If you want intense and focused growth in your walk with Christ, if you’re new to or have never been part of an intimate and intentional discipleship group, or if you’re a new Christian looking for resources to help you chase the things of the Spirit more, The Disciple’s Study Bible might be what you need.
Produced by B&H Publishers in the new Christian Standard Bible (CSB) text, this study Bible has a diverse stream of resources to educate the minister or layperson that wants to more intentionally disciple or be discipled. The primary contributions to the features of the study Bible come from Robby Gallaty (who was once discipled by then-Seminary-student David Platt) and his Replicate Ministries team. It truly gets to the heart of discipleship (more on that later) in the form of doctrine-themed study notes, the F-260 reading plan, book introductions, and discipleship articles from the Replicate Ministries team at the end of the study Bible.
This year, I have had the opportunity to be part of a discipleship group with 3 other men from my church. I hadn’t been a part of anything like that since college, and part of me forgot A) how much I enjoyed it, and B) the spiritual benefits of being part of such a group. I have been reminded of, or maybe I never actually internalized it, what discipleship is. It’s not about reading a book together and sharing your feelings, although that has its place in other contexts. It’s not even about someone teaching you how to deal with life, although that is helpful a lot of times. It is about right doctrine, and it is about accountable living in Christian community. These two purposes of discipleship are present throughout the features of The Disciple’s Study Bible. I’ll outline the merits of those features in order from my favorite to my least favorite.
Doctrine-themed Study Notes: The description calls these “discipleship-themed study notes”, but because discipleship is a word that is used more often than it correctly understood, I felt that “doctrine-themed” was a better and more specific descriptor. There are 27 doctrines (e.g. “salvation”, “family”, “revelation”) that provide the theme for every note in this study Bible. For example, a note might begin with the title “Holy Spirit” and delve into the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as described by that verse. I felt that it was a fresh and honestly terrific way to structure study notes. Some might feel limited and want to “move beyond” these base doctrines of the Christian faith, but these teachings are extremely important to understanding the Bible and it is mind-blowing to see how often the Bible comes back to these themes. The thematic missions of the Bible become that much more clear when you can easily point to and connect passages based on the doctrines they expound upon. The themes even reach to examples that you don’t hear about much as doctrines in the Bible, like “education” and “history”. The study notes were my favorite feature of this study Bible, and that is usually the most important feature to me in choosing one.
Discipleship Articles from Replicate Ministries: This section starts after the book of Revelation, and it lays out Robby Gallaty and Replicate Ministries’ “brand” of discipleship groups along with some helpful tips for ministry. Its inclusion so close to the text of the Bible could be confusing, as the Bible is considered exclusive and authoritative truth and a discipleship plan is not (Greg Ogden has a different, though similar, plan that my group uses). However, if you are using it as a resource (which is the intention) it soars in its helpfulness and availability. It includes short articles like “The DNA of a Healthy D-Group” for those wanting to start a discipleship group, “Discipling Your Staff” for pastors, and a series of articles on spiritual disciplines branded with the acronym C.L.O.S.E.R. (Communicate, Learn, Obey, Store, Evangelism, Renew). These are fantastic, and would be an immense help to anyone from the individual layperson looking to draw closer to God to the pastor leading an entire congregation.
Foundations 260 (F-260) Reading Plan: This is Robby Gallaty’s reading plan, which essentially consists of reading a couple of chapters in the Bible 5 days a week for an entire year (52 x 5 = 260 … It took me a while to figure that out) while also memorizing accompanying Bible verses every week. It cannot be accurately described as a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan because it skips many chapters along the way, but it does go in order through the Bible and takes you through the Biblical story from beginning to end. It also includes the HEAR method of Bible reading, another acronym that stand for Highlighting verses, Explaining the meaning, Applying it to your life, and Responding to God in prayer. I felt that this would be an extremely helpful reading plan for someone who is wanting an intense introduction to the text of the Bible. There are those of the more hardcore variety out there who would prefer the 90-day read-through-the-Bible plans, but this seems both more achievable and more evenly paced so as to allow more personal growth over a year’s time. It would also be helpful to go through the plan as a discipleship group, meeting every week to discuss what you learned and hold each other accountable for the memorization portion.
Book Introductions: For the most part, these are straightforward contextual introductions to each book of the Bible. Each includes a blurb about the author and background of the writing, the book’s contribution to the Bible, the structure (narrative, poetry, etc.), an outline, and a timeline. None of these are particularly exclusive to The Disciple’s Study Bible, as they are standard throughout all study Bibles I have seen. However, I did specifically enjoy the timelines, which give both biblical context and a world historical context. For instance, my favorite entry is in the introduction to Genesis, where it informs you that in 2000 BC, contraceptives were developed in Egypt. I had never heard that tidbit before, and I may use it in my world history classes in the future.
I was extremely grateful to have the opportunity to review The Disciple’s Study Bible. It would be a great buy, or a great gift, for anyone looking for a leap in spiritual growth or in discipleship ministry.
I received a review copy of this book courtesy of B&H Books and Lifeway, but my opinions are my own.