In Go, Preston Sprinkle addresses the topic of discipleship in the context of contemporary American Christianity. Based on a 2015 survey compiled by the Barna group, the author hopes to dig deeper into what he sees as a lack of authentic Christian discipleship today. Sprinkle suggests that the result of ineffective discipleship has led to major declines in church attendance and mature believers. In each chapter, the author analyzes how traditional approaches are failing to grow believers in different areas such as Bible literacy, missions, and relationship building. For example, in chapter 6, Sprinkle points out that the absence of adequate biblical knowledge results in stunted spiritual growth that will inevitably lead to the departure of disoriented church members. In chapters 8 and 9, the author challenges readers to rethink the structure of their church and what steps can be taken to simplify such as reducing unnecessary budget items in order to use those funds to reach out to those who would never dream of entering a church building. Thus, the underlying theme of the book is that current discipleship models are much too stringent, inflexible, and unwelcoming to allow for vibrant discipleship and community to take place. The author agrees that even some megachurches can do well in growing its people but states that the vast majority of American churches are falling short in building up its members and fostering a loving community.
One point though that I find somewhat disconcerting is the author’s heavy reliance on the Barna group survey to draw broad conclusions that may not be necessarily true of the highly varied American church landscape. Every research methodology has its strengths and weaknesses thus using a single survey’s data with limited external support may result in establishing conclusions that would easily corroborate with the book’s premise. I am not suggesting that all of what Sprinkle points out is untrue but I am proposing that a better approach may have been including greater dialogue and interaction with a wider collection of research data, opinions, and observations to form a more informed analysis. Christianity in America consists of a plethora of churches with different historical, socio-economical, and cultural variances. Thus a more encompassing analysis of the data would help make the author’s claims more convincing.
I would recommend this book to Christians eager to reflect on how genuine discipleship can take place in their churches. Although the author tends to paint with a broad brush, his observations are thought-provoking and will challenge readers to re-evaluate their own understanding of what Christian discipleship and community should look like. Moreover, there are many ideas and suggestions that could serve as useful templates to engage those who are uncomfortable with the typical American church context. The advice and suggestions given are practical and actionable allowing readers to think more deeply and creatively about how discipleship is being addressed in their own church community. Despite the many discipleship methods we may use, the crucial point is that we remain committed to make disciples of all nations not on our own ability but through the power of the Holy Spirit and Scripture.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a book review.