Tim Challies Christian Blog and Commentary

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Multiply by Francis Chan (book review)

Since the release of Crazy Love in 2008, Francis Chan has become one of the consistently bestselling Christian authors. Crazy Love, The Forgotten God and Erasing Hell have all made their mark, tallying millions of sales. His most recent book, Multiply, was released in November. Written with Mark Beuving, it begins with a statement that pertains to every Christian: You were made to make disciples. Every Christian has the same God-given commission: to go and to make disciples of all the nations. And yet, say the authors, “Christians today are not known for making disciples. We have developed a culture where ministers minister and the rest of us sit back and enjoy ‘church’ from a comfortable distance. This is not what God intends for His church. Every Christian is called by God to minister. You are called to make disciples.”

Multiply is Chan’s attempt to remedy this great oversight. ”Multiply is designed as a simple resource that you can use to begin making disciples. Our prayer is that it will give you the confidence you need to step out in faith and disciple the people whom God has placed in your life.” This is a book (and an accompanying series of videos, available online) that is meant to be taught more than it is meant to be read; it is meant to be digested in community, not read in isolation. Chan’s hope is that one Christian will lead others through the contents, and in so doing, prepare that person to lead someone else through it. It has a viral dimension to it. As the book closes he writes, “If you have been walking someone through this material, keep reading the Bible with that person and find someone else to begin this process with. If you have just been guided through the material by someone else, then take what you have learned and walk someone else through it.”

Here is a quick breakdown of the book’s five sections:

  1. Living as a Disciple Maker. Here, in three chapters, Chan introduces the concept and importance of discipleship.
  2. Living as the Church. Chan sets disciple-making in the context of the local church, which is to say, Christian fellowship and community.
  3. How to Study the Bible. After showing why Christians must study the Bible, Chan encourages Christians to do so prayerfully, obediently and logically.
  4. Understanding the Old Testament. Nine chapters simply share the sweep of the Old Testament from Creation to prophecy.
  5. Understanding the New Testament. Six chapters progress from the birth of Jesus to the coming return.

Though I read the book by myself, without leading another person through it, I can see that it would work well for that purpose. This is exactly the kind of material that will prove helpful to new believers. Sections 4 and 5, dealing as they do with the grand sweep of redemption, are keys needed to tie the whole Bible together and keys that have far too often been missing in discipleship material.

I have just two minor critiques. The first involves Chan’s statement that Christians are not known for discipleship. To an extent I agree; Christians are not known for formal programs of discipleship such as reading through a book like Multiply that formalizes a process for learning the basics of the Christian faith. However, I do think Christians do a great deal of informal discipleship that may be no more formal than a married couple inviting young, single believers into their home to see how a Christian family functions. This is discipleship too and in some ways the best kind of discipleship—the kind that says, “Be like me.”

And that leads me to the second critique. Chan’s discipleship is largely biblical and theological, which is wonderful, but focuses very little on character. A disciple who goes through this material may not have developed the kind of character that would make him an ideal discipler. While the book has many applications that call for the development of character, I would have appreciated more of a focus on the fruit of the Spirit and the growth of distinctly Christian qualities.

Those small critiques aside, Multiply is a good book and one that fills an important niche. If you think back to the days when you were a new believer, I am certain you will see the benefit of this type of material. If this book sells half as many copies asCrazy Love, and if it is widely taught, it will certainly benefit the church.

(Note: all of the book’s material is also available free online at multiplymovement.com)