Untamed: reactivating a missional form of discipleship

What comes to mind with you hear the word, tame?  Perhaps, like me, you think of something once wild and free that has been brought under submission, or subdued.  Our minds often picture wild animals domesticated and harnessed to live or serve with humans. Some of the synonyms for tame that come to mind are: constrain, contain, curb, inhibit, govern, regulate or control.

Although it is good to tame and domesticate horses, cats and dogs, taming the Christian faith and its discipleship is a terrible thing. If there is anything that should not be deprived of its true spirit, it is the “mountain-moving” faith Jesus passed on to His followers.  This faith, based on Jesus’ simple command, “Follow me.” is the faith that rocked the first century world, and led to the accusation of “these who turn the world upside down have come here also.”  (Acts 17:6)

If you’re like me, you don’t usually think about taming the Christian faith. However, according to Alan and Debra Hirsch, authors of Untamed, this is exactly what has happened.  The discipleship found in many of our denominational traditions looks nothing like the world-changing movement Jesus launched through His death and resurrection.

Why is this true?  And, what has created such a tame version of the movement Jesus started?  In this book, Debra and Alan Hirsch carefully and correctly expose the idolatrous clutter our traditions have pilled up around the “Great Commission,” effectively taming discipleship, and making it nothing like what is found in the New Testament. In other words, we have tamed the Christian faith with our rituals. To say this book made me “uncomfortable” is an understatement. It is a wake-up call, a challenge, and an invitation to revisit the biblical discipleship all rolled into one! The authors dedicated their lives to leading people to become followers of Jesus.  Speaking from their many years of experience, they challenge their readers to recognize and reject things that have watered down what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

In the authors’ opinion, problems in discipleship locate themselves in three areas:  theology, culture and personal issues.  They correctly identify these hazards or barriers to becoming a true follower of Jesus, and, in the process, present a convincing rationale for why it is important to understand what the Bible teaches about discipleship.

The book correctly identifies the heart of discipleship as the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus, the Messiah – the epicenter of our faith.  Moreover, Jesus Christ is not a cause to follow, or a purpose for living.  He is the life of the disciple. Therefore, a personal relationship with Him is not optional.  Also, following Jesus isn’t about being a good person.  Tragically, a lot of good, moral people mistakenly equate being good with being a follower of Jesus.  The truth is, morality based on something other than a personal relationship with the Author of moral values, produces nothing more than moralism, and easily leads to self-righteous judgmentalism.  This is not discipleship!

I love it when a book has a clear statement of purpose.  In this case, there is no misunderstanding in what the authors hope to accomplish.  They state, “This book has to do with overcoming obstacles inherent in our thinking about God, present in our culture, and programmed into our psyches.  It is a book about idolatry, false worship, deception, and the lies we tell ourselves to get off the hook.”

The real value of this book is its presentation of a solid, biblical rationale of the importance of addressing the issue of discipleship.  This book is something of a prophetic voice for the “post-Christendom church.”

You have to read this!



About Larry Doyle

Larry is the Director of Missions for the Piedmont Baptist Association. He has served overseas with the International Mission Board (SBC), in Charlotte NC as the Director of International Ministries, and as a pastor in North Carolina and Kentucky. He is married to Rebekah Hill, a native of Greensboro NC, and has two children and three grandchildren.
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