What Is A Disciple?
By Patrick Morley
What does it mean to be a disciple? The biblical word translates to pupil or learner, and for early Christians it meant someone who declared an allegiance to Jesus and His teachings.
At the start of His ministry, Jesus appointed 12 men to with Him (see Mark 3:14). Three and a half years later, Jesus was gone. But the men His disciples–fearlessly proclaimed His resurrection. Peter and John demonstrated this when they were arrested.
Interestingly, Acts 4:13 says of the religious leaders who questioned them, When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
A disciple, then, is someone who has been with Jesus. In their time with Jesus, the disciples were called, equipped and sent. So here’s a condensed, practical definition: A disciple is someone called to walk with Christ, equipped to live like Christ and sent to work for Christ.
A disciple is called to walk with Christ. I grew up in a Christian home that didn’t know Christ. We didn’t reject the gospel because we never heard it; our church focused on other things. When I was in my early 20s, though, my soon-to-be wife Patsy explained the gospel of Jesus to me. Not long afterward I embraced Christ as my Lord and Savior.
It’s sad to know that so many men would gladly receive Christ if engaged in a credible way like I was. What grieves me even more are the men who think they have tried Christianity, found it wanting and rejected it when in fact they never understood it to begin with. First and foremost, a disciple is someone presented with the story of Jesus His life, work, death and resurrection and who believes in Him.
A disciple is equipped to live like Christ.Picture yourself as the president of a 100-person law firm. For years you have recruited lawyers, then left them on their own. What happens? Without guidance and training they do more harm than good. Unresolved cases pile up, other law firms consider you firm an embarrassment, and the public thinks you are incompetent.
Then suppose you go to the board of directors and ask to hire another 20 lawyers. What would happen? They’d say: Are you nuts? It’s gotten so bad that even the young people who interned with us decided they are no longer interested in law as a career!
Many who walk away from their early faith say, If that’s Christianity, I want to part of it. It may do more harm than good to invite a man to become a Christian if we have no plan to disciple him. When we don’t train and equip men who profess Christ, they become lukewarm in faith, worldly in behavior and hypocritical in witness.
A disciple is sent to work for Christ.do we disciple men? Certainly so they will enjoy Christ’s love. But 2 Timothy 3:17 offers even more reason. It says the purpose of equipping is �so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Jesus prayed, As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world (John 17:18, NLT). Earlier He had said, This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit (John 15:8, NIV). Every man wants to give his life to a cause, to make a difference. When we disciple a man, he will eventually want to make that difference, to live to bear much fruit.
If we are to make disciples, we must offer them meaningful ways to work for and serve our Savior. How many men in your church are lukewarm? How many bear fruit? How many live like they have been with Jesus?
It would be wise to answer these questions now and take action–because these are likely to be on the final exam given by Jesus Himself. And that’s not a test we want to flunk.
This article “What Is A Disciple?” by Patrick Morley is excerpted from The Man In The Mirror, Zondervan 1993.