What motivated you to write this book? I had a dream a few years ago in which I’d written a book which was short and compact, with easy to read chapters for those who were new to following Jesus. Whilst I couldn't see the chapter headings I could see the title, which was A-Z of Discipleship, and I knew one day I should write this book. Since then I’ve come across many people who’ve started along the road of being a disciple but often feel like they’ve never managed to build strong foundations. So the book is for people like that - who want to grow and follow Jesus well. These days most people lead pretty busy lives and don’t want to read a long book. But something short, where you can read a chapter in 5 or 6 minutes is just about manageable for most people. So keeping it simple and not too long was important.
You write a blog and now have a book out on discipleship - so it seems an important subject to you. Why are you so passionate about discipleship? I know from experience that discipleship isn’t always easy, but it’s always good. In fact it’s the best way to live - that’s why I’m so passionate about it! Many people tag God on to their lives, hoping that faith will make their life just that little bit better. But that totally misses the point of following Jesus. Because Christ wants to be at the very heart of our lives, influencing every thought, decision and action. It involves a new way of thinking and living. That’s what discipleship is all about: following Jesus 24/7, for life.
How is A-Z of Discipleship different to other books on the subject? There are a number of good books on discipleship out at present. But many of them assume too much prior knowledge or use long words. I’d be reluctant to give them to a new believer with little or no Christian background. Others offer some kind of programme. But A-Z of Discipleship is different - exploring some key themes and encouraging readers immediately to do something and pray something. The idea is to begin putting things into practice straight away. That’s the best way to grow as a disciple - to just do it!
A-Z of Discipleship has another unique selling point. At the back of the book there are lots of bible references relating to each chapter. So if readers want to dig a bit deeper and check out what the bible says on the subject, it’s easy to do that. In fact there are over 650 bible references, which is fairly unique for such a short book!
Why are you qualified to write this book? I don’t claim to be an expert on discipleship; I’m still learning and discovering how amazing Jesus is! But I have discovered some things about being a disciple over the last 30+ years that I’ve been following Christ, and in the last 20 that I’ve been a church leader. I’ve tried to distill those in this book. I’ve also been blogging on Discipleship for over 8 years, writing over 340 blog posts and that’s been well received, with some encouraging me to write a discipleship book - so here it is!
The book is arranged in A-Z topics - was it easy to decide what to use for each letter – or were there any particular challenges with this approach? Some of the chapter headings came easily (eg. J is for Jesus; K is for Kingdom of God; P is for Prayer) but others were more of a challenge (eg. Q is for Quarrelling; Z is for Zeal)! Some letters could have ended up rather differently (so F is for Faith could have been F is for Forgiveness, or F is for Fasting). Greg Downes and Ben Doolan (friends and work colleagues at The Belfrey) made some helpful comments which enabled me to tidy up the final shape of the 26 chapters. I know others might have chosen different themes, but I’m very happy with the way it’s come together.
How was the experience of writing a book? I really enjoy writing. But it’s hard finding the time and space to turn thoughts and ideas into text! That’s why I was grateful for a period of sabbatical rest in 2016 so I could get on with the book. I wrote something most days. And I used different settings too - including the coffee shop, grounds and the prayer chapel of Bethel Church in Redding, California (- thanks Bethel!)
The book is written primarily to help new Christians. What challenges did you face making the subject matter accessible to anyone who is new to the faith? I asked a few people to read it who’ve not been following Jesus for very long. That was helpful. Also, The Belfrey in York (where I’m Vicar) is a church with quite a lot of people who are new to the faith, or still working out what they believe, so I’m used to making my style accessible and language simple but not simplistic. Those things are important to us at The Belfrey.
If you had to give one key bit of advice on how to live authentically for Christ what would it be? In the book I mention John Stott’s advice that Christians should have a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. When he said that he meant that we should seek to live out the message of the bible in the real world. I like that. Do that prayerfully, asking the Holy Spirit’s help and you won’t go far wrong!
Is this book just for new believers? While it has new believers in mind (plus anyone thinking about starting as a disciple but not quite sure) it would actually be helpful for anyone who wants to brush up on basics. I asked some church leaders to read it before printing and I was pleased they said they found it really helpful!
If someone has got stuck in a rut in their faith, what advice would you give them to be able to grow and deepen their faith? When we’re feeling discouraged in our faith, there are 3 main things we don’t feel like doing, which are: reading the bible, praying and going to church. But ironically it’s those three things that will actually help us most! They’re God-given resources that are foundational to faith. So I normally urge people to do the basics well, with supportive friends caring, praying and encouraging. We all go through tough times, and we can come through even stronger if we’re honest with God and keep going. He is faithful and wants to help us more than we can ask or imagine!
How do you think life will be different after reading A-Z of Discipleship? The subtitle of A-Z of Discipleship is ‘building strong foundations for a life of following Jesus’. That’s my prayer for those who read the book - that it will really help them enjoy a living relationship with Jesus every day. That’s more likely to happen if readers engage with the ‘Action’ and ‘Prayer’ sections at the end of each chapter. It should help people pray more specifically, live more generously, and care for the disadvantaged more compassionately. Ultimately I hope it inspires Christ-followers to be agents of change in their community.
I hope that A-Z of Discipleship will act rather like the compass on the cover of the book - guiding many on the exhilarating, challenging and joyful daily journey of following Jesus.
Discipleship isn't always easy but it's always good.
The idea is to begin putting things into practice straight away. That’s the best way to grow as a disciple - to just do it!
It should help people pray more specifically, live more generously, and care for the disadvantaged more compassionately.
The subtitle of A-Z of Discipleship is ‘building strong foundations for a life of following Jesus’. That’s my prayer for those who read the book.
After a brief career in law, Matthew Porter has served churches in the North of England and increasingly speaks on the subject of discipleship, wanting to help others build strong foundations for a life of following Jesus. He's passionate about discipleship and leadership, and serves as the senior leader (Vicar) of The Belfrey in York, a church with a rich heritage and with a vision to be serving God's transformation of the North.
A-Z of Discipleship by Matthew Porter is priced £9.99 and can be ordered through Eden, Amazon, your local bookshop or priced £6.99 from Belfrey Books (in the entrance of St Michael le Belfrey Church, York).