We need a new understanding of what it means to be a disciple. I have goofed in the past trying to define a disciple by describing the attributes. But a much better way exists.
A disciple is two things ‚ a student and an apprentice of Jesus. The student studies Jesus to be knowledgeable about him. The apprentice works along side Jesus to learn his trade (how to live). When you put these two definitions together, you get the following: a disciple of Jesus is one who spends enough time with Jesus that his or life begins to live life to the fullest. A disciple is more than someone who is like Jesus. A disciple is one who, like Jesus, realizes Godís potential for his or her life.
This means a disciple of Jesus studies the life of Jesus, not to just learn, but to understand. A disciple becomes an apprentice of Jesus so that understanding turns into a way of living. Being a Christian is like learning a trade. The more you study the trade and the more you are with a master in that trade the better you become at that trade, which for a disciple of Jesus is living the Christian life.
This means that disciples of Jesus are constantly growing in their ability to live like God wants them to live. This is far more than a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) attitude. It is more than a reactionary form of Christianity. It is about the totality of our lives. Disciples develop an inner character that moves them beyond WWJD. Their reactions and actions ooze from an inner source that is found in relationship with Jesus.
What then does this really mean for the local church? It means that we need to quit measuring our ministry by how many people are in attendance. We need to measure our ministry by how many people are, as Wesley said, ìGoing on to perfection (maturity).î At the moment, I doubt if many of us have a way of measuring personal growth. If we did, our ministries would take on a different flavor. So, here are some suggestions. See what you can add to them.
How many people do we have in some form of growth experience?
Do the actions of our leaders reflect a growing maturity?
Are there times when we have more people in hands-on ministry than in worship?
Do all of our ministries have a missional component that goes beyond mere study?
What else would you add to this? Why not put out more for us to chew on?