Title of Book: Walking Together on the Jesus Road: Discipling in Intercultural Contexts
Author: Evelyn and Richard Hibbert
Published: William Carey Publishing, 2018
Reviewer: C. Hine
Bringing their own experience alongside research conducted through conversations with more than thirty disciplers, Evelyn and Richard Hibbert have provided us with an excellent resource exploring a range of issues that concern discipleship in cross-cultural contexts.
One of the challenges for the church and mission over the last decade or more has been the gap between evangelism and discipleship. A lot of work had been done in exploring evangelism in cross-cultural contexts, but its separation from discipleship had left a significant gap. While this speaks to a broader missiological issue, Evelyn and Richard Hibbert have given us a tool that helps fill this clearly identified gap. The book joins a growing body of material but is unique in that it does not focus on a methodology or programme or a set of studies. What the Hibberts offer is the exploration of important topics that call the reader to work to apply these in their particular context.
The book begins with a focus on relationship. It calls those who walk with others to faith and maturity to share their lives, not just teach information. The fundamental premise is that discipleship is a journey towards faith, and maturity in faith, that does not always (usually) have a clear moment when the journey changes from evangelism to discipleship. The Hibberts define intercultural discipleship in this way: Intercultural discipleship is the long-term, intentional process in which Christians from one cultural background walk alongside people from another culture, sharing life with them in order to help them in their journey of getting to know Christ and growing in their relationship with Him. (Loc 168)
The impact of cultural differences is explored and they establish a number of principles they believe are important in working with those differences. These principles are clearly summarised at the end of each chapter under a heading ‘Important points to remember’. This is a helpful way of drawing the thrust of the chapter together.
The book is divided into five sections: Share your life, Listen to Disciples, Focus on relationships, Contextualise, and Prepare to leave. An Appendix with recommended books for further reading is also a welcome addition.
Evelyn and Richard Hibbert had experience in a movement of Millet to Christ, so the book is rooted in their own learning. The freely share their stories of failure and success. The breadth of their conversations with other disciplers enriches their own experience and means we are given insights and examples from around the globe.
The book is also to be commended because it includes insights for both women and men. Bringing these together in one resource is a huge service to us all. It bridges the gap in resources where perspectives and tools are often largely androcentric in their perspective. Women and men disciples need to hear the needs and experiences of each other if we are to develop heathy communities of Jesus followers.
The Hibbert encourage us to develop a responsiveness to the needs people are facing as we walk them. ‘Patiently helping with disciples take the next step towards or in Christ requires disciples to adjust their approach for each disciple.’ ((Loc 1975). They encourage us to have a centred-set view of transformation and change, and reinforce the relational nature of discipleship saying: ‘If we, as intercultural disciplers, can hold this more dynamic, relational perspective of conversion and discipleship … it can enable us to focus on helping everyone, even those who seem far away from Jesus, to learn more about Jesus and keep walking towards him.’ (Loc 2069)
The section of contexutalisation is particularly important and helpful It examines four areas: Contextualise the Gospel, Contextualise the Community, Contextualise what you teach, and Contextualise how you teach. Figures 16 and 17 on Chapter 9, Contextualise the Gospel, provide very helpful ways of considering the consequences of sin and of the gospel’s answers to those consequences from a broader perspective than often considered. They invite us to review the challenges we are facing in discipleship through different lenses that they helpfully summarise.
The concluding section on preparing to leave helps us consider the need to look long term in what we do. They explore the questions of changing relationship dynamics as people grow and mature in their faith, encouraging us to consider the mutuality of relationships. This helps us consider how we give the person/people we journey with control of the agenda of this shared journey. While we are called to be encouragers of people on the journey to maturity, we are also called to challenge them too.
‘Intercultural discipleship is a mutual lifelong, continual learning process in which both disciples and disciples learn from each other.’ (Loc 3634)
This is an excellent book that makes a significant contribution to our growth as intercultural disciple-makers. It is enriched by being written by Evelyn and Richard together, giving us a unique set of insights as women and men. The inclusion of many stories and examples, as well as good diagrams makes it highly readable.
(c) When Women Speak … July 2019
CH spent nearly three decades in South Asia and the Middle East working in education, community development and the Church, and was part of Interserve’s International Leadership for nine years. Her research has included women’s activism and social change in South Asia, violence against women and missiology. She is currently focussed on developing new streams of ministry among women who live under Islam and enabling women academics and practitioners to shape missiology and mission practice. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies (Australian National University).