I have been on an intentional road towards discipleship and mission for a little over two years now. I have repositioned my philosophy of ministry so that everything flows out of discipleship. Over these two years, this journey of discipleship has stretched and grown me, while forcing me to answer some tough questions. The main questions stem around “What is a disciple?” and “What do I mean by discipleship?”
I believe the entire church hinges on these two questions.
Jesus took his disciples up on the Mount of Olives at the end of his earthly ministry and commissioned them to do one thing, go into all the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20).
That was it!
Just go and make disciples. No plan B and no next step. Just make disciples.
Mathētēs So what is a disciple? There are several opinions on what a disciple is, but the simplest explanation makes the most sense and is the most accurate. The Greek word mathētēs translated into what we know as disciple simply means learner (student) or follower. Mathētēs is a student who is following someone, generally a Rabbi, in order to learn how to be like him. The disciple following the Rabbi did not simply want to know what the Rabbi knew; he wanted to be just like the Rabbi.
Have you ever heard the saying, “He is a real student of the game?” “A-student-of-the-game” eats, sleeps, and breathes his or her sport. If they are a baseball player, they act, look, think, and talk like a baseball player. If you ever ask for their help or advice on a subject, they will more than likely give a scenario involving their sport of choice as an illustration. A “student-of-the-game” will have a wardrobe that consists mainly of his or her favorite sport or team. For fans and athletes alike, their most memorable times center around a sporting event or moment.
A disciple of Jesus in simple words is a student of Jesus. He or she is a person following Jesus gradually learning to be just like him and to do what he did. A maturing disciple will begin to eat, sleep, and breathe the Way of Jesus. He or she will begin to act, look, think, talk, and do like Jesus. 3DM explains this through the lens of Character and Competency.
Character For a disciple, character is measured or defined by the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5). Is your inner life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? Is your life characterized by grace, humility, compassion, generosity, and mercy? Are your words filled with grace and compassion? Do you enjoy a deep relationship with the Father of Heaven? Do you have a love for the Scriptures? These are the qualities we see in Jesus, and these are the qualities that are growing within a disciple.
Competency For a disciple of Jesus, competency is best measured or defined through the making of other disciples. Can you make disciples who can and will in turn make new disciples? Can you hear the Father’s voice, and do you respond to it with the power and authority that Jesus exemplified? Are you present and aware of what God is doing around you? When you pray or move out in faith, do things happen? Do you joyfully accept the responsibility of representing the Father and Son here on earth? Do you trust the Spirit to lead and guide you? Can you teach the Scriptures well? Are your actions just and merciful? These are the things we find Jesus doing, and these are the things disciples are learning to do.
Both/And Most of us typically lean towards one or the other. We either want to focus on our character development in hopes that we can grow closer to God through holiness, or we want to focus on competencies in order to build the Kingdom. This is not an either/or scenario, it is a both/and. Our developing character does enrich our relationship with the Father in Heaven (Covenant), and our growing competencies do assist in building God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven. Only when our character and competency is aligning with Jesus will we see true sustainable Kingdom breakthrough.