Defining a Disciple

I came across this definition of a disciple from the book, InnovateChurch and I really like it.

A disciple is a person who has trusted Christ for salvation and has surrendered completely to Him. He or she is committed to practicing the spiritual disciplines in community and developing to their full potential for Christ and His mission.

It establishes that you are indeed a follower of Christ, that you have a personal responsibility to be transformed, and that you have a personal responsibility to join the mission of Christ in making other disciples.  To see the characteristics of a disciple, see my previous post about making disciples.

Discipleship is the process churches use to make disciples. Here is the book’s definition of discipleship.

Discipleship is the process of guiding individual disciples to grow in spiritual maturity and to discover and use their gifts, talents, and abilities in fulfillment of Christ’s mission.

Are you a disciple?  And is your church making disciples?


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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6 Responses

  1. Eugene Hor says:

    totally agree – discipleship – all about growing people to be more like Jesus and equipping them to serve the ministry and mission of Jesus. one of priorities I think pastors miss in the ministry is giving priority to equipping with a view to mission. Equipping the saints always seems to stop short of the church, but never with a view to the world. My understanding is that Eph.3:10-11 sets the context of the call to equip in Eph.4:7-16, which reminds us that raising disciples within is always with a view to the world. like you said – people need to see that they have a personal resp. to join the mission of Jesus by the very fact that they are disciples of Jesus. in Him, euge

  2. Paul says:

    I really prefer something like: A disciple is someone who is committed to following Jesus all the time and in every way.

  3. Mike says:

    Yours is a good definition as well. It is simple and clear. But I do think you have to be careful to define what you mean by follow. You can follow someone without actually believing in them. I think churches tend to put so much emphasis on service that they miss the transformational part of being a disciple.

    Following Christ is a complete surrender, a complete yielding of your life to follow after him no matter the cost. Following assumes total belief and total commitment. Thanks for your comments.

  4. Paul says:

    Ok, just getting back to this. The problem with what you want to say is that it does not pass the logical test for truth. 🙂 harsh, I know. Truth in this case is a statement that corresponds to reality. I have, for example, been following Christ for the past 32 years, have been a seminarian, pastor, missionary, seminary prof and a bunch of other things. I am still most of them 🙂 but I could not say in all confidence that I am 'completely surrendered' or 'completely yielded'. So, for me then I would not be a disciple according to your definition.

    I agree that we need to raise the bar on what it means to be a Christ follower but we should make our definition reflect the reality of what it is to be one.

    • Mike says:

      I appreciate your comments, but I think you may be reading much more into what I am saying than I actually said. Maybe my language is strong, but I think that the language in the Bible is very strong as well. When you read through Matthew 22:37-38, Matthew 12:44-46, Luke 14:33, and John 14:15, you see the level of commitment that Christ requires.

      The cultural context is also very important. I live in the American south, where there is a church on every corner and almost everyone you meet claims to be a Christian. Many people will even say they have trusted Jesus as their Savior, but not as Lord. I don't believe that is an option that the Bible presents. When we surrender our lives to him, he wants our heart, not a half-hearted commitment.

      The book of 1 John is an excellent description of how we can be fully committed to Christ, yet still sin. There is incredible grace, there is forgiveness, and there is hope for everyone. I want to teach that discipleship is more than just obeying a list of commands. It starts in your heart, and it starts with yielding and surrendering to God's control of your life.

      Thanks again for commenting, I pray that God continues to bless you and your ministry.

      • Mark says:

        Well said Mike. I have been having some very good discussions lately about discipleship and salvation. From what I read in the Bible I am beginning to question some of what I hear in churches everywhere – and I know this can easily be taken the wrong way but here it goes anyway… the message that is spread is that salvation is a free gift and it seems to me that many people like the offer. Hey I don't want to go to hell, all I have to do is accept this free gift and I am in – sweet. BUT, from what I read in the Bible this gift is free in the sense that we can't earn it, can't buy, etc. HOWEVER, it is costly (if I am reading the Bible correctly) in that I must give up everything for HIM. Everything meaning the love of money, the selfishness, the desire for all things of this world. I don't give them up out of obligation but because I am dying to my selfish self daily and allowing Christ to live through me. I can't be a light to the world on my own. I am wretched, but with Christ I can. Will I fail – yes, often. But, my heart wants to glorify God and when I consider the things of this world that so often distract me (wealth, comforts, acceptance, etc) it is obvious to me that they have no eternal value and when I strive for them I am not doing the will of the Father. For me I have tried to simplify it to these two things…
        1. Mark, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.
        2. Mark, love everyone as Christ did.

        Can I be a disciple of Christ and yet not obey Him? I don't think so. If you don't agree with me that is OK, I am not the Judge so you may be fine. I just think it is pretty arrogant to think that a God who has told us to love Him above all else would be OK with our blatant disregard (and I am referring to the heart as we are all sinners) to what He has asked us to do. Our blatant disregard to love everyone as Christ loved them.

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