5 Ways Church Leaders Can Be True Disciples
By: Rick Howerton
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is much more about being His than finding Him. A disciple of Jesus is first and foremost a follower of Jesus, not someone who has simply accepted His grace at a single moment in time. And if anyone is going to follow Jesus today they must first understand what it meant to follow Jesus in New Testament times.
Jesus was a rabbi, which means He interpreted and taught scripture. Rabbis went from village to village teaching in the synagogue. They took disciples with them who would learn the rabbi’s teachings and observe his practices. A rabbi’s disciples left everything and tagged along with the rabbi; they literally followed him.
These followers weren’t just learning the rabbi’s teachings, they were under the rabbi’s tutelage. They watched what the rabbi did then imitated what they saw the rabbi doing.
Jesus required every person considering being one of His followers to first count the cost (Luke 14:28).
There are five expectations, five “ifs,” Jesus demanded of those who would be His disciples. These expectations are still required of church leaders and christians everywhere today. Amidst the business and daily operations of running a church staff, it's easy for church leaders to lose sight of the end goal - the ultimate why behind everything church leaders do. And when church staff members forget their ultimate mission, it becomes easier to slip into stress, burnout, or moral failure.
Here are five ways church leaders can be true disciples.
1. Love one another.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, IF you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
2. Learn and live Jesus’ teachings.
“IF you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31 – 32)
3. Practice self denial.
“And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, ‘IF anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.’” (Mark 8:34 – 35)
4. Make your allegiance to Jesus above all other allegiances.
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘IF anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’” (Luke 14: 25 – 26)
5. Carry the cross.
"And IF you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the author of The Cost of Discipleship, nailed the sacrifice necessary to be a disciple of Jesus when he wrote, “Fellowship with Jesus and obedience to His commandments come first, and all else follows. Worldly cares are not a part of our discipleship, but distinct and subordinate concerns.”
Church leaders should strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, following Him passionately, counting the cost of the following, learning His teachings through His Word, willfully pursuing His expectations above all other expectations, and holding firmly to the Master’s promise.
“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1 – 3)
This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ!
Every believer is called to make disciples. For most, they simply don’t know how to start.
This is why I’m proud to have had a part in creating a series of resources called the Disciples Path. This series offers an intentional plan of discipleship for anyone who is serious about following Jesus and helping others follow Jesus. To learn more about Disciples Path or using it in your church, just click on the link below.
Rick Howerton is the Discipleship and Small Group Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources.