BOOK REVIEW: Big claims from traditionally ineffective methods …

David and Paul Watson begin their book, “Contagious Disciple-Making” (published by Thomas Nelson) with some pretty big — correct that — massive claims of success in their method for making disciples. The rest of their book lays out a methodology that traditionally has been very ineffective. For me, there would have to be some real proof to believe the size of claims made based on the methodology promoted.

Just how big are those claims? From page xiii in the introduction of the book, the authors write the following:

“… a formal survey of the work among the Bhojpuri showed that our team actually underreported the number of churches planted in the area! By 2008, another survey of the work revealed 80,000 churches planted and 2 million people baptized. Things were exploding!”

Yeah, those are big claims! Much more information is needed, such as what are the authors counting as churches, was each person among those 2 million people surrendering their lives to Jesus Christ, and so on. If the claims are accurate, then praise God! But on the face of it, they are questionable, not just because of the size of the claims, but how they say they were accomplished.

The authors actually start the book from some philosophical points I could agree with, but the more they moved into describing their methodology, the more I had problems with how they claim effective disciple-making should be conducted. The methods they use and promote include the following:

  • Focusing almost exclusively on working only within silos.
  • Using inductive Bible study with a facilitator only (not a teacher who specifically presents the Gospel) as the primary means of leading the lost to Jesus Christ (inductive Bible studies are routinely ineffective among Christians, much less non-believers!).
  • Relying on a “Person of Peace” as their entry into a community. While I understand their point, this “Person of Peace” is an extra-biblical term attached to someone they raise to an essential level.
  • The authors seem to have no concern about what is considered a church, writing on more than one occasion that the people who become believers can figure that out for themselves and design what works for them. That’s a great formula for having groups that are nothing like what the New Testament tells us a church should be! They’re also as lackadaisical about leadership roles in the church as well, even though the New Testament is very specific in this area.
  • And finally, the authors commit a very common error seen today, by confusing “discipleship” and “mentoring” and thinking they’re interchangeable when they are two very distinct things.

I found the authors to contradict themselves on more than one occasion by, on the one hand stating that disciple-making must be done biblically, and then writing that new believers can create what works for them. They also write that the disciple-maker shouldn’t teach directly, yet state the disciple-maker works very hard for at least a couple of years training leaders. I found several occasions where readers would need more information from the authors to fully understand what they were suggesting.

I don’t know these writers, and perhaps they have achieved phenomenal things using methods that routinely fail elsewhere, but without more substantiation than simple claims made in a statement in this book, there’s no way I could recommend this book to anyone. There are proven methods for being effective disciple-makers that are well substantiated that would be worth your time as a reader to pursue.


I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this review. I was not required
to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are
my own. 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.”