Book Review of “Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship” By: Paul Tautges
Publisher: Shepherd Press
Copyright Date: 2009
Available: On Amazon for around $16
Length: 178 pages (not including endnotes)
A Personal Note
This book first came to my attention through my own dear mother. As a woman of tremendous discernment in biblical matters I greatly value her opinion. So when she handed me this book, I assumed it was worthy of my time and would be a valuable tool in my own spiritual growth. I was not mistaken.
At a Glance
As I’ve said before, when dealing with books that attempt to teach you concerning spiritual matters, you can and must judge a book by its cover. The subtitle of this work states that it is a theology of interpersonal discipleship. What does that mean? I am immediately interested in knowing who else has read this book and what they thought about it.
On the back cover you will find three endorsements. The first is from John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California, a world wide recognized expositor, ferocious defendant of the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, and president of The Master’s Seminary. Check.
The next endorsement comes from Steven Lawson, a popular conference speaker who cut his teeth sitting at the feet of R. C. Sproul and has historically filled the pulpit for John MacArthur on many occasions. Check.
The third and final endorsement comes from a man named Bob Kellemen. I am not personally familiar with Dr. Kellemen or his ministry, but two out of three is a good start.
If the work in question has a forward it is always a good idea to read through it. The forward is designed to prepare the reader for what they’re about to encounter, but is usually written by someone other than the author. We’re about to get a fresh perspective. Dr. John Street, the head of the Biblical Counseling department at The Master’s Seminar, writes this forward and I can personally attest to the man’s faithfulness. Having sat under Dr. Street as a student, I have witnessed first hand that he takes the sufficiency of God’s Word with a seriousness that is not found in many men. Double Check.
The author’s argument is very simple: The Bible is the complete, inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient word of Almighty God and thus is all the church (corporately and individually) needs to grow in godliness and live obedient, Christ-exalting lives. That may be a statement that most Christians are more than happy to jump on board with. But Pastor Tautges draws out the implications of such a statement.
The author takes it upon himself to first demonstrate that the basic belief in the Bible is currently under attack from within. The entire first chapter is dedicated to revealing the origin of secular psychology and its unholy union with the Christian faith. In short, Pastor Tautges shows that not only is psychology inherently anti-Christian but that there is no such thing as “Christian” psychology. In his estimation, all psychology assumes that the Bible is not sufficient and thus needs to be (at the very least) supplemented with human wisdom. Once the false approach to Christian living has been exposed, Pastor Tautges moves on to the correct approach; namely, genuine discipleship.
Chapter two begins with an exposition and application of the “Great Commission” as found in Matthew 28. If we’re going to read a book about discipleship, it’s best to begin with the command to make disciples. A disciple of Jesus Christ, as Pastor Tautges points out, is more than a follower or a confessor of Jesus. Rather he is one who “intentionally attaches him or herself to him and adheres, or submits, to His commands as the new standard for living, and consequently becomes like Him” (p. 24). So the command to make disciples is a command to not only preach the gospel but also to instruct, model, and exhort obedience to Christ so that those who profess belief in Him will become like Him. This is the foundation for the remainder of the book.
The remaining chapters simply walk through what it looks like to make disciples. Beginning with a biblical understanding of man’s natural depravity and his inability to obey God, to the call for all those who have been transformed to pursue holiness, to the love that all believers are to demonstrate to one another, this book walks through genuine discipleship.
Yet a key aspect to Pastor Tautges’ argument is his emphasis on who is doing this work of making disciples. Who must preach the gospel to the lost? Who is it that teaches young converts? Whose responsibility is it to call professing believers to holiness? Some might argue that this is the clear responsibility of the pastor or the elders of the local church. But Pastor Tautges argues that this is the job of every believer within the church. To be a Christian is to be a member of Christ’s body. To be a member of His body demands obedience to His commands. If we are going to be obedient, we cannot pick and choose which commands we feel like obeying. Therefore we are all called to be disciple makers.
In other words, Pastor Tautges argues that what the struggling Christian needs is not a shrink, but a body of believers that love him enough to breath the truth of Scripture into his life and call him to obey it. Christians do not need the psychologist’s couch. They desperately need Christ’s church.
In evaluating any work we must not only be concerned with the conclusion that any particular author arrives at, but also how he arrived at this conclusion.
I must first say that I whole-heartily agree with Pastor Tautges’ argument and conclusion. Any genuine Christian who seeks worldly counsel will never receive the answers they so desperately need. Any problem with your family, marriage, parents, or children is not a problem of circumstances. The problem is sin. The solution is repentance. And that solution will never be given in a secular environment.
Pastor Tautges does a wonderful job of demonstrating that sinners are rebels and not victims. A broken marriage is not the result of bad circumstances where either or both parties can claim victimhood. “It’s not my fault that I do what I do!” is the cry of so many who are lost to this mentality. If that’s the case, then there is no hope. But the gospel of Jesus Christ gives tremendous hope. Believers are not only commanded, but are enabled to flee from sin and cling to righteousness! Therefore we cannot treat the symptoms of rebellion until there is submission to Christ.
Pastor Tautges’ conclusion is sound, but more than that, I greatly appreciate the way in which he presents his argument and arrives at this conclusion. In reality (and I think I know his secret) this book is a collection of sermons. Each chapter is essentially an exposition of a particular passage of Scripture, which the author then turns around and applies directly to the reader. I’ve given you a taste of how Pastor Tautges did this with Matthew 28:16-20. Each successive chapter follows the same pattern with passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Peter 1:13-16, Galatians 6:1-5, and several others. There is much fruit here ripe for the picking, but you’re going to have to read the book for yourself in order to partake.
In short, Pastor Tautges preaches the sufficiency of Scripture, that it is all that the Christian needs to live a life that is pleasing to God and bears much fruit, but then he demonstrates it through skillful exposition and application of God’s Holy Word. In other words, he practices what he preaches.
This is a book that every Christian must read and understand. I say that because discipleship, from my own observations, is almost completely missing from the church. The saints gather together on Sunday morning and maybe again during a mid-week Bible study, but then recede back to their homes, their jobs, their lives never to be seen or heard from again until next week. The saints are left to fend for themselves 6 days out of 7. As a result individuals are stunted in spiritual growth because no one is calling them to forsake sin and pursue righteousness. There is no one in the lives of most Christians to exhort them, teach them, encourage them, or model righteousness for them.
This individual passiveness to Christianity takes its toll on the entire church. The body becomes a lumbering giant with fingers that cannot grasp, a neck that is stiff, and feet that are planted in place. I recommend this book to any and all who claim the name of Christ with the prayer that He will use it to stir hearts toward obedience.
From a pastor’s perspective it is my desire that the saints (individually) grow in holiness and Christ-likeness and that the body (collectively) works in unison toward that very goal. It is my prayer that this book becomes a tool that will shake the church at large from apathy into action so that we might do the work we are called to do: Make Disciples.