Book review - Centering Discipleship by E.K. Strawser

15 May 2024

Book review - Centering Discipleship by E.K. Strawser Image

Reviewed by Rev Dave Thomas from Oxley Uniting Church

Discipleship has become the in-word! Every Council of the church is currently on this theme, and for good reason. It hasn't been at the forefront of most of our thinking for some time – particularly in the Western world. But is it good enough to simply raise the term and hope that people will understand what it is, why it's essential and most importantly, the steps that congregations and faith communities can implement to become the ultimate – a church community that makes disciples to make disciples in an ever-increasing and continuous cycle?




If you concur with Strawser in her no-frills, straight-to-the-point, challenging, at times provocative, yet easy-to-read book, the answer is yes! And she says we cannot afford to waste more time hypothesising and committee gazing – it's time to act.

Strawser's thesis is simple: Discipleship, one of the critical things that matter to God in this current age, has been on the edges of church life for too long, and it needs to be moved to take centre stage! Her approach is engaging yet stretching, simple yet sincere, and potentially painful yet pivotal.

The book's 12 chapters are split into four parts, each with its DNA. They are distinctive parts that, although they come together, are uniquely written to allow readers to engage one part at a time. Indeed, while it would be easy to read this whole book in one sitting – here's my warning! Don't. I had to read the same few pages at least twice to ensure I got it! Take the time to allow her concepts and themes deep into your psyche!

One of its strengths is that each chapter is biblically grounded up front. This adds weight to Strawser's character, her use of story, and the depth of her learning and development as a real 'disciple'.

There is so much to like about this book for anyone serious about changing their world, the world of the church, and the surrounding community to encapsulate and embody the 'Great Commission' in Matthew 28. Here are a few standouts for me!

  • Disciples are 'sent' people. ie Not stayers!
  • A Discipleship Pathway will mean change. Changing old habits and what may have been well-meaning traditions' back then'.
  • The church fellowship must embrace fundamental personal leadership acumen, like Stephen Covey's 'Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' and facilitate it among a wider group. In particular, Strawser says it's essential to begin with the end in mind. Embrace the target and the dream to enable the start and the journey!
  • Understanding of 'belonging' – that is, she posits four spaces of belonging, suggesting that discipleship is best in the 'personal space'.
  • We need to let go of long-held assumptions about being church—i.e., that we must have a Sunday service!

To summarise, this book is, in my humble opinion, a must-read for any Pastor, church leader, or parishioner who wants to get serious about the challenges and opportunities that await the New Testament Disciple! I conclude with Strawser's words, which align with her theses and have been inspirational and timely.

"Discipleship must be tied to mission, which makes discipleship a movement. Movement (and not just an institution) happens when people experience the real-life, real-time work of intentionally building, labouring over, and loving an active community and the neighbourhood it engages with."

Rev Dave

The book is available to order though Koorong

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