Book Review: The Ways of the Alongsider by Bill Mowry
The Ways of the Alongsider by Bill Mowry is an excellent tool for discipling those who will learn to disciple others. It can be used as a good foundation for building a disciple-making ministry. It is well-designed to fit our culture. Does it cover everything that is needed in discipleship? No, but in ten lessons, it gives a sufficient guidance to encourage a new disciple to disciple others.
The concept of the Alongsider comes from the word that means encouraging someone to come alongside another and help them in their journey to Jesus. The manual provides four Foundational lessons. The first lesson parallels the Great Commandment to love God and describes the “Way of the Amateur.” Just as the amateur does what he does because he loves it, not because he is getting paid, so the Christian should consider himself an amateur and just love discipling other people. That discipleship is motivated by love. Love for the Lord and love for others.
There are three significant aspects of this lesson. The first significant aspect is a chart that illustrates the difference between traditional approaches of ministry and “the way of the alongsider.” (p. 17). In the second significant aspect, Mowry uses VIM to assess three elements for personal change. The V stands are Vision – “Do I have a picture or vision for change?” The I stands for Intentional – “Do I desire change? Have I decided to be intentional about change?” And thirdly, M stands for Means – “Do I have the means (tools, practical helps, training) for change?” (p. 18) The third significant aspect is a list of pointed questions, which rate a person’s effectiveness as an alongsider. Personal truthfulness would reveal needed spiritual change.
The next three lessons describe how this is put into action as the “Way of Life,” the “Way of Intentionality,” and the “Way of Prayer.” If the foundation of the disciple’s life is not built on his relationship with the Lord, he will become an emotionally driven salesman or a toothless Pharisee. It is the relationship with God that will carry him through in discipling others.
Part Two describes the Skills needed to build on the Foundation. He begins with two lessons on the importance of relationships and then two lessons on the importance of the Word. These are followed by two lessons on principles for purposeful conversations and how to recruit people to live with those around them in order to reach them. These seem like basic, very basic, lessons, until one considers the culture around us. We are a culture that is more plugged into an iPod, then plugged into communicating well in relationships. This is followed by nine appendices on mechanics for discipling those who will disciple others. These are great as weekly explanations that can be highlighted based on the strengths and weaknesses of the disciple. Finally, there is a Leader’s lesson outline guide for each of the book lessons so that those who are new to discipling others can have a guide that they could follow.
I have used the Navigator Colossians 2:7 track a few times and greatly love that series. However, it was written 60 years ago and the culture has changed. I would encourage someone to go through that series, even today, but most of the culture is not there. The culture is more at the level of “The Ways of the Alongsider.” It targets the strengths and weaknesses of the culture today in order to reach a new generation.
I’d suggest this material, along with familiarization with Real Life Discipleship by Jim Putman in developing the goal of raising up spiritual Parents. Don’t put it off; do it now.