One-on-One with J.T. English on ‘Deep Discipleship’

Written by on September 17, 2020

Today I am pleased to welcome J. T. English, PhD to discuss his latest book, Deep Discipleship: How the Church Can Make Whole Disciples of Jesus. English is an author and teacher, and currently serves as the lead pastor of Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colo. Previously, J. T. served as a pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, where he founded and directed The Village Church Institute, which is committed to theological education in the local church. He received his ThM in Historical Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and PhD in Systematic Theology from Southern Seminary.

Ed: Why did you write this book? What inspired you to write it?

J. T.: For too long, the local church has played a secondary role in the formation of God’s people. During the past few decades, seminaries, Bible colleges, non-profit organizations, and other ministries have become where God’s people have to go in order to grow in the understanding of the Word and what it means to follow Christ.

I believe with all of my heart that the primary context for christian discipleship is the local church. God has commissioned and ordained his church to be the place where, by the power of the Spirit, he forms his people into the image of the Son. It is time for local churches to remember their calling as the primary place God forms deep disciples.

Ed: For whom did you write this book?

J. T.: I wrote this book for anyone who is passionate about discipleship. I hope pastors, ministry leaders, and serious Christians will pick up this book and implement deep discipleship in their local contexts.

Ed: What do you mean by a “holistic” approach to discipleship? How is that different than what most people consider when they think of “discipleship”?

J. T.: Deep discipleship is holistic discipleship. God cares about the whole person, not just our head or our heart or our soul or our strength, but God cares equally and wants to form our head, heart, soul, and strength. If we are whole people, we need discipleship models that form the whole person and that best happens in the local church.

Ed: How is this book different from other discipleship resources and books?

J. T.: I think Deep Discipleship is different because it does not just say deep discipleship matters, but it provides a way forward for every church. It does not offer a playbook for every church to adopt, but it offers a set of better questions—questions that will give us better answers for our local contexts.

Ed: What are the two or three greatest hindrances to creating deep disciples in our churches today?

J. T.: The greatest hindrance to deep discipleship is the shallow versions of Christianity that we have become accustomed to.

Ed: What are the two or three most important things church leaders can do immediately to begin creating deep disciples in their churches?

J. T.: If you want more participation in your church you need to raise the bar, not lower it. We have believed the lie that if we lower the bar people will be more involved, but we have lowered it so that it is not worth jumping over.

Give your people more Bible, not less; more theology, not less; more spiritual disciplines, not less. They will thank you for it.

Ed: Talk about how a christian disciple grows in faith. How have churches stunted that process? What can leaders do to grow the disciples in their churches?

J. T.: For a believer, the local church is indispensable in growing as a disciple. God has ordained followers of Jesus to grow alongside each other in the context of the spiritual family of the local church. Unfortunately, some churches have adopted ministry models that are more interested in keeping people than they are in growing people. Leaders of the local church should start to adopt ministry paradigms that grow people from infants in Christ to mature followers—from pagans to pastors.

Ed: What do you hope readers will do after reading the book? What do you hope they’ll take away from it?

J. T.: I hope readers of this book are re-invigorated for life and ministry in the context of the local church. I also hope that readers of this book will be struck afresh by the beauty and depth of life with God and how he uses the local church to grow and mature his people into followers of Jesus.

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