In my last post, Evangelism: Making Disciples, I suggested that the ministry of evangelism is the specific task of making disciples. The imperative of the “Great Commission” (Matt 28.19-20) leave us no other option. That begs the question of what exactly is a disciple of Jesus Christ. In answering this question, I’ll offer a simple sketch of a disciple and if more needs to be said then you can do so as a comment (which I welcome very much).
To begin with, being a disciple of Jesus means to be his follower in its simplest terms. To be a follower requires a person to walk (follow) behind Jesus learning from him. This provides us with an early hint learning to be a disciple is more than the cognitive learning of orthodox belief.
A passage which I think provides a good synopsis of discipleship lived out within the community of disciples is Acts 2.42-47. What we see in this passage is that these disciples had a new lifestyle, with new habits and practices such as hospitality and generosity. This was in addition to being people of apostolic teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer. Their new way of living and being was a result of believing that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. This does not mean they necessarily had a perfect Christological belief yet. They simply believed that as the Messiah, Jesus was the Lord.
What we see about this first community of disciples is a new way of believing and living. They believed as Jesus believed and so they also lived as Jesus lived. Believing that Israel’s God was fulfilling his redemptive promises in Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Mk 1.14-15) and establishing his kingdom will on earth as it is done in heaven, these disciples embraced the self-sacrificial call to the cross (cf. Mk 8.34-35) and the call to a life of humble service (cf. Jn 13.1-20).
A disciple is, from what has been observed, a person who has learned to believe and live like Jesus. While such a person may not be able to express a Chalcedon Christian faith, they have, nonetheless, a new faith that is confessionally-committed to Jesus as Lord and Messiah.
What that means is that as a disciple, such person is no longer convinced that the life and peace they seek can be found in the things of this world whether it be themselves, family, careers, wealth, government, and all of the other provisions of this world which appear to offer life and peace. Instead, they believe that life and peace is found in God’s kingdom established in Jesus of Nazareth. They believe in turn that this calls for a new way of living shaped by the teachings of Jesus and the inbreaking kingdom gospel he preached. While this includes the personal repentance from sins, it is not limited simply to a personal piety nor is it an escapism faith simply concerned with “going to heaven.”
My next few posts will focus on how we, as a collective church, cultivate such discipleship so that we are making disciples in our evangelism.