What Is a Disciple According to the Bible?

Santiago Fuentes

May 27, 2024

In a study conducted by a big Christian publishing house in 2005, it was found that the greatest issue churches were facing, right behind the lack of prayer, was the lack of teaching how to be a disciple according to the Bible. Yes, the one thing Jesus said we should do: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19, CSB).  

Things have not changed much in the last 19 years. A research network identified the top challenges facing churches in 2023. At the top of the list is mobilizing for evangelism, and second place goes to concern for evangelism.   

In a healthy church, evangelism gives birth to discipleship, and we are back at square one. Through my years as a Christian, I have run into so many people who have been in church for years but have never been discipled. Oh, they have taken tons of classes, attended many small group meetings and conferences, but have never been taught how to be a disciple according to the Bible.  

You see, what the Bible teaches about discipleship is so different from what is taught today in many places and spaces. What you find in the Bible is a relationship established between one more experienced person or teacher, with another not so experienced or trained person, the disciple.

To Disciple According to the Bible is an Up-Close Relationship

Through that relationship, knowledge was imparted, skills were sharpened, character was forged, lives were changed, and multiplication happened, as the student was sent out to repeat the process he went through. The front and back end of that process is mentioned in the following verse: “He appointed twelve, whom He also named apostles, to be with Him, to send them out to preach, and to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:14–15, CSB, emphasis mine). To be WITH Him was the common denominator in how to be a disciple according to the Bible. Staying close to Jesus was their classroom—He was also the lesson and the exam.  

Carefully read the following quote: “May your house be a meeting place for teachers, and cover yourself with the dust of his feet, and drink his words greedily” Yose Ben Yoezer (II A.D.) The disciple was to follow his teacher so closely that he would end up covered with the dust that his feet would lift from the ground. Discipleship is an up-close relationship. 

The Goal of Discipleship is Multiplying Laborers

But Mark wrote also: “to send them out…” Jesus not only sent His disciples to preach when He went back to glory (Matthew 28:18-20), but He also commissioned them on other occasions to put to practice what He had taught them (Mark 6:7-13; Luke 10:1-12). He was preparing his disciples to carry on the mission when He was back in heaven. In Jesus’ approach, to disciple according to the Bible, the goal is clear: multiplying the laborers. Teacher and disciples could not and should not stay together, if the Gospel was to reach every corner of the world's harvest field. 

Jesus’ Discipleship Methods are Simple

I was talking recently to a married couple that went on a mission trip among Muslims. They were excited and fascinated at the simplicity of the missionary’s method to reach Muslims. They went to the gym, to the grocery store, to the public park, where they knew they would find these people. They started conversations, drank tea, got to know some people, and, in time, opportunities came to share the love and Gospel of Jesus.  

Simple enough. Let’s not overcomplicate things. Jesus’ method was simple: He established a relationship with His disciples. In time, they believed in Him, imitated Him, and they were sent out to repeat the process that He did with them. Although the process is simple, it will come with its challenges, like lack of commitment, disappointment, setbacks, and others. But if we follow Jesus’ example, laborers will be multiplied, and the mission will be fulfilled.  

There are two things we should do: be a disciple according to the Bible and make disciples according to the Bible.  

1 — Be a disciple.  

Find somebody from whom you can learn. Somebody that you look up to. It can be someone from whom you will learn something specific, like the way they study the Bible, the ministry they do among the homeless, the way they engage people in their community, etc. Determine a period in which you will spend time together, and establish the goals of such a relationship. Or if you have never been discipled before, find a mentor who can teach you the basics of the Christian faith, and that will help you to develop the habits that will grow your love for Jesus, such as fasting, prayer, Bible reading, serving others, attending church, etc.  

2 — Make disciples.

Find somebody to whom you can pass on the things that have helped you, such as books (Marks of Discipleship by David Yirdaw is a good book to discuss discipleship with your mentee), connect them with other believers for fellowship, and cooperate on the mission of sharing the love and Gospel of Jesus. Teach them what you have learned of and experienced with God. Help them sharpen the skills of a follower of Jesus, mentioned above. Prepare them for multiplication, for the day when you must walk different paths for the sake of reproducing Kingdom Laborers.  

Don’t wait any longer. Every Christian should be a disciple according to the Bible and should be making disciples of Jesus. 

Jesus will be with us!

It is interesting that among the many times that God and Jesus promised to be with us, one of them is tied to discipleship: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20, CSB). While you are being discipled, Jesus will be with you. While you make disciples, Jesus will be with you. We need no other encouragement. Let’s do it!