Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine Followers of Christ. George Barna. WaterBrook Press, 2001.
I’ve said much in the course of both of my blogs about the state of Christian discipleship. Church organizations have chased after increasing attendance, giving, programs, and property over chasing after the will of the Lord has laid out through Scripture. George Barna shows the fruit of this process throughout “Growing True Disciples.”
Barna begins by casting a vision for discipleship that is outside the typical church vision – a vision of committed followers of Christ as opposed to simply “members”. He then goes on to explain some of the definitions and framework of discipleship, defining some Scriptural justifications for those things. The author then presents an overview of the current (2001) state of the church. Barna then provides an analysis of how things have gotten to their current state. He then presents a goal of discipleship. The author then presents some findings from studying churches that he deemed were doing good work in discipleship. Finally, Barna presents some models that he distilled out of some of the data for discipleship in churches.
In reading the book, the author presents a fairly decent framework of discipleship. As well, the author is very thorough about presenting the things the churches are doing that he feels is effective, and why they are effective. He presents a lot to think about regarding the topic of discipleship and gives a start on the best ways to accomplish those things.
However, Barna misses the seminal problem that caused all of these things. As I’ve noted in previous reviews of books about discipleship, the issue of what you are discipling them into gets completely missed in the book. Most churches, including many of the ones he’s studied and lauded are about discipling people into the church organization (i.e. the world) as opposed to discipling people into Christ. Goals often stem from what your life is centered upon. Or as Scripture says, we should not expect good fruit out of bad trees (Matthew 7:15-20). This fact is shown time and again as Barna advocates for business processes instead of Scriptural remedies. His avocation of covenant agreements is especially disturbing, in terms of the controls that he would place upon the average believer from men.
Overall, while this book has much value, that value is sullied by not recognizing the core issue of the problem that has plagued those who have been called out from Christ from the beginning. When man gets his hands into things and changes them for his own benefit and his own desires to control others, the entire nature of the tree is changed. Hence the fruit is changed. In my opinion, this book has value for the study presented, which in the last 16 years has without a doubt gotten worse according to my own research. But beyond that, it doesn’t offer much fruit in the way of leading towards a Scriptural model of discipleship.
Rating: 6 out of 10.
Book Cover Image Source: Amazon