What’s a disciple? A rather innocuous question, but one that receives a variety of answers.

I believe we would all put Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20 as one of His most important commands. After all, it was important enough to give it a nickname… “The Great Commission.” People with better English than I, tell me that “make disciples” is the key command in this passage and the other instructions are all supporting this command.

In order to make disciples we need to know what a disciple is. Jim Putman, in his book Real-Life Discipleship Training Manual, said the best definition of a disciple comes from Jesus’ invitation to His disciples. Matthew 4:19 says, “And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

In this we see 3 parts that make up a disciple.

  1. Follow me – A disciple is following Jesus.
  2. I will make you – A disciple is being changed by Jesus.
  3. Fishers of men – A disciple is doing the work of Jesus.

A disciple is one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and doing the work of Jesus.

Once we accept this as a good definition of a disciple it allows us to do three things.

First, it lets us evaluate ourselves.  Am I following Jesus…. everyday…. in every area of my life?  Am I being changed by Jesus? Am I surrendering and letting Him change me?  Am I doing the work Jesus did/does?

Second, it lets us evaluate our disciple-making efforts. If I say I am discipling someone is he starting to follow Jesus more?  Can I see Jesus making changes in his life?  Is He doing the work of Jesus?  If any of those are missing there is a breakdown in the disciple-making process.  If what I am doing is not producing those results I need to figure out what needs to change so that those results become normal in my disciple-making.

Third, it lets us evaluate what our church’s discipleship.  Are the things we are doing as a church helping people follow Jesus more?  Are we seeing change in people’s lives?  Are they doing the work Jesus did?  Are we seeing a growing number of people with whom we could confidently answer YES to the three questions above?  If we cannot confidently answer yes, then we need to re-evaluate our discipleship plan in our church.

It can be easy for us to make excuses in each of these areas, but until we recognize the problem we have little chance to solve it.

How would you evaluate your disciple-making and your church’s disciple-making?

(If you have not already done so, I really encourage you to memorize Matthew 4:19)