THE SEVEN MARKS OF A DISCIPLE
The label ‘Christian,’ in our culture, means different things to different people. It is also not a common biblical term (it is only used 3 times in Scripture). Much more common is the term disciple (used almost 300 times!). The terms are meant to be synonymous (see Acts 11:26), but we believe the term ‘disciple’ more clearly communicates who we are supposed to be as followers of Jesus.
So what does a disciple of Jesus Christ actually look like? A New Testament study reveals that there are 7 key marks of a disciple. Here at Hess Road Wesleyan, we want to do everything we can to help God’s people become mature disciples. Our discipleship program is, therefore, built around these 7 marks:
#1 DISCIPLES GET BAPTIZED
Baptism is the key first step to discipleship. Of course, it doesn’t always play out as a first step. Some people are baptized long before they truly commit to becoming disciples. Other people are baptized long after that commitment. In any case, the ritual of baptism is intended as a sacred moment in which a believer demonstrates their death to self, their life in Christ, the spiritual cleansing they have in Christ, their reception of the Spirit, and their participation in the body of Christ. The discipleship program at Hess Road calls for all believers to be baptized. Believer’s baptism clearly communicates ones intention to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
#2 DISCIPLES ASSEMBLE
Throughout the Gospel according to Matthew, for example, we find the disciples of Jesus worshipping Him (14:33, 16:16, 26:26, 28:17). Worship takes many forms. It is not just singing. It is not just celebrating the Lord’s Supper. It is not just showing up on Sunday’s and/or giving. Worship will include those things, but it is not contained by them. The discipleship program at Hess Road calls for all believers to worship God. Regular attendance, participation in praise, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and giving are some of the best ways to communicate a heart of worship. We aim to be a worship-full church.
#3 DISCIPLES PRAY
Jesus does not generally command prayer… He takes it as a given that His disciples will pray! The Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4) makes clear that disciples will pray at least daily. The discipleship program at Hess Road calls for all believers to talk to God on a regular basis. We encourage an active personal prayer life as well as participation in corporate prayers. All our ministries are to be surrounded in prayer. We aim to be a prayer-full church.
#4 DISCIPLES LEARN
The Sermon on the Mount shows us that Jesus was a master teacher. In it, He teachings us about our mission, our marriages, our emotions, our handling of conflict, our spirituality, our money, our relationships, etc.). As His disciples, we are to be master students. Disciples learn by listening, by asking questions, by discipline. The discipleship program at Hess Road urges believers to participate in Christian Education contexts beyond the Sunday morning service. We encourage personal and corporate Bible study. We aim to be a biblically informed church.
#5 DISCIPLES GROW
A New Testament study of discipleship clearly shows that disciples enter into a life of obedience to Christ that changes them. What good is information without transformation? We are supposed to be transformed from spiritual infants to children and, ultimately, from children to mature adults. Christ changes us at a character level. Christian character is primarily about love. We grow in our love for God and love for people. The discipleship program at Hess Road believes that life-on-life interaction is an important strategic context for spiritual growth. We encourage all our members to stay connected to our network of relational small groups and meet with each other regularly. In such a context, we believe, disciples can help each other grow like Christ. We aim to be a holy church.
#6 DISCIPLES SERVE
The church and the world are full of needs. Far too often we notice needs, but figure someone else will meet the need. Jesus says we should meet the needs. Jesus called for His disciples to be servants. Every believer has been given spiritual gifts so that they may serve the church and world in ways that make a difference in time and for eternity. The discipleship program at Hess Road insists that believers in Christ find some way to serve Christ. We want to help each person discover their spiritual gifts, connect to a corresponding ministry, and build the kingdom! We aim to be a serving church.
#7 DISCIPLES WITNESS
We are called to make disciples of all nations. There are a lot of people on this planet and many of them are not yet disciples of Jesus Christ. Not all of Jesus’ disciples are gifted in evangelism, but we are all called to be salt and light to society. In many ways, we bear witness to God’s kingdom automatically when the other 6 discipleship markers are present. But there is also a commission element to witnessing.
A disciple is an apprentice (or student). What would we make of a school student who didn’t enroll (baptism), attend/participate (worship), talk to the teacher (pray), acquire knowledge (learn), progress from grade to grade (grow), eventually graduate to the work-force (serve), or want their own children to enroll (witness)? You probably wouldn’t call them a student at all.
A disciple of Jesus is an apprentice of Jesus. We do what Jesus did and what He taught His disciples to do. We get baptized, we worship, we pray, we learn, we grow, we serve, we witness. These are the 7 marks of a disciple. These marks serve as the focus of the Hess Road Wesleyan Church discipleship program, which is everything we do!