Book Review: Contagious Disciple Making

Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of DiscoveryContagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery by David Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Contagious Disciple Making is a useful resource on the essentials of disciple making and provides good insight if you’re looking into Disciple Making Movements (DMM) or Church Planting Movements (CPM).

The basic premise for disciple making goes something like this. Time is spent praying and listening to God about a neighbourhood which is followed up by seeking to meet observed needs in the community. Through serving and loving others, opportunities will arise to make connections with people and from there discover a person of peace who will open the door to their own personal network. You train the person of peace to lead a Discovery Bible Study with their group which then provides the foundation of a new church.

The emphasis is laid on obedience to scripture and for every Christian to take serious the commands to love God and love neighbour. I appreciated the approach to leadership which leans heavily on coaching and mentoring. I was also deeply challenged by the weight the authors place on prayer and their conviction that without prayer nothing much of any spiritual consequence is likely to happen. They’re right of course but I felt fresh conviction especially with regard to prayer walking and building a network of prayer support.

It’s honest about the challenges, the struggles and the time it can sometimes take yet there are a few missing items. All the success stories came from the developing world (there are examples from the US but not with the ‘success’ of making disciples) and none that I remember from a European context and also very few from cities.

The Watsons talk a lot about ‘silos’ which are essentially distinct groups within a broader society and it’s here that the book is perhaps at its weakest as they take a sociological concept that they’re excited about and try to shoehorn stories to fit the sociology rather than the other way around.

But it’s here that their concept of silos stresses their model because western secular societies are highly fragmented, disconnected and isolated. Sweden has almost half its population living in single person households. Their ‘silos’ are vanishing and so when someone makes a decision to follow Christ often there is no group for them to then reach. I think there are genuine questions to how this approach needs to be adapted or how it would evolve in a secular urban environment.

Despite the reliance and emphasis on prayer, in essence the way they talk about their method somewhat undermines this seeming reliance on God. If you follow the method which ‘includes’ prayer then at the end of it all you’ll have a disciple making movement that is growing exponentially. I am convinced that Scripture gives us principles that are trustworthy but not always methods which are guaranteed.

Reading this will no doubt stir your own thoughts about the process of disciple-making and as I did carefully evaluate how much I was actually praying about that and that’s not a bad outcome.

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