What it means to be a disciple

I stumbled on this post by Gary Thompson via something else he wrote and the magic of Facebook.

This post deals with that central question that is so oddly hard for us to all agree about: What is a disciple? (I wonder if Nike ever has a problem figuring out what shoes are.)

Thompson offers several commonplace ideas about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, then gives us his definition.

I’m sure you can add to the list and I encourage you to do so in the comments section of this blog. But let me suggest a simple way to express what makes a Christian disciple. At the core, a disciple is one who does what Jesus repeatedly asked people do. “Take up your cross and follow me.” Do what Jesus did; be like Him. Love and serve others in His name.  Of course, church and scripture reading and prayer will be a part of one’s life. We won’t know how to be like Jesus if we are ignorant of  the Bible.

So, here it is. If you want to BE a disciple of Jesus–if you want to BE happy and successful in life–discover what God wants you to DO and DO it.




Where disciples grow

Two really thoughtful United Methodists have long disagreed about the role of congregations in forming disciples.

Dan Dick’s latest post on this topic reaffirms his belief that congregations can and should make disciple formation central to their identity. Dan has little toleration for arguments to the contrary.

There is no place in the Bible where discipleship is described as easy, cheap, or fun.  The concept of a passive discipleship — what has become the norm of “church membership” — is a contradiction in terms, and an unacceptable standard by which to define ourselves.  A mediocre faith is indicative of a mediocre God, and I can’t imagine that God is pleased or amused.

Taylor Burton-Edwards agrees with Dan about the importance of discipleship. He is every bit the advocate for discipleship as Dan. But he disagrees about the role of congregations. Taylor argues that congregations were built and have been good at a limited set of things: public worship, basic doctrinal instruction, care of members, and being a good institutional player in the community.

Discipleship, Taylor argues, is the responsibility of the larger church beyond the local congregation. Disciples are formed in intentional disciple-making communities, much like the early Methodist societies. Congregations can house such groups, but for the most part these exist and are maintained outside the boundaries and programs of local congregations.

I share these brief summaries because this debate feeds my indecisiveness. I have two smart guys making passionate arguments about the proper way to pursue disciple-making.

Now, the decisive and entrepreneurial among you will have an easy answer to this quandary. “Just do something, John, and you’ll figure out what will work.” I get that.

But humor me. What do you think?

One sister’s journey into discipleship

Jen Unger Kroc shares a powerful reflection about her encounter with covenant discipleship groups. She writes about why she got involved, what the experience has been like, and how it has affected her.

My pastor asked me to join a conversation about discipleship, and to lead a discipleship-focused ministry.

I barely knew how to articulate any difference between “discipleship” and “being a good church member”. I showed up every Sunday, sang in the choir, did my share of church work and went to study groups. Wasn’t that the point? Wasn’t I doing all the right things? …And yet. When I heard others speak of the greater mission of the church, the transformation of the world, I could feel something deep within me respond. Sometimes, that something squirmed in discomfort. Sometimes it leapt for joy. Always it reminded me that I was missing something – a deeper path. Discipleship. An intentional, disciplined (disciplined? me? did you see my list of faults?) living out of the faith that I could at that time only barely speak of.

A deep breath. Sleepless nights. Prayer and reading, and hard workouts to burn off the nervousness, and long walks to clear my head of the circling swirling fears. Deciding to claim and cling to God’s promise not to leave me alone – and yes, I will jump off that cliff, I will walk into that fire, I will grab hold of that snake’s tail, with God’s help and my pastor’s support, I will begin and I will lead a discipleship group.

It is worth a couple minutes of your time. Make sure to share it with pastors and laity at your church who might be asking the question “Is covenant discipleship for me?”

* Photo source file: Link.