What is a Disciple?

The Great Commission given in Mathew 28 is one of the simplest and most concise descriptions of what we are supposed to do as followers of Christ. The last instructions given are to make disciples of all nations, and it is important to know what a disciple is in order to be able to obey that command. Many who seek to define a disciple use both a long and short definition to describe what it means to be a disciple. Jim Putnam and Bobby Harrington describe the trouble with defining a disciple where “what we’re aiming for is a definition that every leader in our church understands and operates by, so we don’t want a complicated definition that no one can remember. At the same time, we don’t want to leave out something that Jesus taught.”[1] Having something simply yet all encompassing is definitely a challenge and one a church I previously attended used the phrase, “win, disciple, send” as what amounted to a mission statement which is also similar to what Discipleshift puts forth with their use of Mathew 4:19 to define a disciple as someone who Follows Jesus, is made by God, into fishers of men. This same verse was used as the primary foundation on which I was first discipled by my youth pastor, and as such, it holds a special place in my personal history. As such, being a fisher of men is not just the end goal, but everything we do along the way as we follow Christ.

 

There is a general consensus where “being a disciple generally means abandoning the things of the world and following Jesus.”[2] This may be the simplest definition, but also it is important that in following Jesus, we are to be molded by God into what He wants of us, using our personalities, our quirks, and all that makes us up as He would have us be. And that will translate into our daily lives. “If our acceptance of Jesus begins in the head and extends to the heart, it leads to a change in what we do with our hands.”[3] In essence, we find in all of these the common thread of a disciple being someone who is following Jesus, obeying Jesus, and being used by Jesus in our daily lives for the purpose of sharing Jesus with even more people.

 

While these definitions are simple, and try to show more I would put forth this simple definition: A disciple is a person who is living for Jesus.

[1] Putnam, Jim, Bobby Harrington and Robert Coleman, Discipleshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples who Make Disciples, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013, 45.

[2] Earley, Dave and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence, Nashville: B&H Academic, 2013, 22.

[3] Putnam, Jim, Bobby Harrington and Robert Coleman, Discipleshift: Five Steps That Help Your Church to Make Disciples who Make Disciples, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013, 49.


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