This course is an exposition of Paul's letter to the Philippians rather than a systematic exploration of the key components of discipleship. For new Christians Discipleship Explored would make an excellent introduction to regular bible reading and study.
What is it?
Discipleship Explored (like A Life Worth Living) is 'a journey into the book of Philippians'. It is an eight week course based on the Bible. It aims to help participants explore the meaning of Paul's words: 'For me to live is Christ and to die is gain' and then to apply the discovered meaning to their lives.
Each session of Discipleship Explored is designed to last for two hours and includes:
- a meal;
- a group discussion;
- a short study of Philippians;
- a short talk;
- further group discussion.
The eight sessions are:
- Confident in Christ (Philippians 1.1-11)
- Living in Christ (Philippians 1.12-26)
- Standing together in Christ (Philippians 1.27 – 2.11)
- Transformed in Christ (Philippians 2.12-30)
- Righteous in Christ (Philippians 3.1-9)
- Knowing Christ (Philippians 3.10 – 4.1)
- Rejoicing in Christ (Philippians 4.2-9)
- Content in Christ (Philippians 4.10-23)
The study guide includes additional daily readings for participants to reflect upon. This is a particular strength of the course and will encourage the development of good devotional practice.
There is a welcome emphasis in the course on the need to live out faith. 'Our salvation should display itself outwardly: it should have a visible effect on our lives' (Talk 4: Transformed in Christ).
Who has produced it?
Discipleship Explored is produced by the same team behind the widely used Christianity Explored: Rico Tice, Barry Cooper, Rupert Higgins, Sam Shammas and Katy Walton.
Who is Discipleship Explored for?
The Discipleship Explored website states that,
DE is for anyone who wants to make the most of their Christian lives. In particular, DE is perfect for participants who have been through Christianity Explored and have recently decided to follow Christ.
With regard to the former, Discipleship Explored would be helpful either as a small group resource and/or for personal devotions – providing that people see the course for what it is – a journey through Philippians rather than a comprehensive guide to discipleship. The same would apply to the second group of people.
Discipleship Explored would provide a good basis for a series of eight services on Philippians. Space is given in the talks for the inclusion of personal/local/current illustrations.
In the multi-media age the material does feel a little dated. It is early days yet but the absence of a DVD is somewhat surprising [since this review was written, the course has been updated to include a DVD with the eight talks for the course].
For a course primarily aimed at new Christians, the absence of prayers in the study guide is not helpful and is a missed opportunity to help those new to the faith develop their prayer life. For more mature Christians some prayers and reflections would also be helpful.
In many of the questions there is a lack of reflection or application. This is particularly so in the questions about suffering.
There is little sense of discipleship being a shared journey. Many of the questions are along the lines of 'What are you (singular) going to do about the issue?' with little recognition of the importance of fellowship, community or companionship.
How simple is it to use?
The course is extremely simple to use. Great care has gone into the guidelines for leaders. Leaders are offered six training sessions to prepare for leading the course.
The leaders' handbook is supported by the website which includes suggestions for further reading. The website also has the facility for downloading outline talks in audio format.
Would it work in a fresh expression context?
Yes it would, providing the things mentioned under 'What's missing?' are not vital for the context. If they are, those leading the course would need to add to it.
One cannot escape coming to similar conclusions as those for a Life Worth Living. For those new to the faith, it is an excellent introduction to the benefits of Biblical study. For many who have found Christianity Explored helpful, Discipleship Explored is sure to be a welcome resource. However, the package and presentation does feel a little dated compared with some more recently produced resources. To fully explore discipleship, other courses will be needed.