This question was recently posed on our Acts 29 discussion forum. I tried to give a brief response.
A Brief Definition
We define “a disciple” as a Spirit-led follower of Christ. The reason we don’t use the “gospel” in our definition is because we see discipleship as relational, unto the Person Jesus, not unto the information of the gospel. We also wanted to emphasize the critical role of the Spirit in being a disciple of Jesus. All too often discipleship is disconnected from the Spirit, the Spirit of the Gospel of Jesus. We want to retain the trinitarian, personal nature of the Gospel by emphasizing the persons of the Trinity.
You Can’t Follow Jesus
But I thought discipleship was all about Jesus? It can’t be all about Jesus apart from the Spirit. Without the Spirit it will be all about you trying to be all about Jesus. This results in dead-end moralism or legalism or despair. The truth is that you can’t follow Jesus. Will Walker helpfully illustrates the centrality of the Spirit in following Jesus when he asks:
Q: “Who would you pick between Jesus and the Spirit to be your discipler?”
A: “Not Jesus because apart from the Spirit we cannot follow (obey and enjoy) Jesus.” (my answer)
Some Bible Examples:
- Salvation: Ezek 36. Israel could not obey the law with out the heart of flesh being animated by the Spirit.
- Mission: Luke 4. Jesus does not begin his ministry until he is baptized by the Spirit.
- Mission: Acts 2. The Church does not begin its ministry until the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.
- Sanctification: Gal 5. The way we look like Jesus is by bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
In discipleship, the primary goal of the Spirit is to reproduce the likeness of Christ in each person for the glory of God.