What is a “Disciple?” What is their core value?

We are in the process of launching a church in the Denver metro area.  The church is called “The Embassy.”  Our first gathering is only weeks away and every moment we become more aware of our heart’s greatest desire.  By God’s grace we strive toward making disciples in the city of Denver.  This desire did not originate with us.  The Universal Church has been commissioned to “Go…and make disciples…” But there is a need to clarify what we mean when we say “disciple.”  The word can seem nebulous and confusing.  It is imperative that we clarify what a disciple is because we are charged with making them.  So let’s present the question to ourselves.

What does The Embassy mean when we say, “disciple?”  What are we called to be and what are we calling people to?  Is there a way of appreciating discipleship that will allow us to know the core value of a disciple?  Our working definition is quite simple,  “A disciple is a person who is progressively growing toward surrendering every area of their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ.”  There are key words that are central to appreciating this definition:

1) Progressively,   2) Growing & Surrendering,   3) Every,   4) Lordship,   5) Jesus

“Progressively”

The word “progressively” highlights the fact that discipleship is not instantaneous.  In fact, it is a never-ending process.  The objective of the disciple is to grow in divine understanding and affection for a God who is immeasurably supreme in all things.  Because of the breadth and depth of God man will never exhaust this growth process.  Therefore, it is a progressive process.  Paul affirmed this when he spoke of the process in a never-ending present tense, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are BEING TRANSFORMED into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2nd Cor. 3:18).  When a believer commits to being a disciple, they are not committing to reaching a finish line.  Instead, they are relishing and savoring the very process of “being transformed…from glory to glory…” for the rest of their lives.

“Growing and Surrendering”

It may be that the words “growing” and “surrendering” represent the facets of discipleship that give us the most trouble.  In western culture we have been taught to celebrate those that are persisters and achievers.  In both the academic and professional worlds we laud these traits as means to success.  If a person is self-reliant and independent, then we qualify them as leaders.  But for the disciple, growth leads to surrender.  As the disciple progressively grows toward God and develops a deeper affection for Him he/she surrenders, which makes for a willing vessel through whom God can act for His glory.  We become God-reliant; dependent on Him.  A disciple is showing growth when daily they turn to God and say, “Today I surrender to you.  Achieve holiness through me.  Glorify yourself in me.”  Again Paul affirms this idea when he says, “…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  For the disciple, God does not cooperate toward holiness.  Instead, He operates alone.  He lives the Godly life through those that surrender themselves to Him.

“Every” and “Lordship”

For the disciple, God is not Lord over most things.  He is lord over EVERYthing.  So in surrendering the disciple holds nothing back.  There is no area of our lives in which he is not the focus.  He is Lord over our finances, children, relationships, homes, cars, jobs, sex lives, etc.  The list is not exhaustible. In a most benedictory manner Paul lauded this point by saying, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever” (Romans 11:36)!  God has no peer in that he is the sole source, means, and end of all creation. Everything exists for his glory!  To grow as a disciple means to see Him in His splendor and surrender every area of your life to His Lordship.

“Jesus Christ”

Discipleship is not unique to Christianity.  Everyone has either intentionally or unwittingly identified a person or idea as lord and in doing so has assumed the role of disciple.  Because of this it is essential for us to be specific when we identify the object of our discipleship.  Jesus is the Lord of whom we speak!  As God he is supreme in all things and worthy of our surrender, “…all things were created BY him and FOR him” (Colossians 1:16).  He is King of kings and the one toward whom the disciple’s heart is focused.  He has all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).  He is, by definition, the one and only sovereign Master.

It is God’s objective to have his glory permeate all of creation.  He desires to make Himself famous; to put his glory on full display.  If he is central in our lives then we join him in the fulfillment of this objective.   It is our joyful core value because it is His core value.   Our approach to this is simple; “Go and make disciples.”  Add to the choir of voices that will live for Him and sing his praises.  That is the call of the disciple.  And by “disciple” we mean, “A person who is PROGRESSIVELY GROWING toward SURRENDERING EVERY area of their life to the LORDSHIP of JESUS Christ.

Brandon

Striving toward Kingdom Community and Discipleship,
The Embassadors
www.theembassy.org

About embassadors

Core Value: - In all things, God is Supreme. (Romans 11:36) Rhythms: - Biblical Truth - Inefficient Discipleship - Kingdom Community - Missional Living Distinctives: - Team - Diversity & Integration - Small Missional Community Groups - Planting Pregnant - Maximizing Resources for Kingdom Purposes
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1 Response to What is a “Disciple?” What is their core value?

  1. JW says:

    I love the fact that we are taking the time to clarify our definition of disciple.

    In recent years, it seems to me that we have cheapened the definition of a ‘disciple’ and more so that we have set a false expectation of the disciple. At times, we render the term ‘disciple’ to some flimsy definition where we equate it to a basic certification or educational degree. The very essence of being a disciple is a recognition that we, the disciple, are constantly maturing the sufferings and victories of this life.

    Our society, and even certain portions of the Church, places tremendous emphasis on instant gratification such that we want to circumvent the process in an effort to reach the end state. There’s nothing wrong with the setting of goals and then achieving those goals. The issue is that we can become so focused on quickly achieving the “end state” that we fail to learn from the process. For example, let’s look at two different scenarios: playing the lottery and weight loss/reduction surgeries. Those that choose either path are desperately seeking a quick(er) result or a quick(er) return on investment. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the goal of possessing more money or even being healthier. The analysis shows that in an overwhelming amount of cases that those having weight loss surgery end up gaining their weight back and those playing the lottery end up losing their winnings. The problem that we see is the circumvention of the process in that we don’t learn or mature. Subsequently, we don’t come to understand more about our habits, triggers, etc.

    I contend that we have to stop viewing discipleship as an end state where we want to just simply check a box. As a disciple I am growing every day. I’m giving myself, entirely, to Jesus.

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