, but Growing
3. Young Adult-Focused on God’s Kingdom
4. Parent-Intentional Disciple Makers
5. Grandparent-Multiplying Disciple Makers
Chapter 10: Multiply
pg. 160, “Discipleship in the Bible is life on life, heart with heart, eyeball to eyeball.”
No clear set-up to the following list…
1. Cultivate the heart
2. Make the method easily reproducible
3. Cultivate intentionality and skill
4. Maintain passion for the mission
Conclusion: Join the Discipleship-First Tribe
Three distinctive drumbeats of this tribe:
1. It is the only response worthy of Jesus
2. It upholds Jesus’ Final Command
3. It imitates Jesus and his love.