11.27.17

Dhati Lewis’ “Among Wolves” (Book Review)

The more I get to know Dhati Lewis the more I love him. Dhati serves as the lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Dhati also serves as the BLVD Experience Team Director with the Send Network of the North American Mission Board. For most of his Christian life–beginning with his time as a young Christian through his years as a church-planting pastor–Dhati has been passionate about making disciples in the urban context. In many ways, his new book, Among Wolves: Disciple-Making in the City, crystallizes that passion.

Some time back, Dhati along with a group of other young Christians, set out with a vision for making their generation (this generation!) the last generation of urban Christians who would feel the need to leave their contexts for sound discipleship. They’ve set out to fashion a Christian expression that “gets them” both theologically and contextually. Blueprint Church derives its name from this very desire, to be blueprint for a contextually-rooted, theologically-sound urban expression of Christian faith.

Among Wolves offers a primer on making disciples in the local church. Lewis meditates on the Gospel of Matthew and draws lessons from our Lord’s disciple-making and teaching. He argues for eight movements in the Gospel of Matthew and uses those movements to give us eleven chapters on making disciples. Those include:

  1. Movement #1: Vision from Burden (Described)
  2. Movement #1: Vision from Burden (Applied)
  3. Movement #2: Establishing Family
  4. Movement #3: Entering the Mission
  5. Movement #4: (Part 1): Framing Disciple-Making
  6. Movement #4 (Part 2): The Importance of the Sermon on the Mount
  7. Movement #5 (Part 1): A Call to Disciple-Making–A Call to Labor
  8. Movement #5 (Part 2): Among Wolves
  9. Movement #6: Training from Service
  10. Movement #7: Mobilizing Corporately for Mission
  11. Movement #8: Unleashing Disciple-Makers

Along the way, Among Wolves treats us to a high-level commentary on sections of Matthew and a primer on leading the church to emphasize disciple-making as the ministry of the church rather than a ministry.

The season pastor will find the themes of the book quite familiar. They may also find it a good resource for reading with younger pastors and aspiring pastors in their congregation.

The new pastor will find here a vision for local church ministry that’s both compelling and do-able by God’s grace. Lewis avoids any “slick” presentations of pragmatic programs and focuses instead on the “meat and potatoes” of biblical ministry. In this book, the main thing remains the main thing. For that, I’m deeply grateful.

For me, the most compelling chapter in the book was chapter 3, “Movement #2: Establishing Family.” This is Dhati Lewis at his best, giving us an inviting vision for family nature of the local church. He writes:

Of all the word pictures and metaphors used to describe the church, one stands out above the rest: family. In fact, it is so much of the essence of the church that it cannot even properly be called a metaphor. Metaphors describe what the church is like or similar to–light, flock, field, building–but family is not metaphorical; it is a literal description of the phenomena we know as church.

The church is not like family; it is family.

God is literally our Father, Jesus is literally our elder brother, and we are literally brothers and sisters in Christ. Family is the primary way the early church identified themselves. This can be seen by the fact that the word disciple, so prevalent in the early part of the New Testament, disappears after the book of Acts. It is replaced by the term brother in the rest of the Bible. Family dominates the self-understanding of the early church. (pp. 46-47; emphasis in the original)

Lewis wants to see our churches be the families God intends and not spiritual orphanages. To this I yell, “Amen!” Chapter 3 is worth the price of the book!

I give Among Wolves 4/5 rocking chairs. It’s perfect for reading time on the porch or stoop. If I longed for one thing more from the book, it would be more of Lewis’ reflection on the city and more engagement with the specifics of making disciples in that context. It’s there in parts, so I hope his next book takes a full-on look at those dynamics. Pick up Among Wolves and be encouraged!

Thabiti Anyabwile
Thabiti Anyabwile serves as a pastor of Anacostia River Church (Washington DC). He is the happy husband of Kristie and the adoring father of two daughters and one son. Holler at him on Twitter: @ThabitiAnyabwil

C’mon Up!

  • Louis Love

    Thanks for the review and many thanks for the book Dhati. Looking forward to reading it, especially since our recent move to an urban context.

    It just went on my Christmas list.

    • Thabiti Anyabwile

      Man, I think it will be a great primer for the saints at New Life as you head to North Chicago/Waukegan. It’ll be a good way of refocusing on both being a family and reaching others for the Lord.