by Dr. Robert Coleman
Our Triune God is relational by nature, so not surprisingly he created men and women in his likeness that might know him in a personal relationship and enjoy him forever. He performed the first marriage in the Garden of Eden, then told our forebearers to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). Here is the beginning of what we call the Great Commission. God wants the whole world to learn how much he loves us.
Adam and Eve did their part by starting an exponential population explosion, but because of their sin, they lost the opportunity to reproduce spiritual children. Their failure, however, does not negate the means by which God intended through faithful parenting to rise up a posterity for his glory.
From the beginning, the family became the center of religious instruction and ongoing discipleship. Lest we miss the power of a few kindred hearts knit together in love and obedience, God had the principle written in The Law of Moses (Deut. 6:4-9). Longer and more structured meetings outside the home also play a role in education, but learning takes place most naturally in the home-like relationship.
Jesus brings the model beautifully into focus in his selection of the twelve. Peter, James and John had an even closer association. While ministering to the multitudes, he develops close relationships with these followers. Together they learn what it means to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and to teach others to do the same. This way of life was finally bequeathed to the church in the Lord’s last command: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). In effect, he told them to replicate in their lives what he had done with them.
His example brings the Great Commission into the diverse vocations of every Christian. It makes no difference whether one is clergy or laity, or what gift of the Spirit one may possess. We should not minimize special ministries, like preaching or healing, but discipling is a lifestyle, the priesthood of all believers. And it is no where more necessary than where we live every day.
After Pentecost, for a long time the Apostolic Church continued the discipling method of Jesus, meeting largely in homes for “teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer” (Acts 2:42). In varied ways, this pattern has come to the fore again and again throughout history, especially in periods of great revival.
I believe there is a gleaning for this life renewing discipline today. Many persons in the church are tired of just going through routine impersonal programs. They want something more satisfying, more heart-warming – a loving relationship with God and fellow believers that overflows into society. Such joyful witness creates a mystery that may cause even previously disinterested worldlings to want the Gospel.
Many reasons can be given for the tragic predicament of the world today, and how to address the multiple issues demanding attention. The popular media makes this as obvious as it is disheartening. But however we may approach the problems in our fallen world, we must not overlook how the troubles began with irresponsible parenting and the breakdown of the family.
This book speaks to this crisis in a very timely, practical, and winsome way. With captivating simplicity, it describes how we can grow together and build up one another in the faith. Adding to the realism of the book, offering reasons for hope in the future, the process of discipleship is integrated into the foundational pillars upon which the Christian family rests.
What gives the book a ring of authenticity is the authors own experiences in disciple making. They have traveled this road themselves, so can help us avoid some of the pitfalls on the journey. I can learn from these teachers, and confident that their wisdom can help us all grow in grace and knowledge, I commend it to you.
Dr. Robert Coleman
Distinguished Senior Professor of Evangelism and Discipleship
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary