Be a great disciple
BY BISHOP JIMMY NUNN
The mission of The United Methodist Church is to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
But how do we know that a disciple has been formed?
John Wesley wrote that the marks of discipleship are faith, hope, and love. Those are insights that define discipleship. In addition to these, I believe there are four concepts that shape the pathway of discipleship.
The first mark of discipleship that I list is found in what has been called the Great Commandment. This commandment states to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-39). This mark shapes our inner attitude and outlook about ourselves, the people around us, and God.
The second mark of discipleship is found in a passage referred to as the Great Commission. These verses instruct us to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded people to do (Matthew 28:19-20). This mark shapes our mission, which is comprised of four verbs: go, make, baptize, and obey.
The third mark of discipleship is found in a passage that is not known as one of the “great” statements, but nonetheless it has implications of greatness. I have begun calling it the Great Commitment. This mark is found in the text “If anyone would follow me, let them deny themselves, let them take up their cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). This concept properly sets our focus beyond ourselves and on a higher cause: the cause of Christ.
The last mark of discipleship is found in a passage often referred to during this season of Lent. The action Jesus took defines the concept, and that action occurred when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples (John 13). I like to call it the Great Position. The position of a servant to others is the great position in the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps these texts form the basis of making disciples. Perhaps they define the attitudes, aspirations, and actions of a church that truly wants to make an impact for Jesus Christ.
Two of these four biblical texts have had the word “great” attached to them over the centuries. Jesus said that those who would be great among us will be the least among us.
In common language today, the use of the word great is meant to identify a world champion, someone who has excelled greatly to achieve a worthy goal.
However, the use of the word great when referring to the commandment or commission given by Jesus is not touting a victory. Instead it is identifying what is of primary importance for Christians. It answers the question “What is the most important thing about faith?” The implied greatness marks it as a prime directive.
For me, the marks of discipleship include loving God and people, sharing the story of Jesus to help people become disciples, denying myself to follow Jesus, and serving others as Jesus served.
What marks of discipleship are important for you?