Director of Discipleship
For much of Western Christian history, a disciple has been used as interchangeable with Christian. For the most part, there is truth in this description. Biblically, when one surrendered to Jesus, they began their journey of discipleship. You don’t have to look any further than when Paul (Saul at the time) had his conversion experience to understand that being saved by Jesus meant more than what we often see in the Church today. Throughout the New Testament, it is clear that when a person met Jesus, not only were they saved, but they dedicated their lives to be like Jesus. Why? Because that is what it means to be a disciple. It means to be like Jesus. Sadly, this is not often the case in today’s Christianity.
The Jewish world was very familiar with what a disciple was. It was a desire of many young Jewish boys to one day follow a Rabbi. If you were a disciple in the Hebrew culture, you were called a Talmid which means, learner or “to be what the Rabbi is.” These early disciples had an intense passion to be just like their Rabbi. They studied hard, and they did everything that they could to have an opportunity to be a disciple of a Rabbi.
For a Christian, Jesus is who and what we are supposed to imitate. I believe the same passion and dedication that early disciples had towards their Rabbis is necessary for discipleship in our modern Christian culture. However, many do not see it that way. In my humble opinion, there is a massive shortage of true Biblical disciples in the Church today. For many Christians in our culture, just entering into a salvation relationship with Jesus is enough. Often the call Jesus gives in Matthew 4:19 to “Come, follow me” (emphasis mine) is ignored and replaced with an attitude of spiritual laziness. Modern Christians seem to be okay with a superficial faith in Jesus. They don’t want anything too complex or challenging. They are perfectly content with a title and the occasional church service. However, I believe there is a clear call for a person to go beyond belief and enter an active, ever-growing journey with Jesus, and this is what discipleship is all about. A disciple wants to be like Jesus.
So, as disciples, I believe there are a few things, building blocks, if you will, that must be in our DNA. The first is that A Disciple Must Live in Community. Community with other like-minded believers is absolutely essential as a building block of a disciple. We were created for community and are expected to live in a community. When we consider the early Church and community, look no further than Acts 2:42-47. From these five verses, it is clear that community with the Church was essential and expected. They broke bread, learned together, prayed together, and met each other’s needs. Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:2 to “bear one another’s burdens” and in Ephesians 2:19 that we are “members of the household of God.” The writer of Hebrews tells us in 10:25 that we should not be “neglecting to meet together.” We need community, and it is a characteristic of a biblical disciple.
A second building block is that a disciple will Know and Live the Word of God. A disciple of Jesus will fall in love with the Bible. They are God’s words. To claim to be a disciple and not know the Bible is not an option. I love what Paul says in Colossians 3:16a, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another….” Just like community, knowing the Word of God is a must for a true disciple. James reminds us in 1:22 to “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” So, it’s not just some knowledge; it’s a lifestyle. A disciple will allow God’s Word to change their life entirely and radically.
Lastly, the third building block is that a disciple will Have a Passion to be like Jesus. I think a great example of this comes from Peter in Matthew 14:25-31. Here we see Peter desiring to walk on water just as Jesus was. I know several lessons can be taken from this passage, but there is no denying that Peter’s passion to be like Jesus is evident. Another example of passion for Jesus comes from Paul in Acts 14:19-20. Paul gets thrown out of Lystra and then stoned. He then gets back up and goes back into the city and doesn’t leave until the next day. Admit it; many of us would have fled! What a passion for Jesus! We learn from the passion of the early church disciples that there was a desire to be like Jesus. To have a passion for being like Jesus means that we must be willing to love as He loved, have compassion as He did, and even lay down our lives for another.
I believe that a disciple will make God their passion, and then everything they do in life will reflect that passion. I often have to ask myself if I am truly a disciple. Sometimes my life doesn’t look like Jesus. I think if we’re all honest, we can admit that we, too, struggle in being faithful disciples. Sometimes we long for the easy and mundane. However, outside of our eternal security in Jesus, there is no safety as a follower of Jesus. To follow Jesus will mean trouble, turmoil, and persecution. It will also mean blessing, reward, and fulfillment. We can all choose today to be biblical disciples. Are you willing to step out and indeed be who Christ has created you to be? Are you ready to be a disciple?