What Does It Mean To Be A Disciple?
The term Christian is used only three times in the New Testament, while disciple is used over 280 times! Clearly the term disciple is the preferred term for the New Testament writers.
But what does it mean to be a disciple? The word disciple is the Greek mathetes. This word was used by Greek philosophers to describe someone who was a part of a fellowship of students (e.g. the disciples of Socrates). The Jewish rabbis also used this term to refer to a student who studied diligently their teachings (e.g. the disciples of Gamaliel).
So just what is a disciple? A disciple is a growing follower of Christ, who is learning and applying the truth of the Word, which leads to greater intimacy with God, thus resulting in life change.
Five unmistakable marks of a disciple. A disciple is one who:
1. Abides in the Word
2. Dies to self-will
3. Loves as Jesus loves
4. Abides in Christ
5. Bears fruit that remains
Mature followers of Christ willing to do whatever it takes to further God's Kingdom.
"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." (Matthew 28:19-20)
Mature disciples evangelize. Every biblical church is passionate about making the gospel known to the world. Mature disciples intuitively tell others about the Jesus who has transformed their own lives.
A disciple-making church is never void of leaders. A disciple-making church produces leaders who produce leaders.
It transforms the church dynamic. Many churches suffer with a church full of immature followers of Christ.
It transforms households. Many families are made up of husbands and wives that are church attenders but have never been disciple. Because they have never grown to maturity spiritually these couples live a life of carnality often leading to divorce. For those who do stay together and raise children, their children are void of parents who nurture them spiritually.
Disciple making allows the congregation to take ownership and empowers the laity to care for one another. Immature believers concerned that the church isn't "meeting my needs."
The term "disciple" simply means "learner." A disciple is someone who learns the principles and practices of Jesus from someone else, see those principles lived out by the disciple and chooses to embrace those principles and live out the disciplers practices. Those principles and practices are then passed on to others. If a church is to be a disciple-making church, making disciples that make disciples, she must first embrace the following ideals.
1. Disciple-making is relational - "I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."
Disciples are made as a disciple-maker befriends and mentors a disciple.
Definition of a disciple making group: A group of twelve or less being discipled by a disciple whose goal and responsibility is to see each person he/she is discipling become a mature follower of Jesus Christ who will then make disciples.
1. Is fully aware that he/she is responsible for the nurture of, spiritual maturation of, protection of, and ongoing shepherding of those being discipled.
2. Never lords over the disciple as the disciple is to instill the principles and practices of a disciple's lifestyle without creating a legalist.
3. Models the principles, practices, and teachings he/she is espousing.
1. Is fully aware that becoming a mature disciple will demand a change of lifestyle and much sacrifice.
2. Has counted the cost of discipleship and is willing to do whatever it takes to follow Christ wholeheartedly and grow in Christ to full maturity.
3. Has given the disciple-maker permission to hold them accountable and speak wise counsel to them.
4. Is committed to someday, when ready to do so, be a disciple maker.
2. Disciple-making is a stage by stage process -
"because you are slow to learn."
"time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant."
I. BIBLE ENGAGEMENT/REFLECTION ON THE SCRIPTURES
II. OBEYING GOD AND DENYING SELF
III. SERVING GOD AND OTHERS
IV. SHARING CHRIST
V. EXERCISING FAITH
VI. SEEKING GOD
VII. BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS
VIII. UNASHAMED TRANSPARENCY
8 Guided Principles for "The Master Plan of Evangelism"
- The initial objective of Jesus' plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to his life.
- Most significant about them was their sincere yearning for God and the realities of His life.
- As it turned out, these few early converts of the Lord were destined to become the leaders of His church that was to go with the gospel to the whole world.
- The significance of their lives would be felt throughout eternity.
- Jesus concentrated on a few, but He did not neglect the masses.
- We must decide where we want our ministry to count-in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we are gone.
- Jesus made a practice of being with them.
- The time which Jesus invested in these few disciples was so much more by comparison to that given to others that it can only be regarded as a deliberate strategy.
- Every member of the community of faith had a part to fulfill in this ministry. But this they could only do as themselves were trained and inspired.
- It requires constant attention; much like a father gives to his children.
- There is a lot of talk in the church about evangelism and Christian mentoring, but little concern for personal connection when it becomes evident that such work involves the sacrifice of personal indulgence.
- He required obedience! Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him. They were not required to be smart, but they had to be loyal.
- They were called his "disciples" meaning that they were "learners" or "pupils" of the Master (Acts 11:26).
- The old thought patterns, habits and pleasures of the world had to be conformed to the new disciplines of the kingdom of God.
- Jesus did not have the time nor the desire to scatter himself on those who wanted to make their own terms of discipleship.
- Their capacity to receive revelation would grow provided they continued to practice what truth they did understand.
- Obedience to Christ thus was the very means by which those in his company learned more truth.
- Supreme obedience was interpreted to be the expression of love.
- It must be remembered, too, that Jesus was making men to lead his church to conquest, and no one can ever be a leader until first he has learned to follow a leader.
- The disciples understood that they were not just keeping a law, but were responding to One who loved them, and was willing to give himself for them.
- His was a life of giving-giving away what the Father had given him.
- The constant renewing of his consecration of himself to God through loving service to others constituted Jesus' sanctification.
- His sanctification then was not for the purpose of benefiting himself, but it was for his disciples, that they might "be sanctified in truth."
- By the Spirit one is made clean through the Word and set apart unto God for holy service.
- It is only the Spirit of God who enables one to carry on the redemptive mission of evangelism.
- All the disciples were asked to do was to let the Spirit have complete charge of their lives.
- It is not who we are, but who He is that makes the difference.
- Of course, we cannot give something away which we do not possess ourselves. The very ability to give away our life in Christ is the proof of its possession. Nor can we withhold that which we possess in the Spirit of Christ, and still keep it. The Spirit of God always insists on making Christ known. Here is the great paradox of life-we must die to ourselves to live in Christ, and in that renunciation of ourselves, we must give ourselves away in service and devotion to our Lord.
- All the disciples had to teach them was a teacher who practiced with them what he expected them to learn.
- He did not ask anyone to do or be anything which first he had not demonstrated in his own life, thereby not only proving its workability but also its relevance to his mission in life.
- It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.
- Light obeyed increases light.
- Knowledge must be transformed into obedience (action).
- His method was to get the disciples into a vital experience with God, and to show them how he worked, before telling them they had to do it.
- He never asked anyone to do something which he was unwilling to do.
- His plan of teaching by example, assignment, and constant checkup, was calculated to bring out the best that was in them.
- He expected them to reproduce.
- Jesus intended for the disciples to produce his likeness in and through the church being gathered out of the world. Thus his ministry in the Spirit would be duplicated manyfold by his ministry in the lives of his disciples.
- If the disciples failed to impart his Spirit and method to others who would keep this work going, then his ministry with them all these years would soon come to naught.
- This mission is emphasized even more when the Greek text of the passage is studied, and it is seen that the word to, baptize and teach are all participles which derive their force from the on controlling verb "make disciples."
- "make disciples" - to build people like themselves who were so constrained by the commission of Christ that they not only followed his way but led others to as well. Only as disciples were made could the other activities of the commission fulfill the purpose.
- Here finally is where we must all evaluate the contribution that our life and witness is making to the supreme purpose of him who is the Savior of the world.