10 Apr A Blueprint for Christian Discipleship – Book Review
A Blueprint for Christian Discipleship:
Wesley’s General Rules as a Guide for Christian Living
Kevin M. Watson, Nashville, TN
Discipleship Resources, 2009,
128 pages, $9.99, paper
Reviewed by Mark R. Teasdale
E. Stanley Jones Assistant Professor of Evangelism,
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL
Watson begins his book by taking stock of the current situation facing the church in the contemporary United States.
Moving through a quick survey of recent monographs that consider how the emerging generation has come to see the church as alien and irrelevant, if not entirely hostile, to their ways of life, Watson suggests that churches have two options. The first is “hold on and try not to lose too many members too quickly” (9). The second, more preferable, is to “live…by stubbornly deciding to depend on God’s grace” (9). In service of helping the church take this second option, Watson offers his book, which he claims has two goals: 1. to help develop “a more robust understanding of discipleship” that does not allow Christians to remain comfortable or complacent in the face of the need to be in mission. 2. to recover the understanding and practice of discipleship developed by John Wesley in the earliest days of the Methodist revival (10-11). Pulling both of these goals together, Watson puts forth the General Rules authored by Wesley as a blueprint for discipleship.
In chapter two Watson explicates the theology and tradition from which he develops his points. In it, he provides a sketch of the spiritual pilgrimage of John Wesley and how Wesley came to understand the centrality of grace in the Christian life. For Watson, this emphasis on grace is critical because it establishes the appropriate framework for how to proceed by focusing on God’s initiative not only to save humans from their sin, but to empower them for a life of discipleship. According to Watson, “The goal of grace, then, is not just to save us from ourselves; it is to enable us to enter into a deeper and deeper relationship with God so that we are able to love God and our neighbor increasingly” (33). This view of grace avoids any hint of Pelagianism in its emphasis on God’s initiative even as it demands that humans are responsible for living out a life of faith.
In chapter three Watson argues that living according to grace requires discipline. Again drawing from the experience of John Wesley as he oversaw the growing Methodist revival, Watson introduces the idea of Christians practicing their faith in community as the most effective way of sustaining this discipline. He specifically points to the Wesleyan innovations of the society, class meetings, and band meetings, discussing how they helped to encourage and hold accountable their members for growth in grace.