What Is A Disciple? Pt. 2

Hope you are doing well! If you are reading this post and missed the last one, this article is a continuation of this post. We are taking some dedicated time to ask a question that has been asked for many years, "What is a disciple?" On one hand, it's not very complicated. On the other hand, it has been widely misunderstood. While in my last post I talked about what a disciple was from a historical perspective (meaning, what discipleship meant to Jesus and His followers in the past,) I want to focus more on this post on what it is perceived as today and what it can be today.

  • In "The State of Discipleship," a study performed in 2015 by Barna research group, they found the #1 definition of discipleship among Christians is "A lifelong process and journey rooted in a relationship with Jesus." But is this the right way we should be defining it? I am not sure that it should be. ( This is not to disagree that we should aim to be more like Jesus or have a relationship with Him. )

In my last post about discipleship I said this, "Originally being a Christian and being a disciple were one and the same. But is that true today? Maybe in the beginning, yes, but with how much the Church has changed since around 36 AD, maybe not." I think it's time we begin to clarify a difference between being a "Christian" and a "disciple." I believe that every disciple is a Christian, but I do not necessarily believe every Christian is a disciple.

I know for a fact that I will be the black sheep when I say that. Many Pastors and theologians today such as John Piper have equated disciple-making to just sharing the gospel. But I am okay with being the odd one out. I have done my homework, and I have a very firm conviction on what I believe discipleship is. But regardless on whether you agree with me or not, I think if you make a general observation about the state of Christianity today, you will agree with me that something needs to change.

Show Me Your Work

I hate math. I do. I hate it more than I hate tater tots and hash browns. ( Yes I know, "You hate hash browns?!" Brand me a heretic, but i've always hated them.) From elementary school, all the way through high school I was asked to do the same thing with every math problem: "Show your work." If I came up with an answer, I had to show how I got there.

I want you to think about Christianity today. What do you see on media? What do you see on the streets? What do you see on social media? If something does not seem off to you, I want to encourage you to clear the fog off of your glasses.

When I speak to my non-Christian friends, do you know what they see when they think of Christians?

It's not the love of God.

  • It's hatred,
  • bigotry,
  • homophobia,
  • political worshipers,
  • hypocrisy,
  • judgment,
  • condemnation, and more.

There is very much a "top dog" mentality associated with Christianity today. I regularly engage non-Christians, I regularly build friendships with them. From my experience, Christians are seen as the persecutors and not the persecuted. This is wrong. But why do I tell you this? I do have a point.

My point is that if this is how Christianity is viewed today (and I do not believe you need to do much homework to see that this is a common perception) then how Christians are being spiritually raised is missing the mark. Something needs to change, and I believe that change needs to be how we are defining what discipleship is.

Redefining Discipleship

Looking back at the Barna research, the #1 definition for discipleship used is "A lifelong process and journey rooted in a relationship with Jesus." While that definition is not "bad," I believe it is too broad and it caters too much to the natural desire to find a DIY (do it yourself) solution. The issue with trying to grow spiritually exclusively on your own is that it doesn't work. We were designed to grow spiritually through discipleship. (Matthew 28:19-20.) That requires other people because God created us to be in community with other people (Gen. 2:18)

Based on the research of what discipleship was in the past (which I shared with you in my last blog,) combined with personal experience, here is how I have learned to define discipleship:

"Discipleship is the process of growing a personal relationship with God through mentorship"

Check out these statistics from the same study by Barna:

It says that 9 in 10 Christians claim the spiritual growth is important. However, it also reports only 1 in 4 Christians are being discipled by someone. (Which means 3 in 4 Christians are not.) And that 1 in 5 Christians are discipling someone else (Which means 4 in 5 are not.) Correct me if my math is off, but what that leads me to believe is that if I were to have a room full of 10 Christians, only 2 of them are being discipled by someone and only 1 of them is discipling someone else.

While I have a personal methodology on how I disciple others, I do not believe my way is the way. I believe it is a way, and it is a way that has worked consistently for me and produced amazing disciples who are unafraid to be bold with the love of God wherever they are in the world. Stay tuned for my next blog where I share the three things that are required for true discipleship to take place and what that looks like for me and my disciples.

 

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