Getting older seems to level the relational playing field — at least that’s what I’m finding.
The past ten years have been enriched by relationships with women of all ages who have come to my Sunday school class or have attended our women’s group. I’m always surprised to find common ground with younger women with whom, if it had been possible for us to have met when I was their peer, both of us in our mid-twenties, I would have been too intimidated to speak to them — beautiful, confident, married when I was blah, awkward, and single. The silence would have been deafening, but now, in my fifties, I’m finding that there is plenty to talk about with women of all ages — especially if we’re actively nurturing an authentic faith.
In The Gentle Art of Discipling Women, Dana Yeakley draws upon her years of missionary and leadership experience with the Navigators to lend structure and focus to women’s innate tendency to form meaningful relationships. Her focus is two-fold:
Part One lays a foundation of being. Only one who authentically follows Jesus Christ herself can lead others into a closer following. Dana lays this groundwork upon four realities of the Christian life:
- We are forgiven – and we are “spiritually destitute” apart from God.
- We are safe – God is trustworthy.
- We have access – Cultivating intimacy with Christ is imperative.
- We are becoming – God has begun a work which He intends to complete.
Readers are invited to Go Deeper by wrestling with these concepts as they occur in Scripture through a series of well-framed and insightful study questions.
Part Two addresses the why and the how of making disciples for Jesus Christ, and Dana assumes nothing. With helpful detail, she examines the process of curating a life-giving atmosphere that includes the security of confidentiality, that fosters relationship, that affirms the value of individuals, and that provides structure for communicating Biblical truth with intentionality.
A discipling relationship will include the tough love of exhortation combined with unconditional acceptance; therefore, it is imperative that care be given to the question of whom to disciple. Compatibility as well as eligibility are both concerns — not everyone is at a place in life where she is ready for a one-on-one discipling relationship. Look for a heart for God, faithfulness, and teachability.
The focus of the process is growth through deep interaction around the Word of God. The first four chapters of Dana’s book are a great option for foundational content and could be covered in four to eight weeks. Other alternatives are the Gospel of John or Paul’s epistles to the Philippians or Colossians.
The work that Dana describes is deeply spiritual, and her standards are high. Even so, she communicates realism, urging simplicity and reminding her readers that there are practical details that will facilitate a smooth beginning. For instance, expectations on both sides should be voiced and scheduling details ironed out; however, even after laying this foundation, there still may be discipling relationships that simply will not work out.
Having read the book and received its encouragement, my response is: I can do this! Dana’s gentle teaching at the outset, alongside her wisdom-and-experience-based guidelines make The Gentle Art of Discipling Women a valuable primer for the woman who is ready to take the challenge and trust for grace to enter into joyful obedience to Christ’s command: “Go and make disciples!”
This book was provided by NavPress, published in alliance with Tyndale House Publishing, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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