Foundation Topic

What Is a Disciple?

The word disciple means student or apprentice. If you are a disciple, it means you have devoted your life to a person or trade. The Bible describes followers of Jesus as disciples—people who have committed their entire lives to him. Once we believe in Jesus as our Savior, then we follow him as our Lord. We enjoy getting to know him for the rest of our lives and helping others do the same. 

Short Content

What Is a Disciple?

What is a disciple? A disciple is a follower.

You can do that by following someone’s teaching from afar, like someone might say he follows the teaching and example of Gandhi. And being a disciple of Christ means at least that much. A disciple of Jesus follows in Jesus’s steps, doing as Jesus taught and lived—but it also means more than that.

Following Jesus first means that you have entered into a personal, saving relationship with him. You have been “united with Christ,” as the Bible puts it (Philippians 2:1 NIV). You have been united through the new covenant in his blood. Through his death and resurrection, all the guilt of sin that is yours becomes his, and all the righteousness that is his becomes yours. 

Being a disciple of Christ, in other words, does not begin with something we do, or our following. It begins with something Christ did. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). He loved the church and therefore gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). He paid a debt that he didn’t owe, but that we owe, and then he united us to himself as his holy people.

You see, God is good, and he created us as good. But each of us has sinned by turning away from God and his good law. And because God is good, he will punish our sin. The good news of Christianity, however, is that Jesus lived the perfect life we should have lived, and then he died the death we should die. He offered himself as a substitute and sacrifice for everyone who will repent of their sin and trust in him alone. This is what Jesus called the new covenant in his blood. 

So Christian discipleship begins right here with the acceptance of this free gift: grace, mercy, a relationship with God, and the promise of life eternal. 

How do we accept this gift and unite ourselves to him? Through faith! We turn away from our sins and follow after him, trusting him as Savior and Lord. At one point in his ministry, Jesus turned toward a crowd and said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34 ESV). 

Our discipleship to Christ begins when we hear those two words and obey them: “Follow me.”

Friend, if you would become a Christian, regardless of how any other teacher you have heard puts it, listen to Jesus. He says that being a Christian involves denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following him. The fundamental response to God’s radical love for us is for us to radically love him. 

To be a Christian means to be a disciple. There are no Christians who are not disciples. And to be a disciple of Jesus means to follow Jesus. There are no disciples of Jesus who are not following Jesus.

Ticking a box on a public opinion poll, or sincerely labeling yourself with the religion of your parents, or having a preference for Christianity as opposed to other religions—none of these things make you a Christian.

Christians are people who have real faith in Christ, and who show it by resting their hopes, fears, and lives entirely upon him. They follow him wherever he leads. You no longer set the agenda for your own life; Jesus Christ does that. You belong to him now. “You are not your own,” Paul says, “You were bought with a price” (see 1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Jesus is not just our Savior—he is our Lord.

Paul explained it this way: “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15 NIV).

What does it mean to die to self and live for Jesus?

Don Carson has said, “To die to self means to consider it better to die than to lust; to consider it better to die, than to tell this falsehood; to consider it better to die than to. . . [you name the sin].” The Christian life is the discipled life. It starts by becoming a disciple of Christ.

Content taken from Discipling by Mark Dever, ©2016. Used by permission of Crossway. 


Theme Verse

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 


What Is a Disciple?
Article: 4 Min

5 Habits As You
Walk with Christ

Messages: 23 Min

Ministry from Intimacy

by Britt Merrick

John 8:12 ESV

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  

Messages: 20 Min

Walking With God

by Mike Swider

Study Guide

The Good Shepherd:
A Bible Study on Discipleship

“Who will disciple me?” You might wonder. We have created this Bible study for you, so that you can discover the ways God promises to shepherd those who belong to him. Feel free to save this pdf to your phone. We encourage you to jump into this study as soon as you can!


"Living for Jesus"

We have made a graphic so you can keep the poem "Living for Jesus" on your phone as your background or screensaver!

Messages: 49 Min

The Summons of the King

by Britt Merrick


The distinguishing mark
of a true disciple
is his or her
supreme love and affection
for Jesus Christ

Article: 9 Min

The What, Why, Where, and How of Being a Disciple


How to Make Disciples?
Romans 15:14 ESV

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-9 ESV

But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 


Are you seeking Jesus?
Where have you been
looking for him?

As you begin
your day, think
through the various
places you will be
and the people
you will be with;
and envision Jesus
standing next to you
in each of those places.


Good Discipleship Requires Good Listening

There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. This is no fulfillment of our obligation, and it is certain that here too our attitude toward our brother only reflects our relationship to God. It is little wonder that we are no longer capable of the greatest service of listening that God has committed to us, that of hearing our brother's confession, if we refuse to give ear to our brother on lesser subjects. 

Secular education today is aware that often a person can be helped merely by having someone who will listen to him seriously, and upon this insight it has constructed its own soul therapy, which has attracted great numbers of people, including Christians. But Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God. 

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer | Source
Article: 10 Min

The Great Commission as a Means of Grace

David Mathis helps us understand that discipleship is a gift, a means of God's grace to help us mature in at least four ways.

by David Mathis at Desiring God

Hebrews 3:13 ESV

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Article: 10 Min

Hospitality Is Courageous

What is true biblical hospitality? Matt Chandler not only defines hospitality, but also offers us four ways to show hospitality.

by Matt Chandler at The Gospel Coalition

Article: 7 Min

Christian, You Don’t Have to Change the World

by Tim Shorey at The Gospel Coalition

Praise & Worship

Hands of God

by Francesca Battistelli feat. Matt Hammitt
Article: 7 Min

Hospitality Is a Matter of the Heart

by Bruce, a Friend of

Article: 10 Min

Seven Costs of Disciple-Making

by David Mathis at Desiring God

John 13:34, 35 ESV

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.


The first place
Christians should
ordinarily look
to be discipled
and to disciple
through the
fellowship of the
local church both
and scattered.

Article: 7 Min

How to Disciple with a Book

by Mike Pettengill at The Gospel Coalition


I will most gladly
spend and be spent
for your

2 Corinthians 12:15 ESV
Article: 15 Min

9 Factors to Consider When Choosing Someone to Disciple

by Mark Dever at 9Marks

John 13:13-17 NIV

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  

Article: 10 Min

In Our Discipling Relationships, Best-Sellers Are Great . . . But the Bible Is Best

by Sam Koo at 9Marks