“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
Is there a difference between the terms “disciple” and “Christian” and if so, why does it matter?
If I were to ask you, “do you want your child to be a disciple or a Christian or both?”, how would you answer?
While it may seem like we’re splitting hairs, denoting the differences between what it means to be a disciple versus a Christian may help us find clarity in how we view our faith. And obviously, the clearer we are, the clearer our children will be. Words matter for they define what we believe and what we believe directly influences what we pass on to them and others.
Here are some quick facts to help us distinguish between the words disciple and Christian:
- The word disciple is used in the New Testament gospels while the first use of the word Christian isn’t seen until the book of Acts (Acts 11:26).
- Jesus refers to his followers as disciples, but never as Christians, and New Testament believers called themselves disciples, brothers, or saints.
- The word disciple is translated “follower” or “student” while Christian is translated “belonging to Christ”.
- Christ clearly lays out the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:28, 33) which is considerable and should be expected.
The difference in terms is somewhat noteworthy when we take the full meanings of the words to heart and consider how to apply them to our everyday lives. Reflecting on these bits of information, I find two questions come to mind:
- Do I belong to Christ? (Christian)
- Here we examine what we believe about God and examine ourselves, “Have I placed my faith in Christ, thus belonging to Him?”
- Do I follow Christ? (Disciple)
- Here we examine how we worship God through our lives, “Do I strive to imitate God in word and deed no matter the cost?”
The best of both worlds is when we see and refer to ourselves as Christian Disciples. We know to whom we belong and in doing so, we are committed to being imitators of Christ, (Ephesians 5:1-2) following in His footsteps (1 Peter 2:21) in both word and deed. This is a Christian Disciple and this is who God wants us to raise our children to become.
How do we encourage our children to be disciples, and not just call themselves “Christians” and call it a day? Start simple (I suggest the following as a template).
- Ask your children questions. What is a Christian Disciple?
- Discuss with them how to define their identity as a Christian Disciple. Belonging to Christ and choosing to follow Him in all ways.
- Look into scripture and create simple points from the scripture you read to help children understand and remember the points:
Puts Christ first in all things (Mark 8:34-38)
Shares the gospel of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20)
Shows one’s love for Christ (Philippians 2:6-8; Galatians 5:22-23)
Grows in their love for Christ (Matthew 22:37-40)
- Pray that God works in their hearts to understand and live out a true and vibrant faith.
- Live as a role model so they see you as a Christian Disciple.
Dear Reader, for 2020 – I challenge us all to consider what we mean by “discipleship” and how we are living it out in our homes and churches. What is the most important thing we can do for our children, for our church, and for all others? Inspire one another to embrace our identity as Christian Disciples so we bring glory to God and participate in the expansion of His Kingdom. He is worthy!
May 2020 be blessed with His presence as you wallow in the joy of belonging to Him and live faithfully as His disciple.
Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth
“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship