Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review: Real-Life Discipleship by Jim Putman

Real-Life Discipleship is a book about how Jim Putman’s church (Real Life Ministries) makes and trains disciples. Putman has a gift for explaining and communicating how discipleship should occur within a church context. While his model is specific to his church, there are many great things to learn and apply from this book. His hope from the book is stated that the reader will begin to intentionally, relationally, and strategically disciple others.

This book is broken down into three different parts. The first part is about setting the stage for discipleship. He states that discipleship requires real teaching and real learning (conversation, modeling, encouragement, etc.) in the context of a relationship. His definition of a disciple is good too, “A disciple is one who is following Christ, being changed by Christ, and committed to Jesus’ mission to save people from their sins.” Following principles he studied from the Gospel, he points towards three keys to success: intentionality, relational environment, and having a process.

He uses the following stages of a disciple’s growth: Spiritually dead; Spiritual infant; Child; Young Adult; and Parent. Since Putman places discipleship within the context of a relationship he discusses the importance of a relational environment that includes real teaching, shepherding, transparency, accountability, and guided practice. Within the relational focus, he specifically addresses the importance of church and the necessity to be engaged in a local church family.

True to form, Putman explains the process disciple-makers follow to make disciples. His reproducible process is for people to share, connect, minister, and disciple. In the second part of this book he explains each one of stages. Before he gets into that though, he gives the reader a reminder that they must understand they are only responsible for their part in the process. God has His part, the disciple has their part, and we have our part! We cannot control or dictate anything other than our own actions; a good reminder.

He then details his strategy by identifying people at different stages of spiritual growth. Without giving a full rundown of everything included it would be best just to look at the diagram he provides that I found online:
Putman states that they need to keep Bible central to what we are doing in our small groups (Good Call!), so they partnered with Avery Willis (creator of MasterLife) to develop Storying thru the Bible. Basically, instead of a printed material, they read a Bible story, have someone recite a Bible story, discuss how that person did (if they added to or missed anything in the story) and then ask discussion question to dig deeper and apply the lesson. They love the model and have seen many benefits from this style of learning including that it makes the story stick, easy to recruit leaders, meets people where they are, arms people for service, helps disciple kids, evaluates where group members are, keeps groups from getting boring, and helps people get to know one another.

The final part of this book is about letting disciples emerge as leaders. He communicated the need to disciples to grow up by relating to the development of a child, into a teen, young adult, and then a parent. It is unnatural to stay in one stage of life and that should be true about our spiritual growth as well.  He said, “God gives specific gifting to people in the church in order to help the church work together effectively.” This statement speaks to the fact that God calls upon every one of His followers to be used and useful for His purposes.

This was a great book, with a phenomenal and tangible explanation for how to make disciples in a church small group setting. Putman is able to clearly communicate what his church does to the reader, therefore it is no surprise that Real-Life Ministries has grown from 12 people to over 12,000 members. I love the heart, detail, and functionality of this book. It is a must read for those who want to make disciples.

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