What Is A Disciple?

03.23.15 | Leader Development, Discipleship Formation | by Christie Latona

    By Christie Latona

    What is a disciple? This may seem like a silly question. Especially since the mission of each United Methodist Church is "To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." Yet until a congregation defines what a disciple is, does, and looks like in their context, mission drift almost always occurs. One of the places many leaders and congregations seem to be getting stuck is around mistaking the comforts of tangible membership for the sacrifices of spiritual discipleship.

    This video is often a useful conversation starter:

    Here are some questions you might use with the video:

    1. What are ways we are making disciples here?
    2. What activities or attitudes are getting in the way of us doing a better job?
    3. Which of the shifts from membership to discipleship do we need to work on first:

    From church being about "us" (those who are members) to being about "them" (those who are not yet in a relationship with Christ).

    From focusing on programs (which meet a specific need or desire) to focusing on ministry (helping people take the next step in their journey toward a life centered in God).

    From privileges of membership (we are paying for this) to sacrifice of discipleship (Jesus paid for all).

    From destination of membership (classes/experiences to convert a guest to a member) versus the journey of discipleship (committing to move oneself and others deeper in our/their discipleship: from wondering to beginning to growing to maturing).

    Dr. Phil Maynard's book, Shift, devotes a whole chapter to the shift from Membership to Discipleship. On page 67, he lays out an interesting comparison on distinctions between churches who focus on members versus those focusing on maturing disciples:


    Suggested Resources for Leaders and Congregations Related to Discipleship:

    What would you add to this list?