Who Is a Disciple?

Strange Words

Several weeks before visiting Australia for the first time, I heard my then boyfriend (now husband) use the word fortnight in a sentence. I immediately erupted into rolling laughter. To my American ears, it sounded like a word straight from a fairy tale – fit for use by knights and princesses, used in a castle, situated in a book reserved for bedtime stories. While it’s a word commonly used here in Australia, it rang strangely in my American ears.

I wonder if there are words, used so commonly in the Bible, that ring strangely in our ears. I wonder if the word disciple is one of them. Easily fitted into our Christian vernacular, its usage is common, but I often wonder about its practical application.

What do you think of when you hear the word disciple?

If I were in a room with you right now, I’d run a quick survey to see what images your mind conjures up when you hear the word “disciple”. Do you think about fishermen called by Jesus to follow him, learn from him and carry out his mission? Or do you think of yourself?

All too often when reading the Bible, the word disciple rings strangely in my ears. All too often, I think of those twelve men and not of myself. It’s a word I know. A word I’m familiar with, but it seems fit to describe twelve fishermen and tax collectors. Though commonly used in that time, sometimes it rings strangely in my ears.

What Jesus thinks about disciples

The major problem with this, however, is that it runs contrary to Jesus’ thinking about disciples. In fact, the last words Jesus left with his disciples – his followers at that time – is the same message he leaves for us. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

Jesus set up the model that disciples should make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Jesus intended for that word, that model, that concept to remain timeless and to transcend culture. He intended for his ranks of disciples to be as diverse as humankind itself. He intended for them to come from every profession possible. As language, culture, time and technology evolved, Jesus expected the discipleship model to remain the same: disciples who make disciples who make disciples.

Peter, James and John

So the next time you hear the word disciple, not only should you think of Peter, James and John and imagine them fishing the waters of the Galilee, you should see a picture of yourself, at your job in the office or the laboratory, at the factory or the operating theatre, at the construction site or the nursing home. As Christians, we are all disciples called to make disciples.

In this issue, we’ve highlighted this by telling the stories of several members of our church who are disciples of Jesus who are intent on making other disciples. Lyne, Pauline and Joseph’s stories may remind your of your own journey or they may spur you on to grow in your discipleship journey.

The Digital Discipleship Conference

For the creative among us, we’re hosting a Digital Discipleship Conference whose aim is to build a discipleship movement in the digital space. At this year’s event, we will ask and answer the question, “How can we tell the story of Jesus in a digital age?” For more information, visit our website at http://digitaldiscples.info.

So now I ask you again, If I were in a room with you right now and I ran a quick survey to see what images your mind conjures up when you hear the word “disciple” would you only think of the twelve men who followed Jesus or would you also think of yourself?

Register for the Digital Discipleship Conference

If you’d like to know more about the Digital Discipleship Conference, where we will be discussing discipleship in the digital space, visit our website at http://digitaldisciple.info.

Click here to register for the Digital Discipleship Conference.