This fall semester at Bethel College, I have the privilege and challenge to take over an undergraduate course that has long been the favorite of students. Evangelism and Discipleship class was taught by Dr. John Dendiu for fifteen years or more before his retirement from teaching in Spring 2016. The course is an introduction to the two topics, designed for those who have not read much about either in the past.
Taking over another professor’s course is like walking into a museum of rich history, looking through the PDFs collected over time and checking out the lesson plans, tests, and other assignments. It’s been an honor and at the same time a daunting challenge to try and match the richness that John had in the course. It’s long been a favorite of prospective students as well, an 11 a.m. MWF course that admissions staff often used for campus visits. In fact, this past year as incoming freshmen learned John was retiring, some asked for special permission (it’s a 300 level class) to have the course with him because they loved those 50 minutes with him during their visit.
No pressure at all there, Terry. Yeah, right.
John using a LOT of reading and experiences in the course, but has five books that serve as central the course. They’re ones you may already have in your personal library. However, if you do not, I w
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton (IVP Books, 2006). You’ll notice that most books on this list are not from within the last 5-6 years. Each has stood the test of time for its audience of Christian leaders and for its usefulness. For those of us in Christian work, the arranging of our lives is important. If the functional side wins, we’ll slowly drift away to the shallows and find our anchor doesn’t run very deep during difficult times. Barton’s book is a helpful guide.
The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission: Promoting the Gospel with more than our Lips by John Dickson (Zondervan, 2013). I was unfamiliar with this book prior to taking over the class, but I’m excited to dive in. With Forewords by Alister McGrath and Ravi Zacharias and recommendations from N. T. Wright and Christopher J. H. Wright, this is a “must read” book for those who are in missional work, including children’s and youth ministry.
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman (Revell, 2010, first written in the 1970s). If you’re talking about outreach, social justice, or evangelism, this little gem has to be part of the discussion. I’ve shared the platform or sat in the back (the two places I inhabit as an INTJ) of numerous seminars, conferences, and training sessions and later walked away recognizing that it was merely a reworked version of this book by Coleman. You know when people tell you “there’s nothing new under the sun?” Well, THIS book is one of those original sources that others have been copying for years.
Lifestyle Discipleship: Encouraging others to Spiritual Maturity by Jim Peterson (NavPress, 2007). Just this past week I was working with a client that the Arbor Research Group was working alongside and we were talking about creating spiritual curiosity. We discussed living out the Christian faith in such a way that those looking in from the outside (or from within our churches!) can then say, “Oh, I see what you mean” as they see how the Christian faith is lived out. However, too often Christians live and act just like those who are not Christians and the claims that Jesus can transform people’s lives fall on uninterested ears. I’m very excited about the conversations this book is going to spark.
Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building your life in Christ by Greg Ogden (IVP, 2007). This is not required reading for the course, but rather serves as a supplemental text. Still, as the prof who teaches the capstone course, I regularly see Ogden quotes from this book in the senior papers. At some point, each student has internalized some material from this book into their thinking on discipleship – and that’s an impressive feat for a book that wasn’t assigned as required reading. So, I’m anxious to read it for this fall semester.
Now, I recognize that this list is short and that these books may not fit well within your particular Christian tradition. What books would you add to this list? What books have framed your thinking and shaped your practice regarding evangelism and discipleship? Let me know and I’ll compile a fresh list in a few weeks.
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