A disciple is simply put a learner (Latin: disciplus). Jesus Christ thought discipleship as so important that the word disciple appears 23 times in the four gospels and the Book of Acts. In Matthew 11:28-29 he says “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
By nature discipleship is a transformational process from one view and way of life to another, in this case from some worldly view and way of life into that of Jesus Christ and so of God himself. When writing to some Christians in Rome, Paul emphasized that since they were now disciples they had to change their very way of thinking and no longer copy the lifestyles around them. This process lasts a lifetime, therefore a disciple is not simply an accumulator of information or one who merely changes some aspects of her behaviour but one who seeks a fundamental shift toward the ethics of Jesus Christ in every way, including complete devotion to God and service to mankind.
Disciples and Disciple makers
If your question is: Am I a disciple? Jesus’ answer is: by their fruits you may know them. The marks or the characteristics of a disciple are the components of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness humility and self control. But remember that before any of this is possible we must be born again having given our lives to Christ. Then as spiritual babies we are admonished by Peter, to crave pure spiritual milk so that we will grow into a full experience of salvation. Discipleship is a process thus all these components will not suddenly appear, however the important thing is to keep on trusting God to work in us as we practice what the bible teaches us, subjecting ourselves to learn of Christ and to be taught by Him.
Joshua entered the school of discipleship under Moses and Elijah did not fail to bring Elisha to a position twice better than his. Likewise in accordance with Jesus’ command to go to the world and make disciples, God expects us to also make for Him disciples.
Any such program whether church based or a personal discipleship program should be person-centered but strongly focused on Christ. A young Christian can come under the tutelage of a known and respected older Christian or conversely. One can join a weekly discipleship program where several growth-oriented activities can be carried out especially small group focused bible studies and discussion where the grace of God given to each individual can manifest to the benefit of all.
Another option would be to organize and open up your home to neighbors either of the same church or not, or even unbelievers for evangelistic bible studies or follow up programs towards discipleship. One can make weekly or bimonthly visits to institutions such as boarding schools, prisons and the like to carry out discipleship classes. Vibrant discipleship is one of the indicators of a healthy church. Jesus set up the church on the rock, the sure and unshakable foundation with the unwavering assurance that the gates of hell would not be able to prevail against it! But this can only be possible if the people who make up the church are transformed into true disciples. Jesus gave different gifts to the church and no one person has it all. Some people are gifted teachers; they have the ability to present difficult concepts in an easy to understand manner. Others are naturally able to organize and lead effectively. Sadly such gifts can remain untapped unless a conscious effort is made to discover and use them.
The process of discipleship enables the church to make maximum use of all these gifts because it involves consistent teaching and practice. The young Christian is exposed to how God works in the life of a wide variety of people and open the believer up to benefit from what age, youth, knowledge and experience have to offer. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete stature of Christ.
Are you a disciple of Christ or just a church member?
Scriptures you should read for further insight and spiritual benefit:
1. Romans 12 1-2, Colossians 3:1
2. James 1: 27
3. Galatians 5:22-24
4. John 1: 12-13
5. 1 Peter 2:2
6. 1 Corinthians 12