Last Update 7th October, 2016.
Almost all churches have a mission statement.
Just ask the pastor and he’ll probably point to a notice on the wall and say:
“The mission of our church is to make disciples.“
Then ask the same pastor how successful their church is in making disciples and things normally start to get a little hazy…
A majority of pastors measure the effectiveness of their church by the numbers in attendance on a Sunday morning.
While getting new people through your church doors is the first step of discipleship, the mission of the church is to make disciples.
Most churches have a purpose, but no plan to make it happen.
They have programs, but no actual process of discipleship.
Without a definition of what a disciple is or looks like, how can you measure how many disciples your church is currently making?
I believe having a definition of a disciple is a strong first step to making a road map of discipleship for your church.
Why having the definition of a disciple is vital to your church’s success
Once we have a definition of a disciple, we’ll know what one looks like, then we have a benchmark, a measure by which we can then confidently have an answer to the question:
“How successful is my church in reaching it’s objective?“
Being able to evaluate how successful our churches are empowers us to improve on that.
We can make ministry decisions based upon our primary goal of being in ministry in the first place – it keeps the main thing, the main thing.
What is a disciple?
What does a disciple look like?
What is the definition of a disciple?
How do we know one when we see one?
That’s why today I’m going to show you three undeniable signs of a disciple.
None of these three signs of a disciple can stand alone, instead they are inter-locking, inter-dependent and complimentary to one another.
1. A disciple loves Jesus and follows Him
“But whoever loves God is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:3
When someone’s in love it’s obvious.
For a disciple, it’s not enough to simply know certain facts about Jesus – they’re not satisfied until they know him. It’s a very personal thing.
To a disciple Jesus is not just a good teacher, a revolutionary, an historical figure – He is the Lord and Saviour, very best friend and mediator.
Many people know the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, people study facts and information about Jesus’ death and His coming back to life.
For a disciple however, when they think of the sacrifice that Jesus made on their behalf at a great cost to Himself, it melts their heart and causes them overflow with thanksgiving and praise.
It’s a personal thing.
A follower of Jesus is connected to and has a growing relationship with Jesus.
A disciple has had a powerful life-changing encounter with the risen Saviour and they’ll never be the same.
“Religion is a guy in church thinking about fishing. Relationship is a guy out fishing thinking about God.” [Tweet this]
They love to spend time with Him; they make an effort to involve Jesus in their everyday life they give Him a say in their daily decision making.
They have all that God is, not because of how He can help them or what they can get out of Him, but simply because of who God is.
The definition of a disciple of Christ is someone who defines themselves by who they are in Christ. Their identity is wrapped up in Him.
They live in God’s presence unashamed, they walk with their heads high, with a confidence to serve, because they know the covenant they have with God.
Although a disciple’s relationship with Jesus is a deeply personal one, as with anyone who loves someone, they can’t help but talk about it.
Their faith is growing and contagious; they can’t help but talk to their friends and family about Jesus every chance they get because Jesus is always at the forefront of their minds.
First and foremost, the definition of a disciple is someone who loves Jesus and follows Him.
You know when you have a disciple in your church, not because someone said a prayer ten years ago or decided to follow Jesus in their youth, no, a disciple is someone who is following Jesus today, talking to Jesus today, they’re loving Jesus today.
“God’s not on Facebook, but He’s still my friend. He’s not on Twitter, but I still follow Him.” [Tweet this]
2. A disciple loves the Word and obeys it
In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.
James 1:21 (The Message)
A true follower of Christ is connected with the Word of God.
For a disciple, the Bible is not just a book on their bookcase gathering dust.
Instead, they take that back down from the shelf , read it, know it, memorise it, think on it and actively look for ways to apply it to their life.
A disciple doesn’t see the Bible as an instruction manual or reference book – it’s their fresh daily bread; it gives them energy for lives, it brings life to our whole soul, mind and body.
“We study the Word of God, not to know the Word of God, but to know the God of the Word.” [Tweet this]
A true disciple has fallen in love with the Word and they submit themselves to it.
It’s not about getting more head knowledge but it’s as if the words leap off the pages, it’s alive to them.
The definition of a disciple is someone who is shaped by the Word.
They read and act on what they’ve read and people they come into contact with see significant changes in their lives, they notice the difference.
Disciples of Jesus are easy to spot – they react to situations differently, they’ll go through hard times, deal with people, relate to others differently.
The definition of a disciple is not someone who tells you how much they read the Bible – you can the Bible coming to life through their thoughts, words and actions.
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
3. A disciple loves the church and serves in it
They’ll be loyal and hardworking church volunteers who serve with their whole heart, in some area of the church, according to their particular skills and giftings.
You see, Christianity, although deeply personal, was designed by God to be lived out in a community of other believers.
A disciple understands this:
“The Church is not a place you go or a service you attend – you are the church.”
1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (The Message) puts it this way:
“You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.”
In an ever more individualistic society, the true disciple of Christ knows that we were created for community and the church is our family.
We have spiritual brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.
They are God’s gift to us to help us live out out Christian lives.
For a disciple, the church is not only a family but a platform on which to develop his or her own character and talents.
A true disciple, a true follower of Christ will love the church and serve in it.
They will submit to the leadership God has put in place and support their pastor.
They will give generously of their energy time and finances. our time and finances.
They will support the work and unity of the church by refusing to gossip, by tithing faithfully and inviting their friends and family to join.
“The Church is not a place you go or a service you attend – YOU ARE the church.” [Tweet this]
In summary, the definition of a disciple is someone who:
a) Loves Jesus and follows Him
b) Loves the Word and obeys it
c) Loves the church and serves in it
Now that we’ve established what a disciple of Jesus looks like, in future posts we will discuss how to take someone along the journey from new visitor to a true disciple and what you can do in your church to help people cultivate a growing relationship with God.
How do you connect members of your church with the Word of God?
How do you help them to discover their giftings and best place to start serving in the church?
Would love to hear from you, please share below.