Churches are growing larger than ever before, but thousands of professing Christians in North America do not fit the New Testament definition of disciple. One survey concludes that only 25% of evangelicals meet the biblical standard for disciples. Researcher George Barna reports:
The church in America is comprised of many converts, but shockingly few disciples.
It is imperative that we seek to discover and define what it means to be a biblical disciple of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.
What is the profile of a disciple? The word ‘disciple’ implies much more than its literal meaning of “a learner or a pupil”; it is someone who has totally committed their life to the training and teaching of a master or a school of thought.
What is a disciple?
Throughout the ages, different Christians have emphasized various marks for being a disciple. However, the most important factors in defining the true marks of a disciple are found in the pages of the New Testament. The New Testament offers several marks that should be common to all disciples of Jesus Christ.
A disciple studies the word
Disciples study the word of God. Studying the Bible is very important for Christians to grow as disciples. Jesus told his disciples, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you willknow the truth, and the truthwill set you free” (John 8:31-32). Disciples need to immerse themselves daily in God’s Word, like the people who lived in Berea and who searched the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).
God speaks through his Word as believers read and study the spiritual truths of the Bible. There is nothing more important than a regular systematic study of the Bible. John Calvin tells us, “Scripture is needed as guide and teacher for anyone who would come to God the creator.” A daily reading of the Bible helps disciples to grow and mature spiritually. The Bible will strengthen your faith, speak to your heart, and guide you in all of life’s tough decisions.
A disciple knows Scripture is God-inspired
It is imperative for disciples to have a high view of scripture. The Bible was written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20–21). The Bible says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Inspiration literally means God breathed. In other words, God supernaturally inspired the writers by the power of the Holy Spirit to write the books of the Bible.
Roy B. Zuck describes it in the following way: “Though human writers were used by God to record the Scriptures, using their own styles of diction and expressing their own personalities, their words were the ‘out-breathing’ of God. Inspiration then is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit whereby he guided and superintended the writers of Scripture so that what they wrote is the Word of God.”