What is true of a disciple?

Remembering our primary goal

I recently led the Community Group leaders at First Baptist Church through an activity that asked the question, "What is true of a disciple?" It is important to recognize that everyone is at a different stage along the spectrum of growth as a disciple. No single person is perfect, and so we were really asking an idealized version of that question. Not just "what is true of a disciple?" right now, but what sort of things are we aiming for as a disciple.

It is an important question for us to ask. As we participate in the various activities at church, we have to remember our ultimate goal of becoming more like Jesus. It isn't just to show up to Community Group each week or complete the weekly "assignment" for group. The goal of our Community Groups are that men and women grow as followers of Jesus, becoming more and more like their savior. That was the point of the activity, to remind us of where we are aiming.

I am going to share the collective results of the activity with you. But first, I should tell you what we did. I asked them to get in groups of 3-4 and gave them a sheet of paper with the outline of a person. On the sheet, we highlighted the head, heart and hands, which provided the framework for a three part paradigm that helped us think about what is true of a disciple.

I asked them to take some time to consider what is true ofa disciple based on the head, heart and hands framework. Each group came up with really insightful qualities of a disciple, and I want to share them with you.

What is true of a disciple?

Head

Head is meant to represent Biblical and Theological Knowledge. It helps us to consider what a mature disciple knows to be true based on what the Scriptures have revealed. Here are the collective results from the Community Group leaders:

  • Jesus is the Savior
  • God’s love is unconditional
  • We have a fundamental need for salvation through God’s forgiveness
  • Salvation through grace, not works (Eph 2:8-9)
  • Jesus says the most important command is to love God and love others
  • "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Ps 119:11)."
  • Believes, studies and memorizes God's Word
  • Scripture is authoritative
  • Understanding of Biblical interpretation and hermeneutics
  • Scripture has a cohesive message
  • A basic knowledge of the gospel message (i.e. 4 spiritual laws) and ability to articulate that message
  • Knowledge of the truth (i.e. God the Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit)
  • Academic humility
  • Understands character and nature of God as revealed in the Scriptures
  • Believes we are all sinners
  • Tendency to turn to Christ
  • Seeks to learn and grow
  • Hungers after the Word

As I reflected on this list, it was clear that a commitment to reading and understanding God's Word is an essential quality of a disciple. This will lead to a clear understanding of our sin and our need for Jesus to be our savior. It will also help us know the qualities of God and the importance of our need to love God and love others.

Heart

Heart is meant to help us consider the character of a disciple. As we grow as disciples, certain qualities will be true of the way we behave, both internally and externally. Here are the collective results:

  • Loves God with heart, soul, and strength
  • Loves neighbor as oneself
  • Kindness
  • Love for people
  • Showing Jesus’ love
  • Loves others as God’s children
  • Wants to bring others to Christ
  • Possesses a passion to live for Christ
  • Committed to prayer and spiritual growth
  • Conviction without shame
  • Growing in our desure to exhibit fruit of the Spirit
  • Softness of heart
  • Puts God and others before themselves
  • Humble confidence in God
  • Non-judgmental love
  • Grace and mercy
  • Generous with time, money, and resources
  • Patience, gentleness (display fruits of the Spirit)
  • Desires to become more like Jesus and be with Him
  • Loves the lost
  • Has a heart for “mission” need
  • Loves sinners
  • Forgiveness
  • Mercy
  • Compassion
  • Patience
  • Meekness

As I reflected on the characteristics that the Community Group leaders wrote down, it was clear that love was a central theme. This is good, because that is what Jesus told us was the most important commandment, to love God and love others. This love is for fellow Christians and also for those outside the church, with a desire for them to know Jesus. The Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, Gal. 5:22-23) also had a significant presence on this list. If loving God, loving others and exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit were defining characteristics of a person, it would be a good mark that they are a mature disciple of Jesus.

Hands

Hands is meant to represent the way that we express our knowledge and character in ministry application. As we grow in maturity, we will gain skills and desire to invest ourselves in ways that help to serve and advance the Kingdom of God. Here are the collective results from the Community Group leaders:

 

  • A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (Jn 13:34)
  • “Do Unto others (Lk 6:31)”
  • What you do for the least of these, you do for me (Mt 25:40)
  • Serves the Lord with Gladness
  • Go-Support-Send
  • Wise application of Scripture to life
  • Willingness to serve when natural man says “no!”
  • What we know doctrinally affects the long-standing patterns in our lives.
  • Open doors to unbelievers (and Christians) –invite to church, events, etc…
  • Engage in conversations with others—empathize and see their viewpoint
  • Live missionally
  • Volunteer in various ministries
  • Demonstrate fruits of the Spirit
  • Willing to serve others
  • Willing to give up resources for the furthering of the kingdom
  • James 11:27 – visit orphans and widows
  • 2 Corinthians 9:7- God loves a cheerful giver
  • Apply knowledge
  • Acts of obedience to God's commands
  • Serving
  • Transferring the truths
  • Mission trips
  • Volunteering - (ie. In Love, Word and Deed)

As I reflect on this list, it is clear that we are called to serve others. Whether it be inside the church building or to those outside our walls, we are called to serve. This will require us to give sacrificially and consider others needs above our own. Jesus says that if you want to be great in the Kingdom, you must be a servant (Mk 10:42-45). Another important element to this area is that a mature disciple is intentional. They are intentional in relationships and actions, recognizing that they are a witness to God's Good News (Acts 1:8). We are called to be witnesses in word and deed of the Gospel.

Question: What qualities do you think should be true of a mature disciple?