Francis Chan, author of the influential books Crazy Love and Erasing Hell, has written Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples for the purpose of multiplying disciples in the church.
When it comes to books and resources on “discipleship”, there seems to be a never-ending streams of books talking about new methods, new programs, or simply new concepts of discipleship. Discipleship continues to be a hot topic in the church. Francis Chan, for his part, has a pretty simple idea in mind when he writes about discipleship. Its simplicity makes Multiply a useful tool for discipleship.
Multiply is not so much a book on how to disciple others, rather it is itself the method. This is the kind of book you would go through with a new believer to help them grow. This is the resource you would encourage young Christians to work through in a group as they seek to grow. It’s not a book for pastors to learn how to do better discipleship, it’s a book pastors take and read alongside young protégés to help them better understand what it means to follow Jesus. To that end, Chan has written concise, helpful, chapters on the basic elements of faith and following. Throughout he calls us to interact with the material and with each other, asking and answering questions corresponding to the information. His overall goal is not that we would merely read another book, but that we would seek to implement and help one another implement what we learn.
The author has two requests to make of us as readers. Two principles govern Chan’s view of discipleship: teach what you learn, and share you life (10). There is a plethora of information in the book. Chan covers what a disciple is, and walks us through the process of making disciples. He teaches readers about what it means to be part of the church, why the church matters, and what the church’s role in the world is. He teaches readers too how to read the Bible and what it looks like to submit to God’s Word. He also writes helpful surveys of the Old and New Testaments, writing a sort of Biblical theology for beginners across a series of chapters. The book contains a fair amount of focused information, but this information is always practical. The information is oriented towards Christian living.
The second key aspect is interlaced throughout the book, as well, mingling among the information. The key to good discipleship, Chan tells us, is “deep relationships.” The relational component is essential to Biblical discipleship. He writes:
But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. (31).
If you are going to make disciples, you need to be putting your faith into practice so that the people around you can imitate your faith. Because of this, being a disciple maker demands your entire life. (47)
It is this relational aspect that makes Multiply such a great tool. It does not merely give us information it calls us to invest in one another as we learn this information. The questions throughout the chapters cause us to stop, pause, and consider the application of the information. They don’t allow us to merely recall data from the book, but they force us to seek unique and specific application of the information to our lives. Working through this book with other believers will go an immensely long way in helping one another grow in our faith.
While Multiply follows in the same vein as Francis’ first two books, I did immediately notice one big difference—the size. That’s because Multiply is pretty much two books in one (but for the same price). While Crazy Love and Forgotten God are close to 200 pages, Multiplyis well over 300.
The book is divided into five parts, but from my reading, they seem like two major divisions.
- The first half of the book calls the church back to what we should be doing (parts 1–2).
- The second half provides tools to help us do it (parts 3–5).
“Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker” defines discipleship, and it lays out the Biblical mandate for all believers to be disciples and make disciples.
Yet somehow many have come to believe that a person can be a “Christian” without being like Christ. (16)
The problem is, many in the church want to “confess that Jesus is Lord,” yet they don’t believe that He is their master. (20)
Do we really believe that Jesus told His early followers to make disciples but wants the twenty-first-century church to do something different? None of us would claim to believe this, but somehow we have created a church culture where the paid ministers do the “ministry,” and the rest of us show up, put some money in the plate, and leave feeling inspired or “fed.” We have moved so far away from Jesus’s command that many Christians don’t have a frame of reference for what disciple making looks like. (30)
But making disciples is far more than a program. It is the mission of our lives. It defines us. A disciple is a disciple maker. (31)
Paul saw the church as a community of redeemed people in which each person is actively involved in doing the work of ministry. The pastor is not the minister—at least not in the way we typically think of a minister. The pastor is the equipper, and every member of the church is a minister. (34)
Jesus’ call to make disciples includes teaching people to be obedient followers of Jesus, but the teaching isn’t the end goal. Ultimately, it’s all about being faithful to God’s call to love the people around you. (44)
“Part II: Living as the Church” reminds us that the church is a community. Chan explains the problems with our western individualistic lifestyle and how it goes against God’s plan for his church. He continues by showing what the church should look like when we work together for God’s purposes.
While every individual needs to obey Jesus’s call to follow, we cannot follow Jesus as individuals. The proper context for every disciple maker is the church. … It’s impossible to “one another” yourself. (51)
It’s not a social club; it’s not a building, and it’s not an option. The church is life and death. (52)
The church is a group of redeemed people that live and serve together in such a way that their lives and communities are transformed. (52–53)
Your problems are not just your problems—ultimately, they belong to the church body that God has placed you in. You are called to encourage, challenge, and help the other Christians in your life, and they are called to do the same for you. If you wait until all of your own issues are gone before helping others, it will never happen. (55–56)
Bearing one another’s burdens is not easy, but it is also not optional. (61)
Helping people change is what discipleship is all about. (63)
We have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light so that we can proclaim God’s excellencies to a watching world. (74)
God has blessed you so that you will use whatever He has given you for His glory, not yours. Ultimately, we should expect God’s plan to lead us places that we wouldn’t naturally go. (84–85)
As I mentioned earlier, the second half of the book provides tools for making disciples. “Part III: How to Study the Bible” is a great crash-course in hermeneutics (biblical interpretation).
Francis gives some right and wrong reasons for studying the Bible, and he ultimately comes down on the fact that we are supposed to change as a result of reading our Bibles.
He also gives practical tips for reading the Bible concerning context, interpretation vs. application, personal biases, etc.
In parts 4–5, Chan gives a broad overview of the Old and New Testaments. He hits on most of the key points while keeping it moving quickly.
Most of this information will not be new to many Christians, but it is a good resource for new believers. It allows one to become quickly oriented with the overarching account of biblical history and God’s plan of redemption.
Furthermore, I think that Chan did a good job of keeping it neutral by avoiding most of the key theological controversies among evangelical Christians (i.e. Calvinism vs. Arminianism). At the same time, he in no way shied from presenting the core truths of the Christian faith.
The book wraps up with a much-needed call to action. Francis and Mark do not simply want readers to increase their knowledge about discipleship; they want believers to actually start living out their faith and making disciples.
In addition to the book itself, there are many free videos and study guides available at www.multiplymovement.com.
I highly recommend Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.
The whole book is available free online!