What is a Disciple?
By Sherry Habben
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King! Let every heart, prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing!”
So sings the grand old Christmas carol, with the implication that now, with the coming of Jesus into our world and our lives, things are going to be really different. And that theme is sustained through the ages up to the present.” (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, Introduction)
But...has it? Has the coming of Jesus into the world really made a difference in my life? In your life? In the lives of our congregations and in the world? Are we actually disciples of Jesus Christ, following him, and living in the way he modeled for us? Dallas Willard in his book, The Great Omission, would suggest that what has been omitted is the actual making of disciples. We have many members, but they have not been discipled!
He speaks about “…the disappointment many Christians feel who find that what they profess “just isn’t working”. There is an obvious Great Disparity between the hope for life expressed in Jesus...and the actual day-to-day behavior, inner life, and social presence of most of those who profess adherence to him.” (Willard, Introduction)
Have we lost the understanding of what it takes to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Many would say that we have redefined it to make it something we are comfortable with instead of letting it challenge and change the way we are living our everyday lives.
A couple of years ago I was at a gathering of those who are in the same role as I am. The main topic of discussion was what it meant to be a disciple. As sad as I found that to be, I was glad to see the discussion taking place acknowledging that we had a problem!
What does it mean to be a disciple, a follower, of Jesus Christ?
I suggested then and today that we have a foundational answer in our Scriptures...we may just not want to hear it because it does make us uncomfortable and challenges our status quo.
Take a look at the Scriptures on the facing page and highlight the words you see that speaks to who a disciple is called to be. These are only a few of many Scriptural references on discipleship—search for more. Willard says that “the word disciple occurs 269 times in the New Testament.” (pg. 2)
What did you find? What words jumped out at you? Write those words in your journal or on a piece of paper and pray about them. In the first Scripture it says follow me and I will send you out. That suggests a change in the status quo right there at the beginning! One statement that always jumps out at me is “do not worry about your life...” A disciple is called to trust in God’s provision for even the clothes that we will wear and the food we will eat.
Dallas Willard in the Great Omission says that “In the heart of a true disciple there is a desire, and there is a decision or settled intent. Having come to some understanding of what it means, and thus having counted up the costs, the disciple of Christ desires above all else to be like him, to devote oneself to becoming like Christ...systematically and progressively rearranging his affairs to that end.” (Willard, pg. 7)