Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Review of "Cultivating A Life For God" by Neil Cole, part 1 of 2

The subject of this book has been on my mind for a while, so I was excited to dive into this book once I knew more of what it was about. This may be one of those Christian practices that is somehow overlooked yet is instrumental for transformation and depth.

The book says that it is about discipling, and I applaud Cole for getting practical about what he calls our "prime directive" - the Great Commission to make disciples. Cole lays out a plan for groups comprised of two to three people that meet in order to confess and read scripture. Once a fourth person is added to the group, within a couple of weeks the group should then split into two groups of two people to keep it small. Cole's belief is that these types of groups will continue to expand out.

In another Cole book that I have read, I haven't found him to be the deepest theologian around (and he is admittedly a more practical focused person), but I thought he did a better job in this book and was especially interested in his exegesis of the blind man in the gospel of John. But the heart of the book is the functional plan and resources for starting these groups.

A couple of critiques and then we'll hit my discipline of recent fascination: I think discipling is more than mutual accountability. Discipling to me seems to imply more of a role-model intimacy, or mentoring/coaching to use more modern lingo, where one person in the relationship is living life in a certain way that the other person wants to learn, and does so through following and questioning. That doesn't seem to be what Cole is advocating.

A different criticism is that it seems through the overall language and implications is that the goal of these groups is multiplication of these groups, which will bring into them people outside of the faith; i.e., these accountability groups are for the main purpose of evangelism. I think that you can do these groups with the purpose of healing and mutual growth without stressing the evangelism aspect. This is just my opinion, but I think when your main point is evangelism a ticking clock forms in your head as to why these groups aren't working if new groups are not springing out all the time. Cole even mentions an example near the back of the book of a young man who had started a group and was disappointed when new groups had not sprung up within a month. What if the group just focused on healing, and invited new people when it seemed natural? Cole probably means this, but he is obviously a gifted evangelist and has a hard time not focusing in that direction.

That said, I love the idea of these groups and think they may be a key to our mile wide and inch deep problem within the church. I agree with Cole that these groups are challenging to where we hold the bar for accountability, yet people want - need? - a place to be free of their sin and baggage.

I would love to go on, but this particular blog is turning into a book. I'll talk more about that and some interesting places found in the secular world that feeds people's longing to be free.

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