by Charles A. Davis
InterVarsity Press, 2015.
—Reviewed by Jonathan Moorhead, The Master’s Academy International (Brno, Czech Republic).
“Disciple” is a noun and a verb, so what is a disciple, and what does the process of discipleship look like at home and abroad? As the former executive international director of The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM), and with over four decades of missionary experience, Charles A. Davis seeks to answer these questions.
Davis begins the book by describing the dilemma that TEAM leadership faced in “asking God for clarity on what we might contribute toward renewal, health and global vision” for the ministry (p. 9). He explains that through “prayer, fasting, and discussion . . . . God revealed to us ten sets of cultural assumptions . . . .” (p. 9). These “ten universal principles” are the focus of the book and involve “new disciple-making methods [that were] emerging, built on different assumptions about the church and disciple making” (p. 10).
Each of these principles contain two elements that must be held in balance like a “cultural music mixer board” (p. 23), such as visible and invisible, individual and community, word and truth, and works and justice.
From the Introduction, Davis focuses on God revealing answers, which may cause readers to question the author’s commitment to the sufficiency of scripture to give clarity on matters of mission.
This concern is unfortunately supported in the remainder of the book. For example, Davis defines “disciple” as “one who moves closer to Jesus as a learner, follower and lover, together with other disciples” (p. 32), but offers no explanation of how the term is used in the New Testament.
Davis claims that the “prayer of salvation may be the first step for many in the journey of a true disciple, but it cannot define a disciple in and of itself” (p. 30). The reader is then left with the difficulty of having a class of believer that is Christian, but not designated as disciple.
Also of concern is Davis’ emphasis on feeling or listening for God to speak instead of searching for what God has said in scripture. This is exemplified when Davis writes, “Instead of beginning with the Word and moving toward a sometimes distant application, this question [“What has the Lord said to you recently?”] begins with the application, then uses the Word, the community of faith and prayer to confirm the validity of that application” (p. 122; cf. p. 215).
Overall, the author has many valuable insights into human anthropology such as time, individualism/collectivism, and low/high-context. Additionally, the discussions on prayer, relationships, conflict, the value of every Christian to the Body of Christ, and confession of sin are helpful.
Negatively, the repeated emphasis on listening for God to speak, or “letting God lead” instead of seeking God’s mind in scripture, could result in the distortion of biblical concepts such as the nature of a disciple, the kingdom, discipleship, and the mission of the church.
Despite these deficiencies, readers will find the anthropological observations stimulating and helpful when seeking to disciple across cultures.
Check these titles:
Moreau, A. Scott, Evvy Campbell, and Susan Greener. 2014. Effective Intercultural Communication: A Christian Perspective. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.
Wilkins, Michael J., 1992. Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.