Five Takeaways from “Down To Earth Discipling”

I recently finished Scott Morton’s “Down To Earth Discipling”, a book published by the NavPress. What made me pick this from the bookstore is its (very!) relatable preface.

Related link: “Seasoned staff member Scott Morton shares the beginnings of The Navigators movement”

The book is basically a relevant reference on biblical discipling. It has 13 chapters which are practical but not preachy. Morton emphasized the discipleship principles in this book through his personal experiences and insights from a distance. The book also has appendices that the reader can definitely use for application purposes.

Here’s a peek of its preface, contents and appendices.


“I’ve found that my own problems seem smaller when I actively share my life with someone learning to be a disciple.” – Chapter 1, page 18

The first chapter of this book tackles the value of “Personal Attentiveness” in disciple-making. The story of how the famous D.L. Moody received the Lord Jesus Christ (also shared in this chapter) makes this point so alive!

This chapter emphasizes how risks and inconvenience in disciple-making are worth taking! Indeed, it is only when we share our lives with others that our own problems seem to reduce in size. Christ did it Himself and mirroring His example of selflessness unveils the deeper reason why He did it (see: John 21:15, John 9:35).

On reaching out to non-believers: “Don’t do it too soon… But don’t wait too long either.” – Chapter 4, page 45

Chapter 4 discusses the “Seven Guidelines for Reaching Non-believers” thus it covers the why we should reach out to our non-believing friends and loved ones, how we can reach-out to them and when.

I struggle with the “when” in this aspect. Sometimes, I do it too late. Most of the time, I do it too soon (i.e., boldness but with lack of wisdom). I am guilty of rolling a hand grenade onto the coffee table. You know, springing out a hidden agenda. This is why I treasure the “Just be close enough that they can smell it” strategy from this book! It made me realize how I should intentionally and consistently build genuine relationships to people more — like Christ and for Christ. And of course rely on God’s timing cue.

This chapter also reminded me that there is nothing I can say or do that is a more powerful witness than the words of Jesus Himself. Thus I should focus on preaching Jesus and nothing else.

On the kind of heart one must have in following-up on people: “What is the most need at this time?” – Chapter 5, page 60

Chapter 5 breaks 1 Thessalonians 2 into seven ways on how we can personally relate to those we disciple. Aside from pursuing them in prayer, this chapter discusses when to be gentle and when to exhort.

I struggle with this myself.  This is why the explanation of “A Motherly Heart” (expounding on the value of “Gentleness”) and “A Fatherly Heart” (expounding on the value of challenging another person to face up a weakness or obvious sin) is a great help. This clears again how God’s timing cue is key.

“How do you feel when you are not recognized? If you are resentful, chances are you were trying to impress somebody.” – Chapter 8, page 88

Confession: I knelt down in confession after reading this chapter. It talks about Jesus’ nine guideposts for ministry integrity from Matthew 23.

Every question spoke to me until I was blue in the face. Yes, point three was one of the biggest blows. I am thankful that God used this chapter to reveal to me my Pharisee-like heart and to lead me to be honest with Christ.

Discipleship groups should be like rivers, not swamps – Chapter 11, page 110

Morton’s discipleship experience (elaborated on this page) is so relatable. He says: I applaud the honesty of one study member who said, “I like the fellowship and I don’t want to go through the hassle of getting to know people or starting over. Isn’t it terrible to be that selfish? But that’s how I feel.”

I have heard someone say this to me before. I have experienced this myself: Sometimes the same Christians study together for years and never entertain the idea of breaking up to start new studies or inviting others to join — hesitant that others would not “fit in”. Morton described this as “Our study groups have become swamps, not rivers.”

Then Morton also shared one of his honest struggles in terms of discipling others while thinking of third and fourth spiritual generations: “I’m struggling to get my mentoree to read the Bible consistently; how can I think about him reaching someone else?”

My thoughts while reading this was: “Man, that’s exactly how I feel.”

Funny that after I said that, in the next page, Morton says: “Good point. That’s often how I feel.” I know I can’t give the author a big high five so instead I embraced his four biblical advices when faced with such “feelings” (see: page 111).

If you want to grab a copy of this book, you may:

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