Welcome to the latest addition to our Elders Corner series. In this edition, Elder Dr. Kenneth Hammonds examines what it means to be a disciple of God…and explains exactly how to determine how D.E.E.P. our love for God actually goes.
“Making converts is essential, but the job isn’t finished until those converts are discipled.” — Ed Stetzer
The Church of God in Christ’s denominational theme for 2015 from our Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake is a powerful call to a full commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is a clarion call to full Christian discipleship:
“Christ’s Extreme Sacrifice Calls for Our Extreme Commitment”
But who in our modern-day, Post-Christian Era, cares about or talks much about discipleship? Wasn’t that something those twelve apostles did when Jesus was on earth? And what does that have to do with me in this 21st century?
These questions represent views shared by many Christians today, but they don’t even touch the surface of the true, biblical concept of discipleship and its core word, disciple.
SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS A DISCIPLE?
At first glance, the New Testament word for disciple, mathētēs (pronounced mah-thay-TACE), is quite simple with no depth. It means learner; apprentice. However, during the classical Greek period (c. 400 BC) a mathētēs moves deeper in meaning from a mere student or apprentice to a full-fledged follower; an enthusiastic adherent spreading the philosopher/teacher’s teachings. This word reaches its full purpose however, when a mathētēs also becomes a loyal teacher.
So, let’s clear the air of the simple for the deep, and immerse ourselves into the reality and power of the idea of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
DIVING INTO DISCIPLESHIP
I have developed an acrostic that I trust will be useful for our discussion of this central word of the Gospels and Acts. The Disciple Acrostic is:
There are four dynamic, action-based relationships of the disciple of Jesus Christ to his or her Teacher and Lord. The disciples’ thinking, acting, and serving are ‘deep’-rooted and grounded within Him:
D – Devoted: A Disciple is a devoted believer in Jesus Christ.
The believer in the NT means, “one who is committed (fully devoted) to a person, belief or thing.” The disciple of Jesus has declared and must develop a full devotion to Him and serve Him. Jesus does not share Lordship’s first place. The preachers have said it and it is true, “Either He is Lord of all or He is not Lord at all.”
Personal Q: Is Christ Lord over every area of your life? (Colossians 3:24; Galatians 6:1-2; Proverbs 16:18)
E – Embraces: A Disciple embraces the teachings and lifestyle of Jesus Christ our Teacher and Lord.
Do you simply tolerate or even just blatantly ignore some of the demands and tough spiritual and personal challenges from the Word of God?
Personal Q: Have you fully embraced (eagerly, readily with opened arms) all that God has told you to do and be?
E – Enthusiastic: A Disciple is an enthusiastic and active adherent of Jesus Christ. The adherent of Jesus is “All into Him” and sticks to the Master even when the times are rough. He or she is no “fair-weather saint.”
Personal Q: Are you really enthusiastic about the Lord and having Him in your life? Enthusiastic worship, service, and living are the beginning of personal evangelism.
P – Promotes: A Christian Disciple assists in promoting and spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
The enthusiastic disciple is so excited about the Message and Man, Jesus Christ, that he or she spreads his Word and teachings and promotes his causes whenever and wherever possible. Ephesians 5:16 enjoins us to “make the most of every opportunity” for Christian service and our commitment to Him.
Personal Q: Do you like spreading the Word about Jesus to all groups of people? Or do you think it is the designated task of a few “chosen and gifted” ones?
If you don’t like “preaching,” just share with others the wonderful things your Savior has done for you and your life. Anyone who has a deep, devoted, enthusiastic love for Him can do this.
So, there it is. As believers in Jesus the Christ (God’s Uniquely Anointed One), we are D.E.E.P. into Discipleship.
This short discussion in no way covers all the myriad of ways to look at discipleship. But, hopefully these few words will serve as a beginning for a new growing relationship with the Lord, and perhaps also serve as a useful tool as you train, teach, empower, and disciple others.
About Dr. Kenneth Hammonds
Kenneth Hammonds (M.Div., Ed.D.) has been in Christian Ministry for over 45 years and is Director of Discipleship at West Angeles Church and Sector Leader of the Adult Ministries Division (Seven Department Ministries). He is an experienced New Testament Greek Trainer and author of “An Introduction to New Testament Greek Grammar for Word Studies,” and is also author of a biblically-based wealth-building commentary for Christian entrepreneurs entitled, “God Wants You To Be Wealthy.”
Source material for mathētēs (disciple):
1. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume, Kittel and Friedrich, Editors. Geoffrey Bromiley, Translator.
2. A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Walter Bauer./Translation by, Arndt and Gingrich.