The call of Jesus to follow him as a disciple are words with a developmental application for all who desire to grow in faith. A disciple of Jesus is one who not only imitates Jesus, but grows in spiritual maturity to the point they develop the passion and ability to disciple others, who in turn will disciple others. In God’s plan for the salvation of the world, a disciple matures to become a discipler of others.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus expressed his intention that he would make those who followed him into disciple makers. (Matt 4:19) Then, at the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus commands his disciples to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. (Matt 28:19-20) Jesus’ invitation to follow him and his command to make disciples are both central parts of his plan for the development and deployment of those who follow him.
As a district family of churches, one of our primary convictions is that we ‘Make Disciples that Make Disciples.’ This involves being led by God’s Holy Spirit to imitate Jesus to the point we live Christ-Centered, Spirit-Empowered lives that others will be influenced by to the point they too will learn to know, love, and imitate Jesus. Disciples aren’t made through involvement in a series of ‘church programs’ but through a life on life experience in which a disciple impacts and influences another person for Jesus, to the extent they have been impacted by the love and life of Jesus.
Definitions of a Disciple
For us to live as a disciple of Jesus we need an understanding of not only the term itself, but also the terms of engagement related to living the life of a disciple of Jesus.
Here is what Christian Leaders are saying…
“The word disciple refers to a student or apprentice … Basically, a disciple is a follower, but only if we take the term follower literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is simply as obeying His call to follow.” – Francis Chan
“A disciple is essentially a follower of Jesus, seeking to live his or her life as He lived His. It’s someone who is actively learning how to live like Jesus. It’s an ongoing process—a journey that has a beginning but no end.” – Robert Coleman
“… a disciple, or apprentice, is simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is.” – Dallas Willard
Willard goes on to summarize:
“To be a disciple of Jesus is, crucially, to be learning from Jesus how to do your job as Jesus himself would do it.”
“Following Jesus simply means learning from him how to arrange my life around activities that enable me to live in the fruit of the Spirit.” – John Ortberg
“Discipleship occurs when someone answers the call to learn from Jesus and others how to live his or her life as though Jesus were living it. As a result, the disciple becomes the kind of person who naturally does what Jesus did.” – Bill Hull
“The meaning of discipleship is captured in the call of Jesus: ‘Follow me.’ Discipleship is a response to, and subsequent loyalty to, a person. Discipleship includes loyalty to a creed and a movement and possibly a congregation. But ultimately, its true meaning lies in loyalty to Jesus.” – Gordon T. Smith