It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Joey Bonifacio is the senior pastor of Victory Fort. Bonifacio, a Christ-centered, Bible-based, Spirit-filled, disciple-making, mission-driven church that meets in Bonifacio Global City in Greater Metro Manila. Joey serves on the board of directors of Every Nation Ministries in the Philippines and is one of the key proponents of the Ephesians 4:12 Strategy for Church Growth. He is also the founder of VictoryBiz, a ministry to the business community. He is the author of The Promise No One Wants and The Mystery of the Empty Stomach. Joey and his wife, Marie, have three sons–Joseph, David, and Joshua.
Visit the author’s website.
Christ’s instructions to His disciples were very clear: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Yet, when asked for a one-word response to the question: “What is the business that the church represents,” few people can respond. Unlike Starbucks and coffee, Toyota and cars, or Rolex and watches, the church is having a hard time figuring out what its “one word” is. This book will direct people back to the mandate of Christ for His church—discipleship.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (September 4, 2012)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Just like lego
The story of LEGO cannot be told without the account of its amazing founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter who lived in the town of Billund in Denmark. He started his trade by making
household products from wood. In 1924 when his two sons, Godtfred and Karl, tried to light their oven at home, they ended up burning down the family home and the whole business with it. Flammable wood inven- tories and playful children don’t mix very well. Thankfully the children were saved, but Ole Kirk’s commercial future looked bleak.1
In less than a decade twin tragedies would pay the carpenter another visit. In 1932, as the Great Depression worsened in the United States, not even far-flung Billund and Ole Kirk’s business would be spared by the crisis. Christian Humberg wrote in his book 50 Years of the LEGO Brick that Ole Kirk “had to let his last employees go. His wife died soon after- ward, the carpenter was left on his own, with four sons and not nearly enough orders.”2
Jonathan Bender, author of LEGO: A Love Story, writes of the same adversities the carpenter encountered:
At forty-one years of age, he was a widower living in the largest house in Billund, Denmark—a house that he soon might not be able to afford. The Great Depression meant that demand had dried up for stools, Christmas tree bases, and ironing boards that were the trademarks of his carpentry and joinery shop.3
But like many success stories these challenges would prove to be serendipitous. It was also in 1932 when Ole Kirk made the decision to
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manufacture wooden toys. Daniel Lipkowitz, author of The LEGO Book: The Amazing LEGO Story, writes:
In 1932, with the worldwide Great Depression threatening to close his carpentry shop for good, Ole Kirk turned his skills to creating a range of toys for children. These beautifully made playthings included yo-yos, wooden blocks, pull-along animals, and vehicles of all kinds.4
His best seller was a pull-along wooden duck. “Ole Kirk guessed that even in times of financial strife, people would still be willing to buy wooden toys for their children.”5 In a matter of a few years business was good again, and Ole was able to build a new factory. More significantly this initial foray into toy manufacturing would become his family’s core business more than fifty years later.
Yet in 1942 misfortune struck again. Another fire burned down the new factory, and “all the production patterns were lost.”6 At the same time Europe was facing an escalating world war. Both home products and toys were not in demand, and Ole Kirk’s business wearily trudged through those years.
However, five years later serendipity would once again bring about a historical discovery. Humberg writes, “After the Second World War, high quality wood was in short supply, and plastic gradually began to domi- nate the world market.”7 With very little money he “finally took action; in 1947, Ole Kirk was the first Danish toy manufacturer to buy a plastic injection moulding machine—with borrowed money.”8 With Ole Kirk’s newly acquired experience with plastics, the toy company soon would design, manufacture, and perfect the LEGO brick.
A Christian Heritage
For years Ole Kirk experienced financial as well as other difficulties before his real breakthrough came. Only one thing would keep him going—his faith. Unknown to many, Ole Kirk Christiansen, the founder of LEGO, was a follower of Christ.
In their book The Ultimate LEGO Book authors David Pickering, Nick
Turpin, and Caryn Jenner wrote that Ole Kirk’s faith helped him through
Just Like LEGO
personal crises, including the death of his wife in 1932, which left him with four young sons to look after.9 He and his family were members of a Danish Christian movement called Indre Mission, and even into the 1950s, when the LEGO company was still a small business, almost everyone would meet together for a short prayer before work.10,11
Jonathan Bender, alluding to the years in 1932 when Ole Kirk’s prob- lems were at their worst, writes of how he responded to those challenges as a Christian:
That year, Ole Kirk ’s life was at a crossroads. His first wife, Kirstine, had died giving birth to their fourth son, Gerhardt. “Life is a gift, but also a challenge,” Ole Kirk, a devout Christian, is said to have remarked around that time.12
The fact that Ole Kirk Christiansen was a Christian is incidental to why this book is titled The LEGO Principle. It is, however, a good story to know. This book is titled as such because it is all about connecting— connecting to God and connecting to others. It is what Jesus and the Bible often describe as becoming a disciple or a follower of Christ.
Open any LEGO box, and you’ll find a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. There are red, blue, green, brown, yellow, orange, white, black, gray, and other color pieces. There are fat, flat, rectangular, round, square, thick, thin, long, and short pieces.
Though there is a wide assortment of LEGO pieces, they are all designed to do one thing: connect. To connect means to attach, to asso- ciate, and to bond. LEGO bricks and pieces are designed with studs on top that interlock with the bottom of each piece. While LEGO bricks are so varied, they all have one purpose: to connect at the top and at the bottom.
Just like LEGO pieces that connect at the top and at the bottom, dis- cipleship is about connecting to God and with one another. This is the LEGO Principle: Connect first to God and then to one another.
It does not matter what one’s skin color, social background, age, or denomination is—God designed us all to connect to Him and then to one another. Jesus said the foremost commandment is about connecting with God: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
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your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest com- mandment.”13 Then He said, “The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”14
These two commandments combine to become the LEGO Principle: Connect to God. Connect to one another. This to Jesus was what it meant to be His disciple.
Mathetes is the Bible’s Greek word for disciple. It primarily meant to be a pupil or a student. But unlike our present-day meaning of the words pupil and student, which we tend to think of as one who goes to school to learn a subject such as algebra or biology, the word disciple had a much deeper meaning in Jesus’s day. It meant to be a follower of someone’s teaching.
Thus the word disciple meant someone who closely followed a teacher and had a relationship with that person. It literally meant the sharing of life lessons that were fully intended to be lived out in day-to-day life. More than just learning in a class, to be a disciple meant to have a rela- tionship with the teacher. Jesus took this popular cultural practice of His time and used it as the basis to connect us to God and to one another.
Similarly the word follower today means something completely dif- ferent than it did back then. Depending on what part of the world you come from, a follower can mean anything and everything from a blind adherent to a groupie or someone who lives on other people’s tweets.
Like a Journey
Discipleship pundit Bill Hull writes, “Ship added to the end of disciple means ‘the state of ’ or ‘contained in.’ So discipleship means the state of being a disciple. In fact, the term discipleship has a nice ongoing feel—a sense of journey, the idea of becoming a disciple rather than having been made a disciple.”15
Thus the word discipleship meant to follow God while being contained in a lifelong journey of faith with Jesus and His other followers—to con- nect to God and to one another. In Matthew Jesus explains the essence of this journey.
Just Like LEGO
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.16
According to Jesus, making disciples or discipleship involves two things:
• Baptizing people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy
• Teaching them to obey everything He commanded
First, let’s take a closer look at what it means to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Part of the problem in defining baptism is that, depending on one’s Christian background and denomi- nation, it can take on a variety of meanings. To avoid going into a long dissertation on what the sacrament of baptism is, allow me to go straight to the heart and spirit of the practice. The best way to do that is to see what baptism meant to Jesus.
Immersed into a divine relationship
In Matthew 3:15 we see how Jesus went out of His way to be baptized by His cousin John. His reason: “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” When He was baptized He was immersed, submerged, and soaked. Every part of Him was dedicated and consecrated as He pub- licly identified Himself with God.
What was more significant was not the actual ritual but the result of
Jesus’s baptism. The following passage tells us what happened:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”17
The lego Principle
Here we find a picture of what baptism is to Jesus: to be immersed into the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Author Rick Warren explains this relationship in his book The Purpose Driven Life:
[God’s] very nature is relational, and he identifies himself in family terms: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Trinity is God’s rela- tionship to himself.18
In Jesus’s baptism we see that being a disciple is all about immersing oneself into a divine relationship. To us it is an open invitation to become
a part of this relationship, eternity’s very first “small group”—a relation- ship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At the end of the day disciple- ship is a journey into a relationship with God and His people.
Immersed into the family of God
Jesus further said that we were to be baptized or immersed into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In biblical times a person’s name described his identity and character, and still today it denotes one’s heritage and ancestry—his family. Thus to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is to be immersed into the identity, character, and family of God.
Although I don’t believe it is necessary for one to be baptized in the ocean, it paints a good picture of baptism. It brings to light the reality of how infinitely big God is and how small we are, that we are unable to contain God and instead every part of us is to be immersed, soaked, and saturated by Him.
To be Jesus’s disciple is to be immersed in a relationship with the Trinity. It came at the cost of one of its members giving His life so we could become a part of the family. Discipleship is relationship. David Platt emphasizes the same thought in his book Radical:
Disciple making is not about a program or an event but about a relationship. As we share the gospel, we impart life, and this is the essence of making disciples. Sharing the life of Christ. This is why making disciples is not just about going, but it also includes baptizing.19
Just Like LEGO
The Second Half of the Definition
According to Jesus, the second half of discipleship is “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.”20 Undoubtedly, teaching is a vital component of discipleship. However, more than just teaching, Jesus’s real emphasis is obedience. He said, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.” And what did Jesus mean by obeying His command? He said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”21
Isn’t it amazing how we see obedience to God’s commands as fol- lowing rules while Jesus sees them from the standpoint of a relationship? And what was one of Jesus’s foremost commands? “This is my command: Love each other.”22
To Jesus, obeying His commands meant loving one another. Discipleship is relationship. He also said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”23 To Jesus, obeying His commands was all about rela- tionship. And how will the world know that we are Jesus’s disciples? “All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”24
The world will know that we are His disciples by the quality of our relationship with Him and with one another.
Not Enough to Just Know
What makes Christianity unique among all other religions is it teaches people how to grow in their relationship with God and with others. The goal of teaching is not merely to increase our knowledge of divine prin- ciples, rules, laws, and things to do but to grow in our relationship with God and one another.
If discipleship is just learning more without deepening our relation- ship with God and one another, then we run the risk of being rebuked by Jesus, just as He did the religious people of His day when He said:
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that tes- tify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.25
In today’s language it might have sounded like this, “You keep going to your Bible studies and meetings, thinking that by doing so you’re getting
The lego Principle
closer to Me. Yet you resist living a life in relationship with Me.” The idea behind all the teaching and learning is that the deepening of our understanding of God will result in a stronger and deeper relationship with Him. John Wesley warned about learning and not growing in rela- tionship: “Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.”26
Peter was one of Jesus’s closest disciples. He was also one of the first of His disciples to publicly deny his relationship with Jesus. What did Jesus ask Peter after he denied Him? “Do you love me?”27
Jesus did not ask him if he had been coming to church or how many Bible studies he had missed. He did not even confront him and say, “Why did you deny Me?” The question He asked Peter was simply, “Do you still love me?” Jesus knew love was more powerful than just being held accountable.
Clearly to Jesus discipleship is all about relationship. To Him the very foundation and basis of ministry to people is our relationship with Him. Notice what He told Peter after He asked him, “Do you love me?” He told him, “Feed my sheep.”28
Our ability to love others and give of ourselves to people comes only as a fruit of our understanding and appreciation of our relationship with God. John tells us that: “We love because he first loved us.”29
To Jesus, teaching was just the vehicle to help people learn how to love God and others. Relationship was the end goal, not teaching. Discipleship is relationship!
The Teachings of Paul
Next to Jesus the second most important teacher in the New Testament was the apostle Paul. Acts 18:11 tells us, “Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.” That time of teaching was spent in Corinth. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we find that his teaching was no different from Jesus’s. He warns us, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”30
This profound seven-word admonition is another way of saying that knowledge by itself will make you arrogant and proud. The second half of the statement tells us what is better than just learning new things—love. Love and relationships are what builds up.
Just Like LEGO
There is no doubt that Paul’s foundational teaching in Corinth is about Christ and His cross. A central component of this focused on love and relationships. He taught that while you can learn to have the wisdom and the power of the Spirit, the real key is love. He writes, “And now I will show you the most excellent way.”31
What to Paul was the most excellent way? Love. In the succeeding chapter he explains what love is. He exhorts the Corinthian church that love is preeminent over spiritual gifts and acts of service. Let me para- phrase Paul’s words this way: “Great that you speak in tongues. Awesome when you can prophesy. Amazing that you are a deep thinker and can fathom the mysteries of life. Fantastic that you have faith that can move mountains. Wonderful that you take care of the poor. But if you don’t have love, you really don’t have anything.”
He caps it by saying: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”32 In his book The Making of a Christian Leader, the late Ted Engstrom can only agree with Paul’s teaching:
The Bible considers our relationship more important than our accomplishment. God will get His work done! He does not demand that we accomplish great things; He demands that we strive for excellence in our relationships.33
As a new Christian reading this in 1987, these three sentences trans- formed the way I read the Bible and how I lived out my faith in God. Discipleship is not a program. It is all about relationships, first with God
then with others.
Paul, like Jesus, also taught the Corinthians that ministry is rooted in relationships.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.34
In this passage Paul explains that ministry is all about reconciling people to God. Reconciliation is a theological term that primarily deals
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with relationships. Like Jesus, Paul taught that ministry is about restoring people into a relationship with God. As they grow in that relationship, they too will be reconciled to others.
Paul not only taught that his way of making disciples is rooted in rela- tionships, he also demonstrated it. He told the Corinthians, “I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children.”35
In this verse we see how Paul admonished, adjusted, and held disciples accountable. He did it in the context of relationship as one does his own children. Paul’s brand of teaching was not in set classes but in relation- ships. Later in the same letter Paul wrote, “Therefore I urge you to imi- tate me.”36
More than just teaching them, he said, “Imitate me.” To imitate someone means you have to be close to him. It is in up-close relationships that one can best be made into a disciple and make disciples. Francis Frangipane put it this way: “While the doctrines of Christianity can be taught, Christlikeness can only be inspired.”37
An Unforgettable Reminder
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul dealt with the sacrament of Communion. When he taught on the topic, Paul merely passed on what Jesus had instructed:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remem- brance of me.”38
What was the instruction that Jesus and Paul left to the disciples? “Remember me.” To remember means to not forget. Jesus was saying, “Don’t forget what I did for you. It is the ultimate expression of My love for you.”
In teaching the sacrament of Communion, Jesus and Paul instituted the simplest and most memorable of mnemonic devices—the bread and
Just Like LEGO
the cup. Both are common things that we encounter daily when we eat. The devices were brilliant, timeless, and hard to forget.
The genius of it all is that people don’t often forget to eat; they usually do so multiple times a day. Jesus knew that even when we forget Him, we would not forget to eat. This way every time we eat we can take a moment to be reminded of our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Every meal becomes an opportunity to partake of His grace and com- mune with Him, a reminder that we are sinners saved by grace. As such we have the divine privilege of having a relationship with Him.
A few years ago I was asked to teach church leaders in China about discipleship. Risking their lives to hear fresh insights on discipleship, people from all over the nation came. It was inspiring to see these pre- cious saints so hungry to learn.
After three days of equipping leaders, the feedback was very positive. On the third day I realized it wasn’t just a lesson to them. As the meeting drew to a close, the leaders administered Communion to the more than
a hundred people who were there. Communion was not the typical cer- emony of passing around itty-bitty elements, singing, and praying—all in about ten to fifteen minutes.
It was an extended thirty to forty minutes of sharing fist-sized pieces of bread and big Styrofoam cups filled with red juice. For a good ten min- utes each person silently sat and recalled the love of Christ as He bore our sins in His broken body and spilled His blood to wash us clean. Many of them wept.
After this time of reflection, the people quietly walked to the other tables offering to pray. The prayer concerns ranged from persecution from family, friends, and the government to the more serious threat of being pregnant with a second child, as the one-child policy is still enforced in parts of China to this day.
After prayers and a time of encouragement, the people moved to another table and began to pray again. Some laughed, some wept, and some just talked and prayed. That day it became clear why they have received the message of “discipleship is relationship” so well. They live it.
It’s no wonder the church in China continues to grow at breakneck speed. As the London Times reports: “Christianity in China is booming. With 100 million believers, far more than the 74 million-member
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communist party, Jesus is a force to be reckoned with in the People’s
The Times’ estimate is not very far from that of other Christian orga- nizations such as the US Center for World Missions. This current growth trend shows that China will soon surpass the United States to become the nation with the largest concentration of Christians.
What used to be church growth among the peasantry in outlying rural areas has now spread into China’s cities. Hong Kong’s Sunday Morning Post reports of a church that meets in the very capital of China, Beijing.
Attended by a well-to-do and educated crowd—among them university lecturers, doctors, lawyers, NGO workers and even Communist Party members—Shouwang has come to symbolize
a new breed of young urban Christians who are no longer con- tented to practice their faith in secret.”40
This is the power of discipleship through relationships, and it works everywhere—in religious Manila, communist China, and metropolitan Manhattan.
Just Like LEGO
Christians commonly say, “Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship,” and yet all too often behave otherwise. Just like LEGO bricks, our life is about connecting to the top with God and connecting with others. Discipleship is not about being converted and converting others, nor is it about cramming our heads with information about the Bible. It is about rela- tionship, one that expresses itself in loving God and loving others. The primary reason we read the Bible is to know the God of the Bible.
Here’s how Andy Stanley and Bill Willits put it in their book
“A curriculum or a series of classes may be helpful, but they shouldn’t be considered the determinants for spiritual growth. They may help people become better informed about their faith, but they don’t automatically lead people to maturity. . . . At the risk of oversimplifying, it seems clear that Jesus is saying that loving God and loving your neighbor is what it all comes down to. . . . These two activities give evi- dence of a person’s spiritual growth and maturity.” 41
Bonlfaclo-LEGO PrinCiple 1ndd 14