I recently received a free copy of a Bible Study that came out back in April 2019 entitled Be a Disciple, Make a Disciple: A Bible Study by Ellie Littleton, a teacher from Alabama, and I was asked to provide a review – so here it comes!
All my readers of the Discipling4Life blog know that disciple-making has been a passion for most of my adult life. As a result, I’ve read just about every book about being a disciple and/or making disciples that has ever been printed. Ellie Littleton brings us the latest book or rather a Bible study that is meant for both personal study and group discussion.
My immediate observation when I received that book is that its best audience is female. The cover title includes a script font that you would normally see on a romance book, and the well-done photo is of two women talking together behind a table with Bibles and notebooks. A woman would probably be very attracted to the cover, a man, not so much.
The written portions of the book set a casual tone, and Littleton gives the reader glimpses of her family and the impact of a family that lives a Christian lifestyle. At the same time, Littleton uses terminology that may be less familiar to some of her audience. For example, she will refer to her pastor, who suggested that she write this book, as “Brother Tom.”
It would be helpful if Littleton gave a definition of a disciple. She seems to use “disciple” and “discipleship” interchangeably with an expectation that the reader knows what they mean. Since theologians continue to try to arrive at a universal definition of “discipleship,” her use of the word leaves people to their own interpretation. Littleton also uses “mentor” as a synonym for discipling or disciple-making.
Much of the informational (non-Bible study) portion of this book contains quotes from other popular books. Three books, in particular, are quoted extensively: Hull’s Jesus Christ, Disciplemaker; Platt’s Radical; and Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship. These are three fine books, but they are quoted so extensively that it leaves little room for new content regarding the main topic. I would suggest that some of the historical people be introduced, rather than just quoted. Most younger Christians no longer recognize the name A. W. Tozer.
I find the Bible study portion, for the most part, quite useful. Throughout the study, there are several absolute statements that I would prefer to be softened or backup with references of some sort. The study chapter on the Great Commission contains popular Christian thinking that may not stand up to deeper theological understanding.
Littleton guides the reader to identify four “directives” found in the Great Commission. This shows a lack of understanding of Greek grammar. There is only one imperative verb is the entire Great Commission (Matthew 29:19-20) – that would be the word mathēteuō which we translate to “make disciples” in English. I assume that Littleton thinks the participles (go, baptize, and teach) are the other “directives” she is looking for – although a participle is rarely directive.
In general, I would not complain if I found a small group of women using this Bible study together. I would surmise that they would spur one another on to grow in some key traits of a disciple: being in the Word, prayer, fellowship, and witnessing. They would be off to a good start. However, I would not expect to see men using this study since it has such a feminine tint to it. Perhaps they should just read the three books most quoted within this study.