No Silver Bullets by Daniel Im is foremost a book about discipleship. However, this doesn’t mean the book is full of tips and techniques. Instead, Daniel Im views discipleship holistically at both an individual and church-wide level.
Daniel Im identifies 2 key aspects of human life. First, we tend to look for the quick fix, the easy solution, the proverbial silver bullet. And second, silver bullets seldom work out the way we thought. If you are looking for a book that will give you the latest discipleship fad, this book will disappoint.
However, if you are searching for a book that challenges the way you think about discipleship, No Silver Bullets is perfect. This is because Daniel Im leads you on a journey. He views discipleship from 40,000 feet before zooming in to a microscopic viewpoint. And in the process, Im gently weaves in 5 key transformations to the way you understand discipleship. These are:
- Destination to Direction
- Output to Input
- Sage to Guide
- Form to Function
- Maturity to Missionary
I found the first transformation to be the key to understanding the book as a whole. It helps teach that discipleship is the continual movement toward Jesus. Notice this is an on-going process rather than simply a matter of completing a discipleship course or graduating from a programme.
Im identifies 4 different approaches to discipleship churches adopt based upon the destination-direction spectrum. Additionally, he notes the important role accountability and intentionality play in discipleship. When these factors are overlayed, 4 broad models of church discipleship are identified.
Here’s how Daniel Im describes the four church types:
1. Copy Cat Church
The Copy Cat Church is convinced that they are only one model away from breakthrough. They believe that maturity and growth are a result of pushing the right buttons and offering the right classes in the right order. As a result, they focus on creating a singular defined environment for everyone in their church to take a formulaic set of steps or classes in. Unfortunately, to the church, the leadership seems scattered and indifferent since nothing lasts longer than a few months—or at most—a year.
2. Silver Bullet Church
The Silver Bullet Church coordinates their ministries, implements a well-defined change management strategy, and contextualizes language so that their discipleship pathway makes sense to their people. While this model may seem slick and efficient, one of the glaring issues is that they see disciples as widgets. At the heart of this model is the belief that discipleship is programmatic, so maturity is a result of getting to the end of a set process.
3. Hippie Church
The Hippie Church believes that discipleship can happen anywhere and anytime. This is because they see discipleship as being deeply personal and not formulaic in any way, shape, or form. However, they give way too much credit to the average church member. The church leadership assumes that as long as they teach the right things and have the right beliefs, people will just naturally grow and mature. As a result, there’s a lack of measurement and intentionality—everything is good as long as it works for you.
4. Intentional Church
The Intentional Church is organized and very involved in creating environments where church members can take their next step toward Christ. However, instead of leaving maturity totally up to the individual and hoping that sermons and programs will guide them in the right direction, the Intentional Church has guardrails and a moving sidewalk that their members can choose to use if they want.
I found this presentation of discipleship models incredibly helpful. I easily grasped where my church was and equipped me with tools to consider how I could bring a greater level of accountability and intentionality in my leadership.
Guiding is what Daniel Im does so well in No Silver Bullets. Im draws upon his experiences, illustrations and research to offer ideas, does so by leading the reader to reach conclusions that will work in their unique context. This has been done really well. The book is as relevant for the simplest of home churches as for mega-churches. This is no small feat.
No Silver Bullets is the handbook for church life. The book doesn’t view discipleship as a component of the church but asks how people are being led to greater Christ-likeness as they engage with the life of the church. Therefore, it is best suited for church leadership, especially if the entire leadership team worked through the book together. The book includes exercises which would be best done together.
(Note: Even as the pastor of a simple church I found the exercises helpful. There wasn’t always a direct correlation between some of the exercises and my context, however, the content was often open enough to be adapted, or provide food for thought on the challenges we face.)
No Silver Bullets is also great for individual reading. One thing is clear, as much as the book helps to identify church-wide discipleship strategies, discipling others is done by people (just think of the sage to guide transformation, and maturity to missionary). I’ve recommended this book to friends who I know just have a passion for discipling others because I know they will benefit from it.
If you don’t own this book, you need to get a copy of it.
Favourite Quotes from No Silver Bullets
‘A church that focuses on direction is one that sees maturity as an ongoing process without an endpoint this side of eternity. Maturity is first measured by the direction the disciple is moving – toward Christ or away from Christ – and then how far along they are in that journey.’ p. 23.
‘That’s when I discovered ministry to the few is as important to ministry to the many… Instead of seeing every opportunity as a blessing from the Lord for Kingdom impact, I was judging effectiveness by attendance. My metrics were way off.’ p. 43.
‘There is this one phrase that he [Lesslie Newbigin] says about the church that has consumed the way I view discipleship and community life. He says that the church is to be a sign, instrument, and foretaste of the kingdom of God.’ p. 104.
‘In my experience pastoring, leading and consulting with churches, I’ve discovered that when you focus on developing mature disciples, you do not necessarily find yourself with an army of missionaries. However, when you focus on developing missionary disciples, you will always get mature disciples.’ p. 133.
Daniel Im blogs at danielim.com.