The Disciple-Making Pastor
Published by Baker Books on October 1st 2007
Genres: Religion, Christian Ministry, Discipleship, Pastoral Resources, Leadership
Christ commanded the church to make disciples, to produce people who love and obey God, bear fruit, and live with joy. The crisis at the heart of the church is that we often pay lip service to making disciples, but we seldom put much effort behind doing it. For the pastor who is ready to put words into action, The Disciple-Making Pastor offers the inspiration and practical know-how to do so. Bill Hull shows pastors the obstacles they will face, what disciples really look like, the pastor's role in producing them, and the practices that lead to positive change. He also offers a six-step coaching process to help new disciples grow in commitment and obedience and practical ideas to integrate disciple making into the fabric of the church.
Why This Book?
Bill Hull has always been one of my favorite authors and teachers on discipleship. I don’t remember when I was introduced to his material. It may have been this book as I read it long ago.
I remember reviewing this book when I became a pastor as I had read it during my time as an associate. Many of the books on the shelves sell programs and methods, but this book spoke to the minister. Hull deals with the realities, expectations, difficulties, and joys of being a pastor. But what he does that many do not is that he expresses the frustrations he has encountered in churches resisting discipleship.
For example, Hull says, “Though the teaching that the pastor is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry is widespread and well known, it is rarely practiced.” (p. 47) He cites other issues like this including the corporation mentality when it comes to the pastorate which cripples pastors as much as the chaplaincy mentality.
But it is not all gloom and doom. He says on page 91, “The disciple-making pastor loves people so much that he will insist that all become disciples, because disciples’ lives count for something and are lives of joy. it is a tremendous calling to help people develop lives of joy.” I had once read that a leader does two things: clearly explains the reality of your situation and gives you hope. I believe this book accomplishes both tasks.
This book will shift paradigms not in a progressive sense to some nebulous future where we progress beyond the church Jesus made, but it shifts back to a reforming of the original ideas of discipleship. Church culture has drifted in a country with ease and prosperity such that people like Hull must rise up and tell us what is clearly in front of our faces in the Scriptures.
The book is very real about the struggles pastors face. This is not an ideological or devotional-feel-good read. He speaks hard truth to the point that the things he says are obviously true, but no one wants to say them publicly.
This book will challenge the pastor reading the book. It made me ashamed of myself. It made me joyful when I felt I had “gotten things right.” It made me ponder the truth and accuracy of his analysis and what his suggestions would look like in my context.
I definitely don’t agree with everything, but I find myself in deep need of reviewing this material.
Room for Improvement
I found myself putting the book down several times and having to step away for a while due to an increasing sense of dissatisfaction for wanting what he was offering without the idea of how to make that a reality in the life of my church. I was sad. I look at what he offered and wanted it badly in increasing measures.
This is a shortcoming because as real as he writes, I found myself needing more encouragement. As a book for pastors, it lacks the pastoral sympathy. I wouldn’t say that the book is discouraging, but on a spectrum of 1 being depressing and 10 being Barney and friends positive, Hull’s book rings in at about a 4.
As a pastor, I know what it sounds like when another pastor is talking from church hurt. I have no doubt in my mind by reading this book that Hull has had that church hurt. I’ve read other material of his, so I know some of the stories. But from a pastor who is looking for guidance and encouragement, this book could have offered a bit more in this area.
One other “issue” of the book isn’t so much about what he did wrong, but it’s about the nature of the topic itself. Hull writes to the pastor. His target audience is the one or few people in the church who stand behind the pulpit or stand as associates. Even as an associate, I found some of his material simply impossible to ever implement in my situation because I was not the Senior pastor of the church. However, it did give me perspective on the pastor and things I could suggest or ways I could help the church reach those kinds of goals.
Why You Should Read This Book
Hull has another book called “The Disciple-Making Church” that goes hand in hand with this book. Church members should read both (another review will be coming soon), because of the nature of the ministry. If someone asks, “Who is the minster at that church?” The answer should be, “we all are ministers, but we have a senior pastor if you would like to talk to him.” The saints are the ministers because they are the ones prepared for ministry. Hull explains how pastors can make that happen, and lay people need to know what this looks like so they can let the pastor do what only the pastor can do. Too often, as Hull points out, pastors spend all their time doing as a professional what lay people could do equally well. A pastor is not called and paid so that the people can sit back. This book helps provide the biblical image of a disciple-making pastor that churches should not just understand, but should support and expect from the vocational ministers in their midst.