Chuck Lawless on Discipleship

There are two points that I want to make in this little post. First, for those of our readers who are not yet acquainted with Chuck Lawless (VP for Global Theological Advance at the International Mission Board), I’d like to introduce him by saying that if he preaches it you want to hear it, and if he writes it you want to read it. This man has been saying the right things, all along, about theological education, discipleship, church growth, and spiritual warfare. He’s been ahead of the curve, as if he were somehow mugged by reality in the cradle. Second, I want to say that his recent book, Mentor, is particularly significant. It is a brief, theologically sound, and accessible little book on making disciples. This is a seriously neglected topic, and Dr. Lawless’ book is a welcome contribution.

In the book, which bears the full title, Mentor: How Along-the-Way Discipleship Will Change Your Life (LifeWay, 2011). Lawless sees mentoring in the pattern established by Jesus with his disciples:

“Jesus mentored the men who followed Him. . . . He journeyed through life with them and taught as He went, both by what He said to them and what He did with them. Mentor is about this very process Jesus showed us. It’s about hanging out with somebody whose life shows God’s power; it’s about following Jesus’ example and mentoring others so they can carry on Jesus’ work too. It’s about mentoring and being mentored, discipling and being discipled” (pp. 8-9).

With this foundation Lawless defines mentoring and examines its roots in Jesus and the Early Church. He then provides some guidance on how to go about mentoring and being mentored. The study is organized by six easy-to-read but thought-provoking sessions.

Session One: Understanding Along-the-Way Discipleship

Session Two: Learning from the Master: Jesus & His Disciples

Session Three: Mentoring in Action: Paul & Timothy

Session Four: Taking the First Steps

Session Five: Developing a Plan of Action

Session Six: Preparing for Potholes and Possibilities

In session one, for instance, Lawless provides his answers to the questions, “what is mentoring?” and “why mentor?” According to Lawless, mentoring: is about relationships, builds on divine intersections, requires a growing Christian, is a balance of equipping and encouraging, is about transformation, crosses generations, is done by the spiritually mature, requires self-control, is biblical, reinforces the truth of the Word, requires the mentor to guard his/her life against the Enemy’s attacks, offers a safe place to deal with failure, produces the next generation of Christian leaders. All this provides plenty of reason to mentor and be mentored.

Lawless has written the book for conversation. That is, numerous questions give each session an intentional “how do I do this?” feel. Such a feel is important for a book on how to not only understand mentoring but to actually do it. Session Six: Preparing for Potholes and Possibilities is especially helpful in bringing one’s expectations, misconceptions, and underestimations in line with reality. Hitting at practicalities is important in a book such as this one and Lawless does a good job on this score.

Mentor is a fine introduction to the biblical pattern for and basis of “along-the-way discipleship.” It is designed for college students but would make an excellent foundation study for many adult small groups or Sunday School classes.