About this book: (from the publisher) Disciple-making is a passion of many, as it should be. It is, after all, our great commission. But much of contemporary discipleship is informed by instinct, and as such it is vulnerable to the whims and trends of the broader culture, which can take us further away from our biblical model and mandate.
Drawing on a 2015 Barna Group study of the state of discipleship in the United States commissioned by The Navigators, bestselling author Preston Sprinkle provides a holistic, biblical response for discipleship, providing accessible tools for all those who are engaged in making Christ-followers in the 21st century. Sprinkle points pastors, church leaders, and frankly, all Christ-followers, to a discipleship that is responsive to this most current research and accountable to the model of Jesus and his earliest followers, who counted making disciples as their most important work.
In an extremely practical fashion, Go helps us to discern, from the Scriptures and from exemplary disciple-making ministries, what discipleship is and is not, what it has become and what it can still be.
About the author: (from his website) Preston Sprinkle is a professor, speaker, and a New York Times bestselling author. He earned a Ph.D. in New Testament from Aberdeen University in Scotland (2007), and he’s been a professor of theology at Cedarville University (OH), Nottingham University (England), and Eternity Bible College (CA and ID). Preston is currently a full-time author, speaker, and teacher, though his dream in life is to become the next bass player for U2. Or perhaps a professional surfer (neither of which is he very good at).
Preston loves communicating Christian truths with thoughtfulness, honesty and grace. He is passionate about approaching topics that everyone wants to know about, but no one wants to talk about. Topics like sexuality, violence, alcohol, hell, and what it means to follow a Jewish prophet-king who was executed for treason. He works hard to write, speak and teach the truth of Scripture and hopes to challenge others to read the Bible while holding their predetermined beliefs loosely.
Preston has written several books and dozens of articles. He loves to bridge the gap between the ivory tower and the pew by writing on controversial topics in an accessible and engaging way. He broke into popular-level writing when he co-authored, Erasing Hell, which sold more than 150,000 copies in the first month of its release and reached number 3 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Since then, he’s written several books, which you can view HERE. Preston also hosts a daily radio show in Boise and a podcast titled Theology in the Raw, where he responds to questions sent in by his faithful listeners.
Preston and his wife, Christine, live in Boise, Idaho, with their three daughters and son. They love the outdoors: hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and surfing—Preston’s left-over pastime from his days in California. Favorite foods: Indian, Thai, Mexican, pepperoni pizza, and beer. Oh, and barbecue. Texas style barbecue. Throw him a rack of ribs and he might just lose his sanctification.
Genre: Non-fiction/Religion/Christian Ministry/Discipleship
[Tweet “Fascinating findings from Barna Group’s State of Discipleship report @PrestonSprinkle @TyndaleHouse “]
Reflection: I’ll be honest: Go was not a very enjoyable read for me. Not because of its quality, not in any way. On the contrary, it’s a superbly well-executed, insightful dissemination of a lot of rather technical information, i.e., the findings from the State of Discipleship report by the Barna Group. Preston Sprinkle’s dissection is delivered in a personable, relatable style that is the opposite of pedantic.
No, the reason I found it less than enjoyable is because of its content. It exposes some hard truths. Which is, of course, not a bad thing, but if, like me, you’re wired for optimism (I recently took Gallup’s Strengths Based Leadership assessment and scored very high for “Positivity”), it’s hard live for long period of times in places where the positives aren’t accentuated and celebrated.
Which leads me to the hard truth of what the State of Discipleship report reveals, and that is that, according to those polled in church leadership as well as those who are churched and unchurched, discipleship in America needs some help.
So that’s the not-very-fun news that Preston Sprinkle devotes most of his book to exploring. Incidentally, you’ll have noticed that I included a far lengthier author bio than I normally do here (which I lifted from his website; you can find it here). I did this on purpose because when discussing a topic, or a book, about a potentially divisive subject, I feel it’s important to have a thorough grasp of where the author is coming from. To hear his heart, which I believe this bio allows us to do.
Anyway. Back to my reflection: Thankfully, for “Positives” like me, Preston doesn’t leave us dwelling in the negative, and this is the really good news about Go . There’s much that can be done, he says:
“This book isn’t about setting unattainable standards or even trying to master the full gamut of the Christian life overnight. It’s about reevaluating what it means to become like Christ in light of the Bible and asking God to show us the way. It’s about being self-critical, reformational, always eager to reexamine our perceived notions of what it means to follow Christ in light of Scripture to see if we’re doing it rightly.”
Let’s also talk for a moment about audience. Who is this book for, anyway? I can tell you who it is not for: those who are happy with the trajectory of traditional, American church and those who are content to remain in the status quo. If you are one of those, this book will make you mad. If, however, you are a pastor, lay leader, or “general Christian” (as Preston calls us) who take an interest and see (or at least intuit) that all is not as it should be, then this book is for you. If you fall into this second camp and are a pastor or lay leader, I highly recommend you get your hands on this book. You are among those who can affect the most influence and change our current trajectory. If you, like me, fall into the third category and are even the slightest bit curious, this book is also very much worth your while. And if, like me, you are wired for positivity, you need to know what you’re in for, but also that there’s still much hope. Oh yes, there’s hope.
My own takeaway is a sobering acceptance of how things are but also some ideas about what I may do about it. Those are the things I’m prayerfully considering today.
Thanks to NavPress in alliance with Tyndale for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: Have you read any of Preston Sprinkle’s other books? What did you think?