December 5, 2023

Ajith Fernando is the kind of person I want to listen to concerning Discipling in a Multicultural World. He is a thoughtful practitioner. The back cover describes the book:

Rooted in over four decades of multicultural discipleship experience, Ajith Fernando offers biblical principles for discipling and presents examples showing how they apply to daily life and ministry. He addresses key cultural challenges, such as the value of honor and shame, honoring family commitments, and dealing with persecution, and helps us think realistically about the cost and commitment required for productive cross-cultural ministry. This practical guide to discipleship will help us help others grow into mature and godly followers of Christ.

The author writes in a conversational style that makes the reader feel like they are chatting together over a cup of coffee or tea. He is not writing a cookbook. He articulates his goal in the preface:

My intention was not to write a “how to” manual on discipling. I hope to give biblical principles about discipling and to present examples about how they apply in daily life and ministry. The exact way in which a person disciples varies according to the personality of the discipler, the personality and maturity of the disciplee, and the context in which the discipling takes place. . . . My hope is that people reading this book will become convinced of the biblical principles for discipling and find ways of putting those principles into practice in their situations.  p. 16

Discipling in a Multicultural World by [Fernando, Ajith]

The book is divided into two parts:

  • Part 1 Introducing Spiritual Parenting
  • Part 2 How Christians Change.

There are a total of 13 chapters and 3 appendices.

In the first chapter, the author introduces the metaphor of spiritual parenthood as a framework for discipling. Relationships characterized by affection and commitment lead to the goal of presenting people mature in Christ.

Chapter two is a candid discussion of objections and pitfalls. Issues such as the dangers of insecure disciplers are discussed. He also stresses that discipling must be modeled, not just talked about:

If the top leaders in a church or organization do not give time for personal work, it is unlikely that there will be a culture of discipling in the groups they lead. The leaders must demonstrate by example that investing in others is a key aspect of Christian ministry. -42.

Chapter three emphasizes that discipling incorporates the disciplee into the body of Christ, the church. Chapter four contains a helpful discussion on belonging to 2 families – the church and one’s birth family. Suffering, persecution and loss of honor are the topics of chapter five. The final chapter of part 1 addresses “Mission, Ambition,  and Exhortation.” Spiritual parenting leads people to find their place of service. Fernando writes:

But as for our goals in discipling, they should be kingdom goals. We seek to help people find their place in God’s plan and help them to fulfill that role as faithfully and happily as they can. It may not be a place of prominence. But it is surely a place of significance if it is God’s place for that person. – p. 129.

Drawing on principles from Paul Hiebert’s book, Transforming Worldviews, Part 2 of Fernando’s book begins with a chapter (7) on the change process. After identifying the need for change, he identifies three agents of change: the Word of God, the work of the Spirit, and the fellowship of believers (p. 142-3). He also discusses three kinds of transformation (p. 143-4): cognitive transformation, where a person’s belief system changes, affective transformation, where we personally experience God, and evaluative transformation, where we evaluate the beliefs and practices of the prevailing culture.

These agents of change and kinds of transformation are fleshed out in the following chapters:

  • chapter 8 – Learning Truth
  • chapter 9 – Praying
  • chapter 10 – Confronting Guilt and Receiving Forgiveness
  • chapter 11 – Understanding Biblical Honor and Shame
  • chapter 12 – Experiencing Liberation and Power
  • chapter 13 – Healing for Wounds.

These chapters are filled with sound personal and practical ways for transformation towards maturity in Christ.

The three appendices include helpful suggestions for readers in developing their own discipling practice about

  1. What We Aim for in Discipling
  2. Other Issues to Talk about During Meetings
  3. Ingredients Needed in a Follow-Up Course.

In Discipling in a Multicultural World, Ajith Fernando provides us with important and helpful insights for a life of discipling in today’s world. So grab a cup of coffee or tea and read this book. You will be enriched by the wisdom of this disciple of Jesus from Sri Lanka.

You can also read a blog post on the same topic by Ajith Fernando on the Desiring God website – Are you too busy to disciple someone?

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