Discipleship: Five Guiding Themes

If you cut me off in traffic, it will irk me — unless I know you’re rushing your sick child to the hospital. And, if you live in the apartment next to ours, we’ll keep quiet at night so we don’t wake you — unless we notice your apartment is on fire. Then we’ll be shouting and pounding on your door.

What we know about our circumstances makes all the difference. This is the root of discipleship. By learning from Jesus what’s true, we’re more able to live as He would in our shoes. While not everything He teaches is as obvious as an apartment fire, faith, practice, and the examples of others help us along. Together, we grow.

Here are the five guiding themes from Christ’s life and teachings I’ve come to see as foundational to discipleship. They’re not the only ways to learn Christ, but they capture the worldview He modeled and taught.

A disciple . . . 

  1. Loves God wholeheartedly (Matthew 22:36-40)
  2. Abides in Christ (John 15:4-5)
  3. Walks in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 22-25)
  4. Identifies as a member of Christ’s body (Matthew 12:48-50)
  5. Seeks the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)

Each of these themes represents a worldview and a learned practice. Many of the more common facets of following Christ fall under one or more of them (e.g., reading the Bible is part of #2, spiritual gifts and fellowship are part of #4, and prayer belongs to all five). Taken together, these practices and perspectives can bring dramatic change to any community of believers.