Allan Taylor.

Can a person be a believer and not a disciple? This is a question church leaders are asking as they evaluate how effective the church has been and should be in making disciples. Before answering these questions, the question, “What is a disciple?” must be answered.

Defining what a disciple is should take us back to the Gospels and Jesus’ call to His first disciples,

As He was passing along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. “Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him. (Mark 1:16-20, CSB).

Then Jesus went out again beside the sea. The whole crowd was coming to Him, and He taught them. Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him. (Mark 2:13-14, CSB)

In these verses we can begin to see what a disciple truly is: A disciple is one who follows Jesus!

  • Following Jesus means we go after Him and go with Him.
  • Following Jesus is an on-going, continual, lifelong journey.
  • Following Jesus is your life trajectory.
  • Following Jesus is a relationship that takes precedence over all other relationships (see Matthew 10:37-38)

As the teaching of Jesus expanded, so did the understanding of what it truly meant to be a disciple. We see these attributes in one who is truly a disciple of Christ:

  • A disciple of Jesus denies self and takes up his cross daily. (Luke 9:23-24)
  • A disciple of Jesus is continually in the Word. (John 8:31-32)
  • A disciple of Jesus loves others. (John 13:34-35)
  • A disciple of Jesus obeys God. (John 14:15, 21, 23)
  • A disciple of Jesus produces spiritual fruit. (John 15:1-8)

As leaders responsible for equipping the church to make disciples, this is where your journey needs to begin. You need to understand clearly the biblical description of what a disciple should look like. Then you can begin to design and communicate a process for helping your church to become more effective in joining Christ in the church’s mission to make disciples.

Written by Alan Taylor
Allan Taylor is the Executive Pastor of Ministries at First Baptist Church Concord, Knoxville, TN. and a member of BACE.