Earlier we’ve talked about how the word discipleship has come to mean both everything and nothing. But obviously this can’t be where we end. I’ve found that unless you define the terms that you use and make clear what you mean, then what you say will often be meaningless.

So I have come to understand that discipleship can be simply defined as this: Submitting to the Father’s authority and leadership, by following the words and ways of Jesus.

I shared Jesus’ command to a prospective disciple to “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” in the last post because I think it gets to the heart of what it means to be a disciple. What’s fascinating is that as you begin to study Jesus you can see two stark themes emerge:

1) The good news announcing the nearness of God and his authority (The Kingdom of God)Kingdom of God Graphic
2) The challenge to radically obey the words of Jesus, which are the words of the Father

Our response to the first theme is limited to two options, submit or rebel, humble submission or arrogant defiance. Jesus goes on to describe time and again that the kingdom belongs to the humble of heart, the meek, the poor in spirit…this is essentially the command to deny yourself. There could be an entire book written on this idea (oh right, there has been… it’s called the Bible).

Our response to the second is much the same, obey or disobey. Over and over again Jesus stresses the importance of obeying his words and that the Father is the source of his words and actions (Matt. 7:24; John 5:19, 7:16-17, 14:10). Jesus models this radical obedience as he goes to the garden and prays in anguish, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” There is no better place to look for how to take up your cross than this.

So the movements of discipleship are to submit and obey, deny yourself and take up your cross… there is no other way to follow Jesus. And the path that we follow him down is one where we must become more and more like Christ, or cease to follow him.

Is this the message that we preach in the Church today though? At WDA, it’s our unflinching claim that, in spite of what we may want to hear, maturity in Christ is what matters! We must become like Him, or what we are becoming is quite unbecoming. Take some time and ask yourself if you have made the commitment to being a disciple of Jesus and have counted the cost of what that means and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

All our words, from loose using, have lost their edge. – Ernest Hemmingway

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Jesus (Matthew 16:24)

What is discipleship?  It is a word that has come to mean both everything and nothing and this is largely because our efforts to define the word normally relate to the actions associated with discipleship rather than understanding the core issues involved.  This is why in some circles discipleship has come to mean evangelism, in other circles it means bible study, scripture memory, and the pursuit of personal holiness, still in other circles it means being active in missional engagement.

But these things are the fruit of discipleship, not the tree itself.  To define discipleship in these terms would be like describing marriage as sex, or parenting, or filing for joint bank accounts.  It certainly CAN describe the word, but it definitely doesn’t encompass it.

And if we’re honest, this is a big problem right?  Jesus left us with a central command to go into all the world and make disciples, and many of us can’t even agree on what that means practically.  But if we’re honest, our problem doesn’t really come from a lack of understanding, it comes from our unwillingness to swallow the distasteful words that Jesus plainly speaks.  Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me.

The truth is that we have selfish and rebellious hearts that chafe under the command to humble ourselves and submit to the will and authority of one who is higher than us.  The truth is that we are afraid of any cross, because we are afraid of death and pain.  And the truth is that our claims to “follow Jesus” are related much more to our minds and words than to our hands and feet.  At least this is the truth about me.

Is it really more complicated than that though?  Has the word discipleship lost the edge that it was intended to have?  At WDA we’ve thought about this a lot; take some time and check out some more of how we’ve tried to work this out in the day to day and please share your thoughts in the comments.


Jesse DukesAuthor:  Jesse Dukes
Jesse leads LocalScope a WDA Next Generation Ministry