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Gospel Centered Discipleship

 A review by Anthony Sligar

 

What Are You Fighting For?

We are all fighting for something. Many of us may not always refer to it as fighting. You might call it working towards goals, chasing and fulfilling desires or gaining achievements. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t get competitive sometimes.

Dodson’s book Gospel Centered Discipleship explains how this fighting desire within all of us is something built into humanity. He challenges those who follow Jesus to remember that we are in a real battle, as we journey through life with Christ. “Believing the Gospel is not a one-time decision; it is an active, continual fight for faith in what God says is noble, true, and good.” {Page 58}

He addresses areas where many are fighting for the wrong things. Guys are often drawn to the “digital fight” – the world of video games. Women “generally fight to be unique, recognized, or beautiful.” {Both Page 52} Now these are just generalizations and regardless of gender anyone could be misdirected into making these things the primary fight in their life. All Christians are called to “fight to believe that Jesus is more precious, satisfying, and thrilling than anything else this world has to offer.” {Page 60}

So how do we begin to stand against these falsehoods (and many others) and enter combat gospel-style? Fight Club of course! Dodson introduces the idea of fight clubs and how they operate in the later chapters. It’s a small group of believers getting together to fight together, to be living more in the fullness of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. (Their church uses this as their one-to-one discipleship.) We can be challenging each other with gospel truth and working together to see our lives transformed towards the fullness of what they can be in Christ.

There are many ways that ‘discipleship’ can be intended for good but go awry. Common areas are dealt with here including religious accountability (discipleship reduced to rule keeping), religious performance (trying to earn salvation or working to impress God) and spiritual license (where grace is cheapened by sin being excused). Real discipleship needs to keep Jesus central in every way. We need to cling to His cross as we walk out our faith together. All these ‘fake’ forms of discipleship can be driven by or lead us into twisted motives in the process. The two chapters that address ‘gospel motivation’ and ‘gospel power’ (being the Holy Spirit) call us back to a place where through repentance and faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are able to fight for our hearts to be transformed to be more like Jesus’. These two chapters were real highlights for me.

The first chapter can be a little heavy going as Dodson argues for a relational style ministry, (where people are engaged personally rather than only through some sort of program) working through a major theological debate while doing so. My summary of the chapter is that we should be relational in our approach to evangelism and discipleship and that both require the gospel to be preached and applied for spiritual growth. If you’re finding it tough, start at chapter two. This is where it begins to be more practical and personal.

I think that this book will be a great blessing and challenge to anyone who reads it. So often even the term discipleship can bring great confusion. Many people define it in many different ways. Having a book like this, which can bring clarity to what discipleship should be, while also giving practical examples of both the “do’s” and “don’ts” that Dodson has learnt through years of experience, can be very helpful as we try to establish a culture of ‘following Jesus’ at DC. This has been our desire from day one – to make disciples who will make disciples. All the MCG leaders have worked through this material together, so we are all on the same page with leading people in Gospel Centered Discipleship. I also encourage those who are involved in discipling to work through it early on in the relationship. This will bring clarity to where you are headed and why we do what we do – the goal being to see believers living more out of the fullness of their new identities in Christ. “Gospel-centered discipleship is not about how we perform but who we are – imperfect people, clinging to a perfect Christ, being perfected by the Spirit.” {Page 18}

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Pastor Anthony Sligar is on staff at Disciples Church Springfield overseeing discipleship and Missional Community Groups. He is married to Rebekah and is father to Caleb and Ezekiel.