Following the Spirit: Disciple-Making, Church-Planting, and Movement-Building Today

By Peter Roennfeldt, Warburton, Australia: Signs Publishing, 2018.

Alrick Watson pastors the Westminster and New Life Seventh-day Adventist Churches in British Columbia, Canada.

In Following the Spirit, discipleship specialist Peter Roennfeldt attempts to rediscover the true meaning of church. He maintains that the church must follow the work of the Spirit in “disciple-making,” “church planting,” and “movement building.” These activities of the Spirit are demonstrated throughout the New Testament and significantly exemplified in the book of Acts. In this commentary on the book of Acts, the author followed a devotional format. He dissected Acts into smaller units and then provided pastoral comments, including historical and cultural backgrounds and practical insights based on research and personal knowledge. Toward the end of each chapter, a helpful application section is included.

The profound words of Scripture fall useless unless they are applied to the life of the individual and the church, so Roennfeldt suggests five fundamental questions in his biblical application process: What is new to us? What surprises us? What do we not understand? What will we each obey and apply to our lives this week? What might we share with another—and with whom? (2). Wrestling with these questions is strongly encouraged by the author to help some discover Jesus and others rediscover the mission of making disciples.

Apart from the personal application and transformation, the preaching of the gospel can also change society today. Transformation by the Spirit is the preparation needed by the church because “Jesus’ kingdom is spread by Spirit-empowered witnesses” (25). Once Spirit-led preparation is accomplished, gospel proclamation must follow. This proclamation of “the good news of God’s kingdom . . . is foundational for disciple-
making movements” (59). These movements must then be “baptized and empowered by the Holy Spirit; devoted to prayer, [and] obedient to God’s kingdom agenda and word” (79).

Roennfeldt also strongly urges churches to become movements instead of mere institutions. Movements require member participation because “it is just not possible to develop resilience as disciples without participating in the mission of Christ—making disciples” (107). When Christ’s followers are involved in making disciples, multiplication (church planting) will follow. Similar to the New Testament church, multiplication must happen through “relational streams” (131–192). The author also suggests that churches implement Steve Addison’s five traits of successful movements: “white hot faith, commitment to a cause, contagious relationships, rapid mobilization, and adaptive methods” (161). These principles can make movements effective and efficient.

The New Testament church was movement-
oriented, and the church today will do well to adapt the movement model illustrated in Scripture. Returning to movement philosophy, however, calls for “radical change.” A major challenge is that many churches are not thoroughly equipped to make the essential change. Consequently, the author devoted 56 pages in his appendix to explain practical methods churches today can use to become movements. These practical suggestions added strength to the book. However, these suggestions also highlight the book’s frailties. The inclusion of examples from successful contemporary movements would have made the book more relevant to the contemporary reader and the author’s arguments more convincing.

This element does not impact the book’s integrity. Roennfeldt’s main themes regarding “following the Spirit” are well-developed and soundly exposed. In this book, the academic community will appreciate the author’s thorough research, preachers will discover rich resources for sermon preparation, and Bible students will find the author’s expositions useful, especially when applied correctly. In particular, church leaders will encounter valuable leadership principles to equip themselves and the churches they lead. This is a very timely book.

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Alrick Watson pastors the Westminster and New Life Seventh-day Adventist Churches in British Columbia, Canada.

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