What is a disciple? How would you answer that question?
At its heart, a disciple is a follower of Jesus. The problem, however, is that the modern world has a very different take on the concept of “following” something or someone. I suspect a lot of people think they can follow Jesus like they follow someone on facebook. We like his page. We read his posts in the Bible. We even put some of them into practice. But we don’t have to do EVERYTHING he commands, do we? Surely we don’t have to agree with EVERYTHING he says?
It is this watered down view of “followership” or discipleship that results in young people seeing no problem with sleeping with their boyfriends or girlfriends, yet still calling themselves Christians. It results in people of all ages “following” Jesus while engaging in all kinds of things that Jesus would not countenance.
Part of our problem centres around our almost complete lack of understanding of how discipleship was practiced in the first century. When we read the word “disciple” in our Bibles, we are reading it from a point of extreme dislocation, in terms of both time and culture. Discipleship is something that has not been practiced for over 2000 years – at least not in the way that it was practised in the first century. When the Bible uses the word “disciple” it is referring to a whole cultural institution that was very familiar to first century Jews, but almost completely unknown to us in the 21st century. Jesus did not invent discipleship. He merely utilised a cultural institution that was already prevalent in the first century.
So, if we are to have any chance of understanding what Christian discipleship means for us today, we have to begin by asking a more fundamental question: What WAS discipleship as it was practised in the first century? What did it look like? What is Jesus referring to when he uses this word?
The link below will take you to a sermon I preached on this topic last weekend at Noosa Anglican Church (with a brief introduction by the minister, Mark Calder, at the beginning). I hope you find it helpful. I can almost guarantee it will be eye-opening for you.
God bless you as you seek to be Christ’s disciples.