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Discipleship 101 for 2021: Characteristics of Discipleship

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What is supposed to be taught or gained through discipleship?
There is no list in the Bible of what are the characteristics/marks/lessons of discipleship (because it was more about the relationship & what was “caught” not“taught”), but there are some keys of what to look for.
Says Bud Brown, in his 2013 article “Do You Know the 7 Marks of Discipleship?”, “There are a small handful of passages where the Lord says, ineffect, ‘if you want to be my disciple you must do this’ or ‘you can’t do that.’”
When taking into account the fullness and breadth of what Jesus shares with His original 12 disciples in the Gospels, I (& Bud Brown) have tended toward the list set forth by Dr. Mark Bailey (my former president of Dallas Seminary), in his book To Follow Him: The Seven Marks of Discipleship.
Dr. Mark Bailey, To Follow Him: The Seven Marks of Discipleship
  1. Supreme & incomparable love for Jesus (“a tunnel-vision romance”)
  2. Regular study & devotion to God’s Word (God’s gymnasium”)
  3. Renunciation of ourselves as the authority & focus of our lives (“the reflection of God’s mirror”)
  4. A life of submission & sacrifice to the cross (“bring your own cyanide”)
  5. Allegiance to Christ’s compelling leadership (“follow the leader”)
  6. Recognition of the true ownership of our possessions (“the eternity-based investment guide”)
  7. Reflection of Christ’s love in our attitudes & actions towards others (“they’ll know we are His disciples”)
Bud Brown, “Do You Know the 7 Marks of Discipleship?”, 2013 Blog post
He uses a handful of passages where the Lord says, in effect, “If you want to be My disciple, you must do this” or “you can’t do that.”
  1. Love Jesus above all – Lk 14:25-26
  2. Live in the light of God’s Word – Jn 8:30-32
  3. Deny the “Dark Side” – Lk 9:23
  4. Embrace the Father’s will – Lk 9:23
  5. Obey Jesus – Lk 9:23
  6. Love the believers as Jesus loves them – Jn 13:34-36
  7. Join in Jesus’ mission – Jn15:8, 16
While I tend to agree with Dr. Bailey’s list, there is a part of me that takes that list as too American/Western.
To Jesus, the Jewish rabbi, being a disciple was complicatedly simple and simply complicated:
Mark 12:30-31 (NKJV)
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Based upon this simple, yet complicated, statement, I think is the essence of what a disciple should “catch” from a discipler: a lifestyle with these three priorities.
I would take all that Dr. Bailey & Bud Brown have written about & distill it down to these 3 things:
  1. Loving relationship with Jesus (John 15:9 )
  2. Submission to The Master (Matt. 16:24/Mark 8:34/Luke 9:23)
  3. Partnering with Jesus agenda (Matt. 22:37-40/Mark 12:30-31 )
Homework Assignment:
  • Go back through this 3 priorities list of discipleship.
  • Look up passages from the Gospels that you can see that fit.
  • Compare & contrast our 3 priorities with Dr. Bailey’s list.
  • Develop your own list of discipleship qualities/characteristics.