Discipleship Training and The Lost Art of Disciple Making (LeRoy Eims)
I have been looking for The Lost Art of Disciple Making, by LeRoy Eims, for years. Published in 1978, this isn’t a new book. When I discovered it a couple of weeks ago, though, I wished I had found it much sooner.
I have read many wonderful books on making disciples. Among those, here are a few that I would recommend:
- The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert E. Coleman
- The Disciple-Making Pastor, by Bill Hull
- The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne (See also their follow-up, The Vine Project)
- Discipling (9Marks), by Mark Dever
I benefited much from these wonderful books, and I would recommend that you read them too.
Nevertheless, I walked away from each of them with one recurring frustration: they did not include a thorough plan for disciple-making. All of these books offer a compelling vision for disciple-making, but they stop short of giving the practical advice for how to do it.
Or, if they offer a plan, they did not quite get down to the nuts and bolts of what to teach, and how to teach it. What does a disciple need to know, and at what stage? What does a disciple need to do? How does a disciple actually learn these things?
Positive: A Plan for Discipleship Training
This is where The Lost Art of Disciple Making is different. LeRoy Eims served with the Navigators, and he writes about the specific plan that the Navigators have used to make disciples.
I benefited most from:
- How he framed the specific discipleship training objectives with a mixture of Scripture, doctrine, and practical application
- A different set of objectives for evangelism, making disciples out of new believers, training disciples into workers, and developing workers into leaders
- A tremendous amount of practical wisdom from a man who has trained many other men
- An emphasis on only training those who are hungry and available for the training
- Bonus: Since Eims lived in Omaha, he mentions my home state of Nebraska a lot!
Seeing how he organizes the discipleship training objectives is alone worth reading the book. Finally, a clear plan for discipleship training!
Criticism: Unstructured Doctrine and Low View of the Church
I would only offer one criticism of the book. Well, perhaps not a criticism per se, but simply a different set of foundational principles for ministry. LeRoy Eims worked with a parachurch organization. I, however, am a confessional Presbyterian pastor with a high regard for the role of the church in making disciples.
As such, I would want to adjust this plan in two ways:
- Relying more heavily on the structure and doctrine of the Westminster Standards
- Offering a more robust vision for how discipleship fits into the context of the church
While Eims’s discipleship training objectives work through individual Bible verses, there isn’t a cohesive, overall system of doctrine to pull everything together. Certainly, an individual discipler may be able to bring that out, but the Westminster Standards offer a thorough, tried-and-true system of doctrine that gives a systematic understanding of the whole Bible together. The Westminster Confession and Catechisms even offer proof-texts of the major doctrines for further study and discussion.
As for the church, Eims’s book does encourage people to attend church; however, I felt as though the book seems to convey an idea that disciples are formed in a context where the church plays a minor role, if any. Thus, I think it would be important to work through more carefully the role of the church in the life of a believer.
Tweaking the Plan for Discipleship Training
Thus, I am going to be working through a basic plan for discipleship training. I intend to work through these objectives with men I am discipling, as well as within my own family.
The format of each module will include four basic elements:
- A clear Training Objective with a short introduction to why this module is important
- Relevant passages of Scripture to read and discuss
- Relevant sections of the Westminster Standards to pull together cohesive Doctrine
- Suggestions for Application, including Bible verses to memorize
I do not intend to provide much commentary along the way, but to rely upon Scripture and the system of doctrine in the Westminster Standards to provide the content. Primarily, I intend to organize all that content into a plan to work through the process of discipleship, rather than rewriting the content altogether.
I do, however, intend to use my own book, That You May Know: A Primer on Christian Discipleship, as the content for a Bible study that will guide much of the process. That You May Know is a pastoral commentary on 1, 2, and 3 John. The Apostle John wrote 1 John to make disciples: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).
Every part of that Letter (and, thus, every part of my book) works through some element of basic Christian discipleship. My own book is not essential for using this plan, but I tried to write my book to serve as both a serious Bible study and a practical guide on discipleship. So, I will be relying on that content to provide additional structure to guide the overall plan.
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