By Bobby Harrington and Curtis Erskine
If you’ve been acquainted with Discipleship.org for a time, you will know that we regularly publish our list of the top 10 discipleship and disciple making books from the previous year (2023) in January of the new year. In the publication, we include two related, but different categories: 1) discipleship books are best defined as books that help people to live as disciples of Jesus and, 2) disciple making books are best defined as books that help people to make other disciples of Jesus. Working in tandem, Bobby Harrington and Curtis Erskine from the Discipleship.org team have crafted the 2023 top 10 list. [i]
The books are not presented in a hierarchy, but alphabetically. At the same time, Outreach Magazine has asked Bobby to be a judge for the top book in the discipleship category for the past year, which is described at the end of this article.
Bates moves from his previous work on what is the gospel to why the gospel. In doing so, he ties together theology, the gospel, and the necessity of discipleship. Bates doesn’t mention discipleship until chapter 4, but when he finally does, it makes perfect sense. If you are unfamiliar with the Discipleship Gospel of King Jesus, you may be in for a shock, but read with an open mind and a commitment to Scripture and it could change your understanding of why we are to be and make disciples of Jesus. “If we don’t want to be a disciple of Jesus, then we won’t be. It is that simple.” (5 stars)
If you want to read a blunt book about our failure to be and make disciples of Jesus, here it is. Burson’s journey to discovering Biblical discipleship mirrors my own, so I appreciate it. If you are struggling with moving away from non-discipleship Christianity and what it might cost you, this book is a great source of encouragement from someone who has made the journey. The book gets a little long toward the end, but Burson includes every aspect of his journey. (3 stars)
Cruickshank leads an outdoor adventure ministry and holds a Harvard degree in neuroeducation. She uses her background to explain how being a disciple of Jesus is a journey and connects it to how people learn new things. A unique way to visualize and explain discipleship. (3 stars)
In full disclosure, Discipleship.org co-published this book and Brandon is one of my [Curtis] mentors. But there is a reason that we co-published this book and why Brandon is my mentor– Brandon understands that a lack of intentionality (or being intentional about the wrong things) is one of the greatest barriers to being and making disciples of Jesus. In Intentional, Brandon identifies the 8 most important disciple-making principles on which we should focus and be intentional as disciple makers. (5 stars)
Real Life Theology Conversations by Jason Houser, Nicole Stine and Daniel McCoy
It is not hard to believe that disciple making in the family is the most important disciple making of all. This book provides both the content and framework for this important family focus. It is a practical catechism combining 52 questions, 52 answers, 52 scriptures, including illustrations and music, to guide disciple making in the family. (4 stars)
We loved this book because it focuses on what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. Platt’s book is a good companion to Bates’ book described above: both show us how important it is to follow Jesus as Lord and King. Platt’s exposition makes it really clear what it means to surrender to the Kingship of Jesus by truly and authentically following scripture. He shows how the teaching of Jesus is independent of American political debates – on some things, Jesus’ teachings more align with the concerns of one side and on other things, Jesus’ teachings align more with the other side. (5 stars)
Many of us who grew up in youth groups don’t understand why kids don’t come to youth group anymore and why they leave the church when they become adults (or before). This book will supply you with the answers to these questions. Fair warning, there is just enough of a progressive lean to make an old-school conservative (like me) nervous but if you look past that lean to what is really being said, it will change how you engage with today’s youth. (3 stars)
After you have read a bunch of books on discipleship, they all start to seem to say many of the same things. The first half of Centering is familiar. The last half is when it gets interesting. Strawser’s greatest strength are her charts which give great visual explanations of important concepts. When I actually learn something new about discipleship from a book, I have to recommend it. (4 stars)
Jim Putman, in this follow-up to his book DiscipleShift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples Who Make Disciples walks through five shifts that help you cultivate real relationships with real people. Whereas, DiscipleShift charted a path to becoming a disciple making church, RelationShift maps out how to become a true friend to those you disciple. The result is relationships that fuel disciple making—and refuel you. (4 stars)
Other good titles for this book would be Christianity 101, or Discipleship 101. Wilson does a great job of simply, but clearly, laying out what it means to follow Jesus as His disciple. It gives a basic quick overview for a new disciple that is both unique and still Scriptural. Wilson writes from a Restoration Movement background so don’t be surprised by the theology if you’re from a different background. The 40-day structure makes it a great devotional for a new believer. (4 stars)
I [Bobby] am recommending two books to Outreach Magazine for the book of the year in discipleship because the word discipleship today commonly covers both what it means to be a disciple and what it means to make disciples.
Top book on being a disciple – Don’t Hold Back by David Platt
I loved this book because it focuses on what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus. Platt’s exposition makes very clear what it means to surrender to the Kingship of Jesus by truly and authentically following him by following scripture. He shows how the teaching of Jesus is independent of American political debates – on some things Jesus’ teachings more align with the concerns of one side and on other things, Jesus’ teachings align more with the other side.
Top book on making disciples – Intentional by Brandon Guindon This is the most practical book in 2023 on what it means to make disciples. Brandon is a highly experienced church leader who has served at all levels of church leadership, including planting a church and leading a rapidly growing, church-planting church. Intentionality is the key mindset in making disciples, as Jesus teaches. This book identifies the 8 most important disciple-making principles to focus on and about which we must be intentional
[i] This is not an assertion that this list is definitive–we want publishers and others to make sure that we know about the top books in these two areas each year.
Check out our other resources on our new Disciple Making Culture Resource Page!
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