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Gospel Centered Discipleship

Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson is a wonderful, timely, and hard-hitting book about the nature, purpose and application of discipleship in the Christian life. Jonathan Dodson is pastor of Austin City Life church in Austin, Texas and has been a regular conference speaker to those who are committed to see gospel discipleship ch)ange the stagnation of the church. In the introduction to the book, Dodson shares something that is very eye-opening with respect to discipleship, he writes, "Making disciples requires not only "sharing our faith," but also sharing our lives-failures and successes, disobedience and obedience" (15). This sentence hit me right in between the eyes. Why? I have grown up their various ministries (campus and church) with having an either/or concept of discipleship, either you share your faith or you grow spiritually with a small group. In fact, this kind of message sends the wrong message to others concerning Christianity.

In the first chapter Dodson gets down to the nitty gritty in defining discipleship by looking at three things. He writes, "A disciple is rational (learner), relational (family), and missional (missionary)" (31). The first part, a rational learner focuses on knowing the gospel centered story of Christ and to teach it, to observe the gospel and to apply it. the second facet of discipleship is the relational part, who cultivates relationships of love grounded in the teaching and work of Jesus. Lastly, the missional aspect of discipleship includes sharing your faith but also encompasses relating faith to others in a non-legalistic way (gospel driven rather than performance based. Two things in particular stood out that were very important in this chapter. One, Dodson is careful to point out that too often we segregate evangelism and discipleship. "The gospel integrates both evangelism and discipleship by announcing a grace that saves and sanctifies disciples!" (40). This teaching weeds out the notion that believers can evangelize and disciple only when a certain level of christian living has been met. Secondly, Dodson carefully delineates an integration in the notions of piety and mission. He writes, "His expansive lordship prohibits division between piety and mission because Jesus reigns over every sphere of life" (48). The Lordship of Christ certainly defeats any notion of superiority of one form of evangelism over against discipleship.

The chapter on gospel motivation was particularly compelling because it combined the truth of the gospel with religious affections. Using Jonthan Edwards as a template for undersanding religious affections, Dodson challeneges his readers to see that "We possess the strength to deny sinful pleasures because of our delight in a superior pleasure" (79). The pleasure that we find in Christ motivates us to fight the debilitating effects of sin in order that we might rightly worship and adore our Savior. How do we do this? Dodson reminds us to remember God's warnings about sin and delight in his promises (82). Delighting in God's promises, in the riches that one finds in Christ brings with it the greatest satsifaction because it frees us from the cycle of malnourished souls. Lastly, Dodson reminds his readers that repentance isn't an activity to get on God's good side, but an act of grace turning to God.

Overall, I thought this book was very good in its foundational thesis that discipleship that isn't gospel centered in both belief and practice ultimately fails. His reminder of the Lordship of Christ, the importance of holy affections and repentance are paramount for believers. In the last few chapters he outlines what can be called 'fight clubs' as small groups of men or women engaged in battling with sin, sharing their stories and growing in grace. The need for these type of groups in the church is both necessary and fruitful. The only minor criticisms I had of the book were related to two things: language and practical application. In some ways, he beat us over the head with the use of the word 'gospel.' Not that this word isn't important, but in some ways it dulled my attention to the major points he was trying to make. Secondly, I thought he could have done better by describing practical applications of repentance and holy affections.

Thanks to Crossway for the review copy of this wonderful book.


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