How Do You Define “Disciple”?

Take this 15-word challenge

Words create worlds. If you want to shape a disciplemaking culture, the language you use is one of your tools. Think about it: Language was one of the first tools given to mankind in order to fulfill the mandate to fill and govern the earth (Genesis 1:28, 2:20). Defining or naming things is one of the ways we lead.

When we leave things vague and undefined, we allow chaos, confusion and complexity to rule. It is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to shape a disciple-multiplying culture without clear, shared language. Language you create becomes both a mirror and a window—a mirror in which to see ourselves and a window through which we envision others.

Of course, defining disciple means starting with Jesus’ priorities. I’d challenge you to create a succinct definition of a disciple—15 words or less. As author and leadership consultant Will Mancini says, clarity is not everything, but clarity changes everything.

With that in mind, here are several definitions of a disciple that I have collected:

When we leave things vague and undefined, we allow chaos, confusion and complexity to rule.
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A disciple is one who…

  • is increasingly living with and for Jesus in all of life and helping others do the same. (This is my own.)
  • is increasingly worshipping Jesus, being changed by Jesus and obeying Jesus in all of life. (Jeff Vanderstelt, author, pastor of Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington)
  • is living centered and sent in Christ and helping others do the same. (Jay Pound, associate pastor, First EFC, Minneapolis, Minnesota)
  • is who Jesus would be if He had your life. (Dallas Willard, author, philosopher)

Have you created a clear definition of a disciple that you regularly use in your life and ministry? If you have, please take two minutes to comment on this post, and share it with us. How are you using it to define direction and shape culture?

Learn more about creating a disciplemaking culture within various teams at your church or specifically within your student ministries.

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