Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
Disciples Making Disciples
By Francis Chan
Excerpt from Part I: Living as a Disciple Maker
Two thousand years ago, Jesus walked up to a handful of men and said, "Follow me."
Imagine being one of those original disciples. They were ordinary people like you and me. They had jobs, families, hobbies, and social lives. As they went about their business on the day Jesus called them, none of them would have expected their lives to change so quickly and completely. The disciples could not have fully understood what they were getting into when they responded to Jesusʼs call. Whatever expectations or doubts, whatever curiosity, excitement, or uncertainty they felt, nothing could have prepared them for what lay ahead. Everything about Jesus—His teaching, compassion, and wisdom; His life, death, and resurrection; His power, authority, and calling—would shape every aspect of the rest of their lives.
In only a few years, these simple men stood before some of the most powerful rulers on earth and being accused of "turn[ing] the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). What began as simple obedience to the call of Jesus ended up changing their lives, and ultimately, the world.
What Is a Disciple?
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? The answer is fairly simple, but it changes your life completely.
The word disciple refers to a student or apprentice. Disciples in Jesusʼ day would follow their rabbi (which means teacher) wherever he went, learning from the rabbiʼs teaching and training to do as the rabbi did. Basically, a disciple is a follower, but only if we take the term follower literally. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is as simple as obeying His call to follow.
When Jesus called His first disciples, they may not have understood where Jesus would take them or the impact it would have on their lives, but they knew what it meant to follow. They took Jesusʼs call literally and began going everywhere He went and doing everything He did.
Itʼs impossible to be a disciple or a follower of someone and not end up like that person. Jesus said, "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher" (Luke 6:40). Thatʼs the whole point of being a disciple of Jesus: we imitate Him, carry on His ministry, and become like Him in the process.
Yet somehow many have come to believe that a person can be a "Christian" without being like Christ. A "follower" who doesnʼt follow. How does that make any sense?
Many people in the church have decided to take on the name of Christ and nothing else. This would be like Jesus walking up to those first disciples and saying, "Hey, would you guys mind identifying yourselves with me in some way? Donʼt worry, I donʼt actually care if you do anything I do or change your lifestyle at all. Iʼm just looking for people who are willing to say they believe in me and call themselves Christians."
No one can really believe that this is all it means to be a Christian. But then why do so many people live this way? It appears that weʼve lost sight of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The concept of being a disciple isnʼt difficult to understand, but once you understand what it means, it changes everything.
How Do I Become a Disciple?
To understand how to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, it makes most sense to start where Jesus started. While it is true that He said to the disciples, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19), the Bible records one message He proclaimed before that. In Matthew 4:17, Jesus said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Try taking this phrase literally. If someone warned you to be prepared because a king and his army were coming, what would you do? You would make sure you were ready to face him. If you weren't prepared to fight this king, then you would do whatever it took to make peace with him.
The word, "repent" means "to turn." It has the idea of changing directions and heading the opposite way. It involves action. In this context, Jesus was telling people to prepare themselves—to change whatever needed to be changed—because God's kingdom (the kingdom of heaven) was approaching.
So how do we prepare to face this heavenly kingdom? How do we make sure we are at peace with this coming King?
Jesus says we need to repent. This implies that we all need to turn from the way we are currently thinking and living. Romans 3:23 explains that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Every person reading this sentence has done things that are evil and offensive to this King. Romans later explains that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Because of our sin, which is an offense to God, we should expect death. But then comes an amazing truth.