What Makes a Disciple?

I love knowledge and learning new things. I love figuring out how to explain a difficult subject and explain it to others. For me, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing people “get” what you’re talking about—the lightbulb moment. This recently happened when I was explaining a few of the big ideas of Awaiting a Savior to a group of 30 people I work with.

But one of the things that I have to remember is that imparting and gaining knowledge doesn’t equate discipleship. That’s because discipleship is more than accumulating knowledge—it’s being a student of Christ. Greg Dutcher puts it really well in his new book, Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside:

A disciple is a student of Christ—someone who spends time with the Savior in order to come to know him better and resemble him more closely. As a pastor, I have found that many Christians simply assume that learning more and more about the Bible and theology—Reformed theology in particular—is the same thing as growing as a disciple. It isn’t. Robust theology can be a powerful catalyst in this process, but like anything else, we can turn it into an idol. The danger is that, while we may begin with Reformed theology as the framework by which we more coherently understand and appreciate our faith, over time it can become the substance of our faith. At that point, daily living is more about mastering Reformed doctrine than being mastered by Jesus and his total claim over every area of life.

This raises a great question: How can we encourage those we disciple to not become “about mastering Reformed doctrine”? How are you working to be mastered by Jesus’ total claim over every area of life, as Greg puts it?

I’ve not figured this out yet, partly because I do recognize this consistent tension in my own life. With my kids, I see how we are striving to live in obedience to Christ and explain the reasons why we do what we do to them. I suspect that’s a start—but how are you trying to balance the tension?

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  • Ben Thorp

    I can’t say that I have the answer either. My first step this year was to try and read more of the Bible than of other books, so I (along with Challies) have adopted the Horner Bible Reading System, which has you reading 10 chapters a day. Thus I am now reading more chapters of the Bible than of other books. 

    I also need to spend more time in prayer, and I’m looking at ways to do this, both on my own and with others.