Teachable Moments

Call Your Children To Be Disciples, Not Just Christians

“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:

  1.  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). 
  2. Jesus refers to his followers as disciples, but never as Christians, and New Testament believers called themselves disciples, brothers, or saints.
  3. The word disciple is translated “follower” or “student” while Christian is translated “belonging to Christ”.
  4. 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).

  1.  Ask your children questions. What is a Christian Disciple?
  2. Discuss with them how to define their identity as a Christian Disciple.   Belonging to Christ and choosing to follow Him in all ways.
  3. 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)
  4. Pray that God works in their hearts to understand and live out a true and vibrant faith.
  5. 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

Teachable Moments

Trick or Treat: To Do or Not To Do?

Very few holidays seem as controversial to Christians as Halloween.  Is it godly to dress up and pretend to be something you’re not? Is it a form of pagan worship?  Should we encourage kids to take candy from strangers? Oh, the joys of Halloween.

Yet, these questions are not the real issue.  The bigger question parents deal with is how to decide how to interact with the world and its traditions.

As believers, we are encouraged to be “In the world, but not of it“.  The apostle John warns his readers in 1 John against worldliness and its downfalls.  In order to follow John’s directions, we must first determine what constitutes “worldliness”.

Worldliness deals with the heart of a person and the innate desire to conform to the dictates of the world.  Worldliness is not compatible with one’s love for God; it competes with our heart’s allegiance to Him. 

So, when we are unsure of what to do with what the world dishes up – should we or should we not trick-or-treat – how do we determine what the right answer is?

FIRST, let’s agree that not one answer fits all.  There are clearly grey issues. The apostle Paul mentions disputable matters in his letter to the Romans (Romans 14).  If we can’t agree that we won’t all agree, then we’ll never get to figuring out how to make these complex decisions.   

  • KEY:  Get gracious and get flexible

SECOND, unity is more important than personal liberty.  When believers disagree, we are still called to be united as brothers and sisters in Christ, showing grace, love and tolerance for one another.  The world is watching not what we do as much as how we behave when we disagree over what to do.

  • KEY:  Study up on scripture’s commands to be unified.  This isn’t a sideline issue but a quality that God demands of His bride, the church. (To get you started, consider the following:  Colossians 3:13, 14; John 17:23; 1 Corinthians 1:10; and even the OT – Psalm 133:1)

THIRD, pray it through.  It’s no easy task to be thoughtful when deciding how to engage with the world.  Take the time necessary to make wise, godly choices that strengthens your witness and nurtures your faith.

  • KEY:  Faith is belief in the person of God; run to Him, abide in Him, seek Him when you have to make a choice in a disputable matter (James 1:5)

FOURTH, think it through and consider all your options.  How do we decide?  

Just Avoid – some handle disputable matters when engaging with the world by simply – not engaging. How do I know if this is what I need to do?

Respect authority – Parents, teachers, denominations, or schools may decide to forbid either implicitly or explicitly behaviors that they have determined are contrary to faithful Christian conduct or unwise for everyone in their group as a whole.  This requires there to be an appointed governing body who has been given the authority to make this type of rule. If you choose to attend a certain church or school, then accept the authorities that lead.  

  • KEY:  As parents, how we submit to those in authority over us is an example to our children of how we are asking them to submit to our authority.  Be careful how you disagree with those who have leadership over you – you are always modeling how to live out faith.  
    • Hebrews 13:7 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Beware the self-appointed experts – There are those godly and wise individuals who humbly suggest refraining from certain behaviors so as to promote godly virtue.  There are, however, those self-proclaimed experts who believe it is their responsibility to tell everyone else how to live; these persons tend to be characterized by arrogance, not humility.

  • KEY:  Seek the wise who live by grace and are characterized by humility; avoid self-appointed experts who promote legalism, judgmentalism and cause division
    • Romans 16:17 – I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

Last:  Question Yourself

When deciding if or how to engage with the world, discern if the disputable matter encourages or discourages your walk with Christ.

  • Personal Contemplation
  1. Does this situation or behavior hurt my walk with Christ?
  2. Does what I am doing emulate Christ-like behavior?
  3. Does what I am doing glorify God?
  • Other Consideration
  1. Does this situation or behavior get in the way of me sharing Christ to unbelievers?
  2. Does what I am doing edify other believers?
  3. Is there anything unethical, immoral, ungodly or illegal about this situation or activity?


With prayerful consideration of these questions and the wise, humble counsel of those mature believers who speak into our lives, we can all make choices that may be different from one another, yet bring glory to God and expand His kingdom.  And after all – isn’t that what life is all about?

Dear Reader, whether you engage in cultural holidays or not, may your mind always be set on things above.

  • Colossians 3:1-2 (The Message) So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Blessings to you – Elizabeth