The thesis of Neil Cole’s book Search & Rescue: Becoming A Disciple Who Makes A Difference is to present a principles, values, and a methodology of discipleship that will produce disciple makers reproduce healthy disciple makers.
The first part of the book is based upon the apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy and in this part Cole unpacks the biblical principles and values that form the proper framework for discipleship. Some of his key points include having the proper motivation for discipleship and understanding the importance of multiplication. He uses the word “hero” throughout the book to refer to disciples because he believes it more clearly communicates what God has called us to do when he saved and rescued us. We are now to save and rescue others. However, just like a trained lifeguard we should not just run out into the ocean without preparing ourselves.
Cole uses the second half of the book to then unpack his preferred methodology of discipleship that was created with these principles and values in mind. He calls this system “Life Transformation Groups.” Simply put, they are groups of 2 or 3 who read portions of God’s word together, meet weekly to confess their sin to one another, and pray for the lost people that God has put in their lives. These groups are key to his discipleship methodology, but as Cole himself says, “it is not methodology that transforms lives, it is only the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ applied to a needy soul by the Holy Spirit.” (24)
Evaluation & Application
This was a fun and easy book to read. Each chapter was filled with some life saving stories. There was also a lot of great truth and practical suggestions for doing discipleship. There was very little with the book that I disagreed with. Probably the most concerning section was on page 100 when Cole said, “Jesus took the greatest risk in the this universal enterprise, and I for one am glad he did. He never violates our choice, but woos us to follow him with his love for us.” It seems clear to me that Cole and I probably do not see eye to eye on issues of God’s sovereignty, but this is such a minor point and the overall message. So even though I do not think it is theologically accurate to say Jesus took a risk, I do think the vast majority of the book does a good job of presenting of laying out a discipleship framework and methodology.
I particularly enjoyed reading his emphasis on choosing to disciple people who know themselves to be broken and needy. I believe this an important aspect of discipleship and the Christian life in general and the way Cole explained that aspect of discipleship was well done. In sum, I really liked a lot of aspects about the methodology that was presented in this book. As I look forward to church planting in Chicago I am not sure I will totally implement this system as the primary method of discipleship, but I am thankful to be exposed to another method that I can refer to as our team of leaders works on developing our discipleship methodology.