Deep Discipleship: A Brief Review

Someone recently mentioned this book to me: Deep Discipleship by J. T. English (B&H, 2020). The main argument of this book is that Christian discipleship must be done in the local church and by the local church. After lamenting the doctrinal shallowness of many churches, English gives a biblical way forward: to make and grow disciples by teaching them Christian doctrine in fellowship with other believers. In just over 200 pages, the following questions are asked and answered in this book: Where are disciples formed? What do disciples need? How do disciples grow? Where do disciples go?

Some of the things that English writes about in Deep Discipleship have been covered in other books. For example, Michael Horton covered the same topics from a Reformed perspective in his 2012 publications, Christless Christianity and The Gospel Commission. When I was reading Deep Discipleship some of it was review for me based on other books I’ve read.

Another thing that struck me about Deep Discipleship is that it seems to be written with larger evangelical Baptist churches in mind. (This is more of an observation than a critique.) When English was helpfully describing ways to teach Christian doctrine to people in the church I did think that some things he wrote do not apply to smaller churches of around 75-100 people. At one point, English was describing a discipleship plan for large classes of 250 people (p. 90). While many of his suggestions were helpful, they weren’t all applicable to smaller churches.

One area of Deep Discipleship that I believe was slightly lacking is that English didn’t derive each of his principles directly from Scripture. To be sure, many of English’s arguments and suggestions and examples were rooted in Scripture; he has a high view of Scripture and biblical doctrine! However, I would have liked to see some exposition of various Scripture texts that talk about teaching and making disciples as well as fellowship within the church. For one example, when English asked what disciples need, he said these three things: 1) Bible, 2) Beliefs, and 3) Spiritual Habits. I appreciated his discussion of these three points, but I believe the book would be better if he answered his questions with clear Bible texts that he derived those three points from.

Overall Deep Discipleship is a helpful book. Despite some of the weaknesses in it I did enjoy reading it. The end of each chapter had summary points and some application questions to get the reader to think more about the content. I also appreciated how English started out by emphasizing that our goal in making disciples is to glorify God. English also very well explained the importance of the local church and regular worship on the Lord’s Day. I’ll come back to this book later and share some helpful quotes. For now, I’d say that I recommend this book for helpful reading in the area of making and growing disciples in a local church context.

J. T. English, Deep Discipleship, B&H: 2020).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015