The Bonhoeffer Project
“All who are called to salvation are called to discipleship, no exceptions, no excuses.”
In 2014, sixty-eight-year-old Bill Hull and thirty-four-year-old Brandon Cook decided to join forces to solve a problem and start a movement. The problem was that the predominate gospel being taught in the American church made it almost impossible to make Christ like disciples. They determined the gospel Americana, is that you can become a Christian but don’t necessarily follow Jesus. This divided salvation into two-parts, conversion and discipleship. Conversion is necessary, but discipleship is optional. This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “Cheap Grace.” This gospel made popular in mid 1800s remains the norm, it has become a cultural artifact. This has led to the gospel being replaced by the Plan of Salvation. It has created a difficultly for church leaders who understand the problem, because now they must persuade those who have been converted into taking up the option on their salvation contract. The gospel being preached today is focused on self, is centered on forgiveness only, prosperity, and primarily asks the question, “How am I doing?” This is not the life that Christ has called us into. A Christ like disciple lives for others, is engaged in mission, takes up their cross and puts aside selfish ways.
As Bonhoeffer said, “Jesus was a man for others, we as his disciples then are to live for others.” That is why it is almost impossible to make Christ-like disciples from our non-discipleship gospel. Because the gospel you preach and live determines the disciple you make. Hull and Cook decided to start small and think big. The decision was to work with “fourth soil” leaders. The fourth soil leaders would yield a 30, 60, and 100% increase. A movement must begin with men and women who have been changed. That is why they established cohorts of 5-8 leaders in 2015. In 2015 Bill and Brandon led two cohorts. In 2016 they and newly trained leaders led five cohorts. 2017 increased to 14 cohorts, 2018 has increased to 25 cohorts. The Bonhoeffer faculty and leaders are trusting God for 56 cohorts in 2019. What has caused this increase? God is doing a good work through the cohorts. In one year a cohort will hold ten meetings. Each meeting is four hours; between meetings the leaders work on projects that are given. The first third of the year is focused on changing their minds, this is the WHY of things, the cohort focus on the gospel itself. The goal is to have them wrestle with it in their context and adopt a gospel that includes discipleship as a natural part of what it means to be saved. The middle third of the year the focused on changing their hearts, this is built around the definition of a disciple and how to go and make disciples, how would you know one if you made one? This is the WHAT. The last third of the year is the HOW, developing a plan that the leader believes in, will fit their context and has a chance to work.
It is expected that it will take four to five years to actually create the environment and infrastructure that will enable the local congregation or ministry to become a disciple making movement. Therefore we provide additional year cohorts. In year two the leader can return to a cohort and become an apprentice coach. Another option for alumni is the Take It 2 Their Church, a process where one of our faculty works with them to adopt the plan among the churches’ leaders. A third option is the issue of a satisfied soul. Many of the leaders are too restless and not grounded enough to be disciple making leaders. As you saw above, our cohorts deal with WHY, WHAT, and HOW. Now the WHO has been added, what is God doing in the leader? This is based around the reality that if your deconstructing your gospel, deconstructing your ministry infrastructure, you, the leader are also being deconstructed. This will be an added emphasis in 2019.
There are many ways to enhance and develop the work. The major new method that the leadership team now desires to add is an Online School. The operational goal is to make the Bonhoeffer Project available to any person on earth who has the desire to do it and the basic internet tools to join a cohort.