BOOK TITLE: RAISING AGENTS OF TRANSFORMATION
By Bro Gbile Akanni
Book Review by Sis Chizoba Chendo
Everyone is lamenting the type of Christians we have in the church nowadays. Where did the church miss it? The simple secret, Bro Gbile writes in this book, can be found in the way believers were raised in the yesteryears as compared with the way the church of today is gathering her membership. Back then disciples were made but now it is just a membership drive that exists. Jesus’ trusted means of raising men was and is still discipleship. What He commissioned us to go into all the world and do is to make disciples. The way forward for the church in this generation Bro Gbile holds, cannot be any other apart from returning to engage in concerted but applicable discipleship.
The church is losing her sheep day after day because we do not handle those who come to Christ the way Christ and the early apostles did. If we are truly desirous of bringing transformation to our world and preparing the church for the imminent appearing of the King of Kings, there is a need to examine more closely and clearly the matter of making disciples. God offers to make every individual that responds to Him into something tangible, something that he or she could never have otherwise become; a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth with which He would thresh mountains. Something that will subdue nations and bring men down on their knees for God will surely come out of a life that follows on correctly with God in discipleship as it did with men like Peter and Paul.
Many congregations and communities are struggling today because of the dearth of threshing instruments. Even the economies of nations will continue to lack the real solution until God finds men to whom He can commit Himself. Until God works on a man and certifies him usable, he cannot become an answer to the cry for genuine transformation. The deliverance of the Israelites lingered until Moses was made. This is why you need to yield your neck quickly unto the process that will make you fit for his use. Just as the refiner has no material with which to make his costly pieces of jewellery until he has separated the dross from the pure metal, a man is not available for the Master’s use until he has taken away the dross of sin, carnality and self from his life and character.
While the world is looking for institutional transformation, God’s focus for transformation is not first of all the transformation of systems or activities but the transformation of the people operating the systems. It is the corruption in man that is responsible for all the decay and conflicts. The power of transformation is the gospel and this must be preached again in its fullness for any genuine transformation that can last the distance to occur in this generation. Even though the church has been severally criticized and made to look irrelevant, yet it is only in the church that the hope for the nations lies because it is the church that has the words of eternal life. God’s people have to be built up, prepared and equipped to fulfil their roles as God’s agents for transformation.
The process by which God the Master-smith takes a life as raw material and makes it into a useful vessel is the process of discipleship. It is a systematic and cumulative way of making someone (a student, trainee, apprentice) to be conformed or transformed into the image, the stature and the full personality or life of the Master and in this case, the Lord Jesus. Even though there could be a lot of potentials in many, God does not have great expectations from any life that He has not sat upon to refine. Each individual God chooses to use becomes a recipient of divine focus. God takes him out of the crowd in other to concentrate His attention, intimacy, fellowship, teaching and even prayers and intercession on him.
Correct comprehensive discipleship cannot be done completely within the church walls only because discipleship is not only spiritual. It cares for the spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional and relational growth of the people. It is a training of the whole life and can only begin when a man is born of the spirit. It is only when the nature of God comes into a man that he can be discipled to become like Jesus. For this training, Jesus did not offer his disciples, pulpit training. He offered them Himself. He said to them, ‘come and be with me.’ Now that He has ascended to heaven, he has transferred the duty of raising disciples to His more mature and experienced disciples. Anyone who has the life of Christ manifestly present in him or her and is willing to impact this to someone else in an environment of life can disciple people.
It is life situations and experiences that create the proper environment for discipleship and this can easily be gotten by whatever the discipler does as his regular job; whether he is a painter, a photographer, an architect or preacher. Whereas a man can cover up in church, he cannot do so for long in his workplace or at home. Very soon, he would relax and become himself and his true nature will naturally flow out. As Bro Gbile terms it, this workplace becomes the ‘solvent’ or outlet for his life to flow out and be made manifest. This place where all hypocrites and cover-ups are done away with is the best place for life to be learnt or passed across. Ordinary religious activities usually create mainly spiritualized atmospheres and achieve theoretical teachings but it still leaves the disciple with the whole question of where and how it is preached in real-life situations.
As important as the discipleship process is in our becoming what God had predestined each of us to be, God has restricted Himself not to override the personal will and choice of any individual. It must be your personal choice to deny yourself, take up your own cross and follow Christ. If a disciple-maker attempts to help in denying another person’s life, he robs the person and will only produce a hypocrite and men pleaser who has a different life at work, a different life at home and a different life in the church. Even though some people may desire to rule over others, genuine discipleship is not a bondage, subjugation, oppression, amputation or crippling of human beings.
To make men Disciples of Christ is, in essence, to make them become conformed to the image of Christ. What God wants in everyone He has called to Himself is that through an intensive working of his grace and by a deliberate handcrafting, He would have Christ born, formed and living in them. Jesus is the message, the course, the comprehensive expression of the Father’s will in every way. It is Him we present and not doctrines or philosophy. This gospel truth must be presented to all groups of men and women in their own peculiar manners and language, using the relevant wisdom applicable to each group. A wrong method can lead to a misunderstanding and rejection of the message.
Some people have viewed the discipleship experience as cumbersome and unnecessarily controlling. Some disciplers may truly be overbearing but the disciple that will maximize his opportunities must grow some right attitudes and not be overly concerned about which hand is lifted to mould him. He must recognize that it is good for him to bear the yoke of divine disciplinary dealings earlier in his life. He must recognize that the dealings are for his benefit and be willing to sit alone uncomplaining; recognizing it as a personal and unique experience, particularly for his life. He must also develop the necessary disciplines of maintaining a regular daily communion with God and developing his ear to hear what God is saying to him from the scriptures. He should be determined to succeed and always act on the word. Even when discipleship gets turbulent, he should wait on the Lord and not resist those who smite your face.
The omission of the biblical process of discipleship in the practice of Christianity today has brought a lot of internal decay and disintegration to the church work. No man is everlasting. No matter how anointed, each person is raised by God for a time and season. We must all die someday and will need to be replaced so we must think seriously of our replacement sons. The smooth transition between Moses and Joshua was possible because Moses spent the time to pour his life into Joshua. God’s strategy for correction is that we should not keep mourning for the present decay but look ahead for the lives He has reserved for His work to ‘anoint’. To anoint a man for the future is not to pour some oil on his head, it is to bend down and labour on his life and character until his head is raised to qualify for God’s anointing. This is the act and practice of discipleship.
RAISING AGENTS OF TRANSFORMATION is a good manual for all those willing to engage in genuine discipleship. It brings a major contribution to the needed transformation as to how disciples can be made and recruited to stand in every segment of human endeavour. They must be raised amongst students, teachers, kings and traditional rulers, economist, bankers, businessmen, politicians, farmers, government officers and even preachers on the pulpit. As usual with him, Bro Gbile’s style of writing remains simple as he seeks to communicate most effectively. One of his counsels to his readers is not to bury themself in church activities but never making spiritual progress. He also reminds us that the only commission of the church is to make everyone a disciple and every disciple a disciple-maker.