Healing Balm in Gilead?


This is part of The False Promise of Discipleship blog series from The Bonhoeffer Project. Read the blog that came right before this one by clicking here.

The title of this eBook—The False Promise of Discipleship—points out the emptiness of much of the discipleship in our churches, but at the same time it’s also meant to confess something. If there is a false promise, then there also is a true promise, as well—a “healing balm in Gilead.” There is something real and genuine to be found in all this programming and infrastructure we call church that makes it all worthwhile. But we have to change our ways if we expect to find it.

I (Bill) recall the day that Brandon and I were discussing discipleship and this very matter of the third question: How am I doing with loving the people whom God has already put in my life? Brandon said that he often would struggle with conventional discipleship because it centered on getting people to do certain spiritual disciplines with no clear focus. The assumption was that transformation would result from doing these spiritual disciplines. Brandon asserted that these disciplines—praying,reading the Bible, fasting, silence and solitude, etc.—were falling flat because people were not arriving at X. I concurred. The product of the church, our disciples, is not impressive. Moreover, they are not relevant to the world around us. I have always thought the church is for discipleship, and disciples are God’s gift to the world. God has charged the church with the task of developing Christ-like people, and then those people are sent back into the world to love it like He does.


Bill Hull and Brandon Cook, authors of this blog and eBook, will be teaching at this year’s Forum. Meet them and get more content like this in person at the 2017 National Disciple Making Forum.

This is one of the largest gatherings of disciple makers in North America with 65+ workshops, 15+ speakers, and 10+ tracks. Join us to learn practical ways to make disciples of Jesus this November 9-10 (Thursday-Friday). Register for the 2017 National Disciple Making Forum here.


That is when, essentially, we came up with the third question. Loving the people around us was the only relevant thing—a true expression of how God loves us.

Dallas Willard spoke quite often of the discipleship funnel. The idea being that you could put all the discipleship teaching and tools from the church into the top of the funnel but the only worthwhile thing to come out from the bottom would be God’s agape love. I (Bill) use the word agape because of our tendency to misunderstand love primarily as an emotion or something romantic. Love, rather, is an action taken for the benefit of another. This is where the third question comes into play. “How are we doing with loving the people in our homes, our workplace, our kids’ schools and activities?” And we might also ask, “Who else is God bringing into my life for me to love?”

If discipleship is about loving others, then how do we pursue it, practically speaking? In other words, how does all of this work out differently than the ways we have normally gone about discipleship? These are big implications that can’t be covered in any depth here, but we would like to suggest three steps forward. We need to shift:

  1. How we teach spiritual disciplines/practices;
  2. How we approach corporate church gatherings and everything else;
  3. What we do in discipleship groups, our discipleship processes.

*Stay tuned by coming back to our blog for the next blog in this series, which will be coming soon!


This is an excerpt from the free eBook written Bill Hull and Brandon Cook of The Bonhoeffer Project. You can download the full eBook on their homepage here.

Bill Hull is a Co-Founder of The Bonhoeffer Project. Bill’s passion is to help the church return to its disciple making roots and he considers himself a discipleship evangelist. This God-given desire has manifested itself in 20 of pastoring and the authorship of many books. Two of his more important books, Jesus Christ Disciple Maker, and The Disciple Making Pastor, have both celebrated 20 years in print. Add his third in the popular trilogy, The Disciple Making Church, and you have a new paradigm for disciple making.

Brandon Cook is the lead pastor at Long Beach Christian Fellowship and a co-founder of The Bonhoeffer Project. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he studied at Wheaton College (IL), Jerusalem University College, Brandeis University, and The Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. He worked as a professional storyteller before joining a transformational training organization and moving to SoCal in 2006, becoming a pastor three years later. Over the course of five years of pastoring, he became convinced that his work—and the work of the church—is to become fully committed to discipleship and making disciple-makers. The Bonhoeffer Project is for him a quest to live into the question “How are people transformed to live and love like Jesus?”

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