What Is A Disciple?
An excerpt from Vince’s upcoming book, The Man God Intended
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… Matt 28:19
What is the purpose of an automobile? Transportation, of course. How would you define an automobile, in other words, what are the essential characteristics an automobile must possess in order to live out its purpose? The first, and obviously most important, would be its power source. Without that it is going nowhere. Next, it needs all of the essential parts that give it the ability to navigate. Then finally, it needs a destination.
Now, lets switch gears (pun intended) and ask, what is the purpose of a disciple? I want to suggest that it is Transformation. In fact, I believe that is really the main purpose of God’s church on planet earth. The REAL product of Ford Motor Company is not cars, it is Transportation. They manufacture different kinds of cars for differing transportation needs.
In the same way, the REAL product of the church should be Transformation. Making disciples and releasing them into the world is the way we bring about the true purpose and thereby advance His kingdom. If Ford attracts a whole lot of parts, the pieces that when brought together create the car, and leaves them on the factory floor, Transportation will not happen. In the same way, if the church attracts a bunch of people and does not make them Disciples…Transformationwill not happen.
I suggest to you that this is the great challenge we face in the church today. If we do not get this and change our ways, we are doomed as a nation and will have missed God’s call for America. If we can agree that we must change and be intentional about making Disciples we must start with defining what a disciple looks like. In a recent meeting with a bunch of pastors and leaders I posed the question, what are the characteristics, or markers of a Disciple? It was embarrassing—deer in the headlights. How can we produce something we cannot even define.
Before Ford even thinks about assembling those parts do you not think they know EXACTLY what it is to look like? Do you think they would even release it from the factory until they examined it and knew that it passed inspection and that Transportation, will result? Of course not. So what do you think? How good a job are we doing in our churches as we consider this analogy?
In a past article I wrote about the three, which have now become four, characteristics or markers of a Disciple. I want to briefly mention those again here, but before I do, let me ask you to consider what the non-essentials are in the quest to live out the intended purpose. For instance, in the case of the automobile, it does not matter what color it may be…let me repeat that, the color of the car means nothing. It also does not matter how flashy it is or how much it costs.
Likewise, with producing a disciple, there should be no concern about anything other than the essentials. In His mind every human being on planet earth can become a disciple as long as they possess the necessary markers. Who you are, what color you are, where you’ve been, what you have done…none of that disqualifies us from becoming the man (or woman) God intended. What is required, however, are these four markers:
An intimate relationship with God. This may sound like a given but in my humble opinion, this is where we have failed miserably as a church. Let’s go back to our car. This is equivalent to putting all the parts together without a power source. It may look and feel like a car (a lot of people look and feel like disciples) but is not going to produce Transportation any more than that church attender will bring about Transformation. This is why today there are so many well-intended Christians out there trying to make a difference with little to show for their efforts—no REAL spiritual power.
Dear ones, this is essential for us to get. This is the reason in my ministry that I am now dedicating myself to specific training times throughout the year to help men develop an intimate relationship with our Lord. A relationship that will allow them to truly sense and feel His presence in their lives. It is only then that we can understand and receive the next markers.
Know how God made me. If I do not have an intimate relationship with God I will never discover how He made me. In other words, it’s like God answering the question, Lord, when you look at me, what do You see? I don’t know anyone who would not want the answer to that question. Going back to our car, this would be understanding all of the parts (gifts) present that make it, or me, work.
Know why God made me. Following this process we now come to our destiny—the reason for our existence. Someone once said, if you do not know where you are going…any road will take you there. That is what is happening, especially with a lot of men today. In this stage is where we find out our specific assignment. Remember the third marker for our car is knowing the destination.
Living out my purpose. Just like what happens when that car is headed toward its destination, Transportation is taking place and it is fulfilling its purpose. You and I, in our respective spheres of influence, bring the life and love of Jesus and transform our culture one life at a time.
Keep in mind that a car without a destination and a man without a destiny are still a car and a man.
What they have in common is they both belong in a museum.
In case you missed it earlier, let me say it again, the problem we have today is that we do not have true spiritual formation until we develop an intimate relationship with our Lord. The true spiritual power is not there and all the world hears is our noise. If we are going to turn this around, not only do we need to adopt these markers and have a take-no-prisoners attitude when it comes to developing them, we also need to do it in the order they appear above.
Each one of these must be built upon the former. Our training in our churches needs to reflect this approach and we must be willing to change our metrics for success from butts in chairs to spiritual formation/depth. Remember, before that car leaves the factory it is inspected, evaluated, and someone checks that box that says—Transportation can now happen. Pastor, leader, trainer, when Jack and Mary leave your church or equipping systems, do you know if they qualify as a disciple and Transformation will be the result?