Defining Discipleship

Published by Pastor Ron Campbell on

From My Notes by Pastor Ron Campbell


When Jesus speaks we need to listen. After all, He is Jesus!  Moreover, by virtue of His power and grace He is our Sovereign Lord and our Savior, and when He tells His church to make disciples of all nations, we really need to do that.

Jesus commissions us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20).

But, the question is… What does it actually mean to be a “disciple” of Jesus? If we are going to make disciples, we need to know what that is.

The dictionary definition of “disciple” is someone who adheres to the teachings of another or takes up the ways of someone else.  When applied to Jesus, a disciple is someone who learns from Him to live like Him; someone who, because of God’s grace, conforms his or her ways to the ways of Jesus.

The Gospels give us a portrait of Jesus in his life on earth, and if we really want to know what it means to be His disciple, it makes sense to look at the Gospels.

Let’s look at the Gospel of John to get some perspective on what it means to follow Jesus. Building off of John’s profile of Jesus, we could say that a disciple of Jesus is a worshiper, a servant, and a witness.

To follow Jesus means to worship him exclusively. He told the woman at the well, the Father is seeking true worshipers, those who worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23–24). If we follow Jesus, we must worship God, through Jesus, because He is our Mediator (John 14:6), and Jesus Himself, because He is God (John 10:30; John 20:28–29).

This is the most basic perspective of a disciple because it is the most decisive thing we are or do. As far as worshiping Jesus, its gladly reflecting back to Him the radiance of His worth.

Lots of people are cool with Jesus, and even following the “ways” of Jesus, when it leaves out the exclusivity part. To follow Jesus, to be His disciple, doesn’t mean community involvement and the veneer of tolerance. It means, first and foremost, to worship Him, with joy at the heart.

Making disciples of Jesus means gathering His worshipers.

John also shows a beautiful picture of the Jesus we worship, and He is kneeling before His disciples to wash their feet (John 13:5). However, this just doesn’t sound right, especially when we think of Him as the one we give our exclusive praise too. Peter didn’t like it either, until Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8).

Jesus is a servant. He came to earth not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as the rescue for sinners (Mark 10:45).

As a servant, Jesus says to His disciples, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:14–15).  On one hand, the attitude of servant should characterize Jesus’s disciples at all times. But on the other hand, being a servant like Jesus has a focus on disciples serving disciples. Just after Jesus washed the Twelve’s feet He gives us a new commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34; 1 John 3:23). It is this love that disciples have for one another that identifies us as disciples of Jesus to a watching world, and even assures us of a saving faith.

So, to be a disciple of Jesus means to serve like Him. It also means to serve, by looking at your brothers and sisters and giving acts of love, even when it’s inconvenient to yourself.

Making disciples of Jesus means making servants who love one another.

Another useful portrait of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus comes in the form of Jesus’s commission, when He tells His disciples, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21; John 17:18). Jesus is sending His disciples on a mission. They are missionaries; they are envisioned and empowered to step out into this world, not of it, but sent into it, as His witnesses.

Jesus was sent here for a purpose. We too, as his disciples filled by His Spirit, are sent for a purpose. That purpose is to tell His good news.

To be a disciple of Jesus means to point people to Him. It means we tell the ancient story of Jesus and His love, so that others would know Him and worship Him. In other words, it means that we gladly seek more worshipping, serving disciples.

A disciple of Jesus intentionally makes disciples of Jesus that intentionally make disciples of Jesus.

Remember… When Jesus speaks we need to listen.



Categories: From My Notes