If you were to have a conversation with some apple trees about being fruitful, and what that looked like, you certainly would hear about the kind of fruit they expected to produce. Although I don’t make a habit of talking to trees, I imagine that for apple trees, their focus would be on producing apples! If they were pear trees or fig trees, it would be pears or figs.
So it is with disciplemaking—we must identify at the outset what it is we are trying to produce. The answer, of course, is other disciples. The word disciple (in the Greek maqhths) means student or learner. When Jesus talked about “disciples,” He was speaking about people who would follow him (Matthew 4:19), learn from him (Matthew 11:29) and become more like Him (Matthew 10:24,25).
Lorne Sanny (1920-2005) became the international director of The Navigators after our founder Dawson Trotman died. He was a wise leader who loved God and people. Lorne wrote a classic article called “The Marks of a Disciple.” In that article he points out that according to a poll done by Gallup at that time, less than 10 percent of people who called themselves Christians had any understanding of the basic teachings of their faith. In this article, which I’d encourage you to read in its entirety (it’s only a few pages), Lorne lays out three primary marks of a disciple:
1) Identified with Jesus – True disciples openly admit to God and to people they come in contact with that they belong to Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:32).
2) Obedient to God’s Word – True disciples, grounded in the grace of the Gospel, choose to be obedient to a way of living set out in the Bible (John 14:21).
3) Fruitful for Christ – True disciples, connected to Jesus (John 15:8), bear good fruit in their lives. Both the fruit of character (Galatians 5:22,23) and the fruit of influencing others for Christ (John 15:16). The greatest fruit of the Holy Spirit in the lives of followers of Jesus is love (John 13:34,35).
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, said, “Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call ‘good infection.’ Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else” (emphasis added).
How are you growing to become more like Jesus? Are these three marks of a disciple increasingly true about you? Are there one or two others around you that you can help to reflect these things as well?