Transforming Discipleship By Greg Ogden

ISBN: 978-0830823888
READ: July 2017
RATING:  6/10

Summary: I found the first half of Ogden’s book to be incredibly strong. He nails the problems facing the church, the typical stunted attempts at growing a disciple making culture, and Biblical argument for life on life disciple making. However, the last half of the book was disappointing. He presents Jesus’ and Paul’s methods of disciple making as the model, but then develops his own which centers on triads, curriculum, and relationships that are restricted to an artificial timeframe. I don’t disparage the principles that these things stand on, but the outworking of the principles seems to go against his arguments in the first half of the book. He strongly critiques programmatic discipleship, but his approach is very programmed to me. I also took issue with the way he tore down other approaches (such as one on one) in order to position triads/quads as the best.

Still, if you’re looking to grow in a deeper understanding of why disciple making is needed, the Biblical foundations of a relational approach, and one way that can be implemented then it’s a worthwhile read. My caution is to take the last half of the book with a grain of salt. Ogden presents one way to do it, but in my opinion, his model (like all culturally adapted models) has weaknesses and limitations. Before enacting a process like Ogden’s be sure you are ready to accept what it will give you and what it won’t.

Chapters: Introduction Part 1 – The Discipleship Deficit: What Went Wrong and Why: 1.The Discipleship Gap 2. The Discipleship Malaise Part 2 – Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way: The Bible as a Method Book 3. Why Jesus Invested in a Few 4. Jesus Preparatory Empowerment Model 5. Paul’s Empowerment Model Part 3 – Multiplying Reproducing Discipleship Groups: Church-Based Strategy for Disciple-Making 6. Life Investment 7. Multiplication 8. Transformation 9. Practicalities in Disciple Making


pg. 16, “Jesus stakes the future of his ministry on his investment in a few. Do we do the same?

pg. 17, “We have not made disciples if we only help people grow to maturity without also seeing them reproduce.”

Chapter 1 – The Discipleship Gap

pg. 21, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” –Max De Pree

pg. 23, “The problem in our culture…isn’t abortionists. It isn’t the pornographers or drug dealers or criminals. It is the undisciplined, undiscipled, disobedient, and Biblically ignorant Church of Jesus Christ.” –Cal Thomas

pg. 24-37 The Biblical Standard and the Current Reality

1.     Proactive Ministers

pg. 25, “Doesn’t it seem odd for people to make evaluative statements like, ‘Good sermon, pastor’ or ‘I enjoyed the service this morning’ about the worship of a living God? On many a Sunday after concluding the morning message, when I glanced in the direction of the choir I expected them to raise cards from their laps rating the sermon 9.9, 9.4 and so on.”

2.     A Disciplined Way of Life

3.     Discipleship Affects All of Life

pg. 29, “There is a disconnect for many Christians when it comes to seeing ourselves as representatives of the kingdom of God in what we spend more of our time doing—our jobs.

4.     A Countercultural Force

pg. 30, “Barna concluded, ‘The fact that the proportion of Christians who affirm these values is equivalent to the proportion of non-Christians who hold similar views indicates how meaningless Christianity has been in the lives of millions of professed believers.”

5.     An Essential, Chosen Organism

6.     Biblically Informed People

7.     People Who Share Their Faith

pg. 38 “Barna has written, ‘Christianity would be incredibly influential in our culture if Christians consistently lived their faith. Most non-Christians don’t read the Bible, so they judge Christianity by the lives of Christians they see. The problem is that millions of Christians don’t live like Christians—and that’s partially because they don’t know what they believe and therefore cannot apply appropriate scriptural values to their lives.’”

Chapter 2 – The Discipleship Malaise

pg. 39, “What chances of survival would you give an organization in which 20 percent of its members do the work while 80 percent pick and choose their level of participation? Only about one-sixth of the members make regular efforts to understand the mission of the organization and their part in carrying it out.”

pg. 40, “…Pastors have been diverted from their primary calling to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry.’”

pg. 42, “We have an undiscipled church because its leaders have not made discipling their primary focus.

pg. 42, “…We have tried to make disciples through programs.”

pg. 43, “Programs can make it look like we are growing disciples, but that is more illusion than reality, and we know it.”

4 Common Characteristics of a Program

1.     Information or Knowledge Based

2.     The one preparing the many

3.     Characterized by regimentation and synchronization

4.     Generally have low personal accountability.

pg. 47, “We have not called people into an apprentice relationship with Jesus.”

pg. 47, “If we did this [trained people to obey Jesus], we might see more classes in the church with titles like, ‘How to Genuinely Bless Someone Who is Spitting on You’ or ‘How to Live Without Indulging in Lust or Covetousness.’ It is our lack of intention to conform to Christi’s teaching that makes class titles like these sound startling.”

pg. 49, “A close examination of Scripture does not allow for two classes of followers: the ordinary and the extraordinary.”

Part Two – Doing the Lord’s Work in the Lord’s Way

Chapter 3 – Why Jesus Invested in a Few

pg. 70, “George Martin takes Jesus’ strategy and challenges pastors to apply it to the way they think about ministry today: Perhaps today’s pastor should imagine that they are going to have three more years in their parish (church) as pastor-that there will be no replacement for them when they leave. If they acted as if this were going to happen, they would put the highest priority on selecting, motivating, and training lay leaders that could carry on as much as possible the mission of the parish after they left. The results of three sustained years of such an approach would be significant. Even revolutionary.”

pg. 71, “Jesus lived with the urgency of the three-year timeline.”

Chapter 4 – Jesus’ Preparatory Empowerment Model

 -Solid content, though nothing stood out for me.

Chapter 5 – Paul’s Empowerment Model

Pg. 99, “We turn our attention now to the apostle Paul’s model of disciple making. We must first note that the language that runs throughout the Gospels and Acts is absent in Paul’s nomenclature. Whereas the terms ‘make disciples’ and ‘be a disciple’ dominate Jesus’ vocabulary and the historical accounts of the early church, they are nowhere to be found in Paul’s letters. In fact, Paul never speaks of having disciples!”

-Indeed the last use of the word disciple is in Acts 21:16. Paul’s verbiage is centered around parenting and bringing people to maturity as Ogden lays out in this chapter.

Pg. 105 Displays a chat showing life stage of a disciple, his primary need, the disciple’s role and the discipler’s role.

Pg. 113, “Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, defined coaching as “making men do what they don’t want, so that they can become what they want to be.”

Pg. 115, “Mutuality marks this stage [Adulthood – Participation] of maturity. … Reciprocal giving and receiving is an indication of a mature relationship [between parents and children].”

Part Three – Multiplying Reproducing Discipleship Groups

I struggled with this section. As one who believes more in the quality of discipling relationships rather than the number or the form [small group, micro-group, triad, 1-1, etc], I found Ogden’s arguments in this section to be dogmatic and limiting.

Chapter 6 – It’s All About Relationships

Pg. 121 “The Scriptures provide not only the message but also the method for growing God’s people to maturity. Yet we do not connect Jesus’ and Paul’s models for growing mature believers to a workable, practical process of making disciples.”

Pg. 121 “…Three foundational principles upon which to build a process that leads to an intergenerational multiplication of fully devoted followers of Christ….The first hinge is life investment….the second is multiplication through the generations….the third is transformation….”

I have trouble following Ogden here. First, he says Jesus and Paul have a model that should be our practice, but then he wants to extract principles from those models to form a new process. I agree a principled approach must be taken, but don’t think the critique at the start of the chapter is fair since other approaches have sought to do the same.

Pg. 122, “Disciple making is not a six-week, ten-week, or even a thirty-week program.”

Pg. 123, “I oppose neither curricula, complete with sequenced knowledge, skills acquisition, spiritual disciplines and doctrinal content, nor systems, but for transformation to occur this must all be processed in the context of relational commitment.”

Pg. 124, “How does this approach differ from the usual church program? Instead of inviting people to a program or class for which they sign up, attend and complete their assignments, they are invited into a relationship of mutual love, transparency, and accountability….First, discipling relationships are marked by intimacy, whereas programs tend to be focused on information.”

Pg. 125, “Second discipling relationships involve full, mutual responsibility of the participants, whereas programs have one or a few who do on behalf of the many.”

Pg. 125, “Third, discipling relationships are customized to the unique growth process of the individuals, whereas programs emphasize synchronization and regimentation.”

Pg. 126, “Fourth, discipling relationships focus accountability around life change, whereas programs focus accountability around content.”

Pg. 126, “Invitations to programs seem impersonal….An invitation to relationship, by contrast, is experienced very differently. In an impersonal world, people hunger for intimacy, personal care, deep friendship and spiritual bonding.”

Pg. 127, “Studies have shown that men generally have acquaintances but few, if any, intimate friends.”

Pg. 127-128, “Robert Coleman puts the key issue in stark focus, ‘One must decide where he wants his ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition (program splash) or in the reproduction of his life in a few chosen ones who will carry on his work after he has gone? Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.’”

Pg. 128, “An effective builder of people looks ahead five to seven years for the discipleship results.”

Here Ogden proposes his model, which in my eyes combines relationship and program, instead of diving more fully into a relational approach.

Pg. 128-129, “In the model I will propose, three people journey together for a year to a year and a half while they grow toward maturity and being equipped to disciple others. As this relationship comes to a close, the challenge comes to each person to invite two others into the same walk of faith and then reproduce and so on. Over the five-to-seven year period of multiplying discipleship triads, it is common to have eighty to a hundred or more people who have been carefully groomed in the context of intimate relationship.”

Chapter 7 – Multiplication

In this chapter, Ogden takes the one on one model of discipling to task. Fueled by his frustration that those he discipled didn’t reproduce he paints one on one as defective and that triads are the key to reproduction.

I found his arguments rooted in his experience, which is fine, but many have had other experiences and results. I don’t think one on ones are more or less Biblical than triads/quads. Each is effective in different ways and for different outcomes, however, it doesn’t seem Ogden shares this belief. In his eyes, triads are the best and one on ones are at best inferior and at worst harmful. I’d rather see him communicate about how each can be transformational at a foundation level and how the quality of the relationship is more important than the number of people relating concurrently.

Chapter 8 – Transformation

Pg. 153-154, “What are the climatic conditions in a discipleship group of three or four that create the hothouse effect? Three ingredients converge to release the Holy Spirit to bring about rapid growth toward Christlikeness. These can be summarized in the following biblical principle: When we 1. Open our hearts in transparent trust to each other 2. Around the truth of God’s word 3. In the spirit of mutual accountability, we are in the Holy Spirit’s hothouse of transformation.

Pg. 154-161 Transparent Trust includes: Affirmation through Encouragement, Walking with each other through difficult times, Being a reflective listener, Confessing sin and addressing the addictions of the heart.

Pg. 162-168 The Truth of God’s Word includes: Teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.

Pg. 168-173 Mutual Accountability includes: A Disciple’s Covenant

Each participant of the triad must sign on to the following promises:

1.     Complete following assignments weekly and fully prior to appointments.

2.     Meet weekly with discipleship partners for 1-1.5 hours to dialogue over assignments.

3.     Offer myself fully to the Lord with the anticipation that I am entering a time of accelerated transformation during this discipleship period.

4.     Contribute to a climate of honesty, trust, and personal vulnerability in a spirit of mutual upbuilding.

5.     Give serious consideration to continuing the discipling chain by committing myself to invest in at least two other people for the year following the initial completion…

Chapter 9 – Practicalities of Disciple Making

Pg. 182-184, [These are bolded headlines which are explained further in the chapter] “How to Start. Make the invitation. Review the discipleship curriculum. Review the covenant line by line. Ask the person to prayerfully consider this relationship over the next week. Inform the person that a third person will be joining you in the triad. Set the meeting time of your first gathering. Guide the participants through the sessions. The convener of the triad completes all the lessons. The discipler models transparency.”

Pg. 194-196, [Again these are headlines], “Periodically call together the discipling network as a whole for sharing, motivation and instruction. Invite a guest speaker. Meet with discipling leaders in groups of three or four. Meet with those in the last third of their triad. Publish a discipling newsletter.