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Gospel Centered Discipleship

Recently on Sound Tradition, we have promoted John VanGeldren's book, "The Liberating Life of Jesus" quite heavily. The concepts found in his book have been the revolutionary balance that we have been trying to strike in issues related to standards and holiness and really it isn't so much a balance as a focus shift. Jonathan Dodson, in his book Gospel Centered Discipleship has struck a similar chord by taking the same principles and applying them to discipleship. It lays a great philosophical basis for how we sound approach discipleship. Between these two sources, I have been inspired to create a discipleship program that models the Christ-centered life.

Dodson in his book defines Gospel Centered Discipleship as "not [being] about how we perform, but who we are- imperfect people, clinging to a perfect Christ, being perfected by the Spirit." Jesus becomes the centered of not only our relationship but how we lead others into closer walk with him. In our efforts to teach young believers how to live the Christian life, we run the risk of imparting legalism by teaching them "these are the things you must do to walk with the Lord" instead of "here is the person you must have a closer relationship with." Granted there is a place for the forms of Christian activity, but we must not allow the forms to become the focus. Jesus must be the focus.

Gospel Centered discipleship reminds us that Jesus and the gospel aren't just intended to save us, they are also the necessary ingredient to sanctify us. This concept echoes the teaching from Col 2:6 "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:" Our continuing walk with Christ must be based on faith and not works, just like our salvation.

All of this is dependent on the Spirit's work in our hearts. The book remind us that:

Gospel Centered Disciples rely on the Spirit who focuses our heart's attention on Jesus where beholding Him results in becoming like Him.

The Weakness of the book

Jonathon Dodson does an excellent job presenting the shift in focus that our discipleship needs to take and he reminds us that it will not happen if we are not dependent on the Spirit. In his explanation of the essential role of the Holy Spirit, I believe he has not developed this though thoroughly enough. To Dodson, the essential part of walking in the Spirit is communing with Him as a person. While this is a great point, it is not a robust view of our dependence and walk in the Spirit. Communion in this book becomes merely communication or prayer. He contends that if we are in communion with the Spirit we will be more susceptible to the promptings of the Spirit, but that seems to be as far as it goes.

A good follow up to his book if you wanted to supplement Gospel Centered Discipleship would be "By My Spirit" by Jonathon Goforth which can be purchased here.


This book serves as a great foundational refocus for those who are interested in mentoring and discipling other believers. More work needs to be one on developing a curriculum for mentoring which builds in the foundational principles and approaches discipleship without subconsciously imparting a mindset of legalism in the process. If you would like to purchase this book it can be found here.

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