By T. J. VinCross
Lincoln, NE: AdventSource (2020) Paperback edition, 251 pages
Reviewed by CHARITY STONE
Deep Calling: On Being and Growing Disciples describes how to nurture and grow disciples of Jesus and what it looks like to sit at Jesus’s feet as a disciple. Tara J. VinCross, who holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Discipleship and Biblical Spirituality from Andrews Theological Seminary, introduces her work by saying, “These things I have experienced, and the presence of God, in the midst of these experiences, has changed me” (p. 13). VinCross testifies to how God has continued to show up in her life, demonstrates how disciples can respond to God’s calling through renewing spiritual disciplines, and shares how to lead others in answering God’s call for connection and a more profound discipleship experience.
By sharing her ministry experience, VinCross, who now works as the Azure Hills Church’s senior pastor in Grand Terrace, CA, has given a generous gift to the Christian community. A disciple of Jesus and maker of disciples, VinCross shares the goals and “framework for the discipleship process”: 1) provide an opportunity for connection with God, 2) develop community, 3) inspire a life of purpose, 4) emphasize lifelong transformation, and 5) simplify discipleship practice (p. 28). VinCross shares pathways to grow in connection with God through what she describes as “Eight Calls to a Deeper Life:” devotion, prayer, rest, community, healing, witness, service, and blessing. VinCross’ thesis is that disciples are called to experience God and His transforming power through these eight calls—His calls—on His followers’ lives.
She reveals the design of the discipleship process: “We want wholistic, grounded disciples of Jesus, proportionate in their knowledge, identity, and action” (p. 95–96). VinCross’s work drives home that the disciple’s knowledge of God is not just cognitive knowledge of the Bible; it is to intimately know Jesus Christ as the Living Word. She makes the case that a disciple’s learning with Jesus was experiential; disciples grow from knowing, being, and doing (p. 99). Jesus called His disciples to follow Him and get to know Him; He taught them through being in His presence; He sent them to do the same. As they experience journeying with other believers in community, disciples have many opportunities to become more secure in their identity in Christ. VinCross iterates that the discipleship process is composed of knowing, being, and doing in community. In community and in response to the eight calls, disciples experience a strengthening identity and active purpose. Discipleship is the journey of a lifetime.
Deep Calling is easy to keep reading, with captivating stories and illustrations throughout. This book is full of practical ideas on being a disciple and developing discipleship in others. Each chapter culminates in thought-stirring discussion questions. This book is theologically rich with spiritual concepts that saturate the soul.
VinCross provides a strong basis for the principles she sets forth. Several illuminating applications for Christian leaders can be drawn from her book. Often, those in ministry can mistakenly substitute serving God for sitting with God. This book holistically weaves abiding with Jesus and faithfully serving Him. Christian leaders can apply these principles in their own lives by following Jesus’ deep calls to know who He is, be in His presence, and serve with Him. By setting up regular times in the calendar to connect with God throughout the rhythms of life, leaders demonstrate that intimately knowing God is what discipleship is all about. By meditating on God’s word, leaders convey that God’s character is worthy of deep reflection. By pouring out their hearts to God and listening to Him, leaders show that being in God’s presence and communicating with Him is not one-sided. By resting weekly on the Sabbath and each day in God’s peace, leaders live the message that their worth and identity is ultimately found in resting in the love and care of their Creator, not in carrying out work. By journeying with others in community through intentional fellowship, leaders model that Christianity is meant to be lived in community. By seeking personal emotional healing through working with a counselor, leaders model that both God and humans participate in the healing process. By testifying of God’s goodness in their lives, even amid struggles, leaders reveal the cost and joys of being a disciple of Jesus. By serving their families and others in need, leaders reveal the servant leadership of the Savior. By pronouncing blessings on their own family and fold, leaders reveal God’s desire towards His children and set an example for others to speak truth into each other’s lives.
Christian leaders who make disciples can apply these concepts to their discipleship ministry by setting up regular times to connect with the people they are discipling. This allows them to get to know each other better and provides mentorship opportunities for disciples to see how leaders interact. Christian leaders can create opportunities to invite those whom they are discipling to join in serving others. Ultimately, disciplemakers are to send disciples out with blessing and confidence to lift Jesus, serve and heal alongside others, and make disciples of all nations.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a desire to be in God’s presence more fully and who has a commitment to teach others how to live authentically within community. Deep Calling: On Being and Growing Disciples is practical to the real-world ministry of disciple-making, relevant for church leaders looking for a deeper connection with Jesus, and spiritually satisfying to read.
CHARITY STONE is a graduate student in pastoral ministry at the Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA. She has a passion for authentically and abundantly living, healing, and growing in community with other Christ-followers in Reading, PA, where she lives with her husband, Tom, and their two young children.