Book Review: Growing Up, by Robby Gallaty
Robby Gallaty, Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple who Makes Disciples. CrossBooks, 2013. 248 pages. $9.48.
Robby Gallaty is a personal friend of mine and a godly man who loves Jesus and wants others to love Jesus. His passion to help people live out the glorious Commission of our Lord is evident in his life and in this book. But friendship aside, I read his book Growing Up as a pastor looking for a good resource to challenge me and those I’m discipling. In fact, I read it with a few guys from my church (Tim, Dan, Luis) and spent an early Friday morning talking through things we liked about the book as well as things we felt were lacking.
We all agreed that Robby’s personal touch and well-illustrated writing make for an easy read. Growing Up is a resource that is accessible for just about anyone, and each of us were able to read it in a few days. It is filled with quotable lines from both Robby and others.
Growing Up is organized in two sections. The first four chapters lay out our Lord’s call to be disciples that make disciples. These chapters highlight Robby’s personal transformation through discipleship, his recommendation to be in a discipleship group (aka “D-Group,” 3-5 people committed to 12-18 months of weekly discipling meetings), and the call to train ourselves for godliness in the context of discipleship relationships.
The remaining six chapters give practical prescriptions that should mark the lives of growing disciples. These chapters follow the acrostic C.L.O.S.E.R., each letter representing a spiritual discipline that helps us develop a closer walk with Jesus.
THINGS WE LIKED
There are several things my reading group and I appreciated about the book.
This Book Is For Everybody
One of the strong points of this book is that Robby rightly highlights that everyone who follows Christ should be actively involved in helping others follow Christ. His shepherd’s heart is evident as he addresses struggles that people from various backgrounds might face.
Whether you’re a seasoned pastor, a new believer, a stay-at-home mom, or someone who sees no way you can be used by God, this book is written to help you be a more faithful disciple. Gallaty rightly says that no one has it all together and that anyone who is willing can be used by the Lord to carry out the Great Commission.
Don’t You Dare Just Read This Book
The one thing this book is not designed to do is to be read and put on the shelf. Robby reminded our group of a personal trainer who, with each turn of the page, told us that the pages were to be read, engaged with, and implemented. The reader is exhorted to take notes, memorize key verses, and wrestle with thought-provoking questions that are stationed throughout the book. Tim said that Robby’s writing was “no intellectual exercise, but more of a kick in the pants.”
We appreciated that the book compelled us to respond with obedience to Jesus. One of the guys already had someone in mind he wanted to go through the book with in hopes of helping them become a more faithful disciple of Christ.
Let’s Get Practical
It is not uncommon for people to struggle with the “how to” of discipling. Many of us feel overwhelmed with not knowing how to help other people grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus. If you wonder “How do I ‘do’ discipleship?” this book will not leave you without answers.
Robby shows himself to be an instructor and prescriber of practical ideas. From cover to cover he gives concrete advice on how to form a discipleship group, ways to keep its members accountable, good suggestions for Bible reading strategies, challenges to be prayerful, and a slew of resources to use in discipling relationships.
The Call to Discipleship Is Needed
Above all, we felt that the call to be active in Great Commission ministry is a bell that needs to be rung again and again. We agree with Robby that many churches have sadly become complacent in Christ’s call to be disciples that make disciples.
Each of the guys said that chapter 7, “Obey: Follow the Leader,” was the one they were impacted by the most. In that chapter Robby emphasizes the need to follow Christ and “love Him supremely, above everyone and everything else” (106). This book brings the Great Commission to the forefront of importance for the church at large, and there is no way that can be bad.
THINGS WE FELT WERE LACKING
There were also a few things my group felt that the book lacked.
Can We Look Up More?
In Robby’s attempts to be practical, we were left with a feeling of us-centeredness. Robby’s intent was to be practical and hands-on, but this would have only been enhanced by helping us marvel at our Master more throughout the book. Discipling is chiefly a pursuit of helping each other delight in and glorify God, but we didn’t feel like our affections for Jesus were stirred as much as we desired them to be.
A New Set of Standards to Keep?
One of the drawbacks to Robby’s practical approach is that at times he seems to over-prescribe what we must do. In the opening pages Robby says that for a discipling meeting “to fulfill its purpose and be profitable, each meeting must be focused on the disciple-building activities discussed throughout this book” (xxiii). While the plan in this book is good, we all agreed that it was over-stepping to suggest that it was the only way to really be faithful to the Great Commission.
We also disagreed with the book’s rejection of one-on-one meetings (48-50), particularly as we felt that the case was built on an argument from silence. In our church there are a variety of group sizes and we have found pros and cons in every group size. We, a group of four, found benefit in that size group, but we thought the book overstated its case when it referred to such a group approach as “the Master’s model.”
Another example of over-prescription occurred when Robby says, “If you are going to be a disciple of Christ, you must have a daily quiet time with God” (145). Now, is it beneficial to have daily devotions? Certainly. But essential? Certainly not.
In light of these examples, the book would have benefited from a section stating that our righteousness is rooted fully in Christ’s work. We are not accepted by God because of our performance or our adherence to the good suggestions of Growing Up.
Where’s the Church?
A conspicuous absence in the book was an emphasis on the discipling that happens in the local church. Though Robby loves the local church, this book seems to assume that people understand the church’s importance. “D-Groups” can be a wonderful model of discipling, but they must be held in submission to the discipling of the congregation as a whole. When the church gathers on the Lord’s Day, they are being discipled as a community through the prayers, Scripture reading, preaching, and singing. It is this corporate discipleship that fuels and sustains the members as they scatter, including in their D-Groups.
Robby quoted Avery Willis as saying, “I really don’t believe much discipling is done through preaching…discipleship is more relational, more one on one” (25). Robby goes on to clarify that he is not minimizing preaching, but I do think he sells the discipleship of Sunday gatherings short. We fully agree that “preaching alone will not produce disciples,” but the feel of the book is that discipleship could happen without the church—which will ultimately short-circuit the good things that Robby teaches us in Growing Up.
For instance, Robby teaches that in D-Groups there should be complete confidentiality (41). While we certainly want to create a culture of trust and honoring each other, a confidentiality policy could ultimately undermine Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 18:17 to “tell it to the church” if a member persists in unrepentant sin. The church in that text is not a D-Group, but the gathered congregation. Confidentiality in a D-Group must be held in submission to the good of the church as a whole.
This shortcoming in the book could have been helped by a chapter or section about building cultures of discipleship in which groups of people gather to help one another live out what the congregation as a whole is learning.
BOTTOM LINE? THUMBS UP
Books are not meant to be read and accepted, they are meant to be interacted with. This was a really good book for us to interact with. We had a very lively discussion that I trust will bear good fruit in all of our discipling relationships. Each of us gave the “thumbs up” to recommend this book as a resource to people who want to learn more about discipleship and who need practical ideas about helping others grow up into spiritual maturity.
Anyone who does read the book might consider the above critiques that we hope will be addressed in a future edition or in one of the other forthcoming books in this series.
We leave you with the opening line of the book, “The Gospel came to you because it was going to someone else.” Go therefore and make disciples!