Who Are We? [The Re-branding of Discipleship] B

The Disappearance of Disciple

The word “disciple” is not used after the first five books of the New Testament. The followers of Jesus are not called “disciples” outside of the Gospels and Acts. Twenty-one New Testament books don’t use the title “disciple.” Twenty-two books don’t use the verb “disciple” or “make disciples.”

I would think that after the Great Commission (“Go and make disciples”) that the Apostles would have emphasized that specific word.

We sure like that word today. We keep writing books about disciple-making. Churches keep studying how to be a disciple and how to disciple disciples. If the word “disciple” is missing from the New Testament letters to the Church, where do we get all of the material for so many books and seminars on discipleship? If the Bible doesn’t call us disciples, then who are we?

Relax. We are disciples of Christ, but there happens to be a bunch of other words to describe our relationship to Christ. Disciples are the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the flock, the holy temple of God, God’s building, God’s special people, the elect, and Christians. Can you think of some others?

For example, here are a couple more synonyms. Look at the titles used by Paul to address the Colossian disciples. He focused upon the attributes of holiness and faithfulness, both extremely important for being a disciple of Jesus wherever you live:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father.[a]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 1:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

The disciples at Colossae are called saints and faithful brothers..

I assert that after Jesus delivered the Great Commission to go and make disciples, it was not important to continue to repeat the command for the followers of Jesus to make disciples. It was more important to tell them how to be disciples and how to disciple more disciples. This involved using many nouns and verbs to carry the complex and varied functions required to make disciples.

My writing will consider all titles for the followers of Jesus as synonyms for disciples.

We are the Church.

In place of disciples, Christians are most often called the Church. A group of caterpillars is called an army. Some other interesting group names are a knot of toads, a parade of elephants, a bloat of hippopotami, a crash of rhinoceros, and a zeal of zebras.[b]https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/explore/what-do-you-call-a-group-of I guess a group of disciples is a church.

There is a reason that disciples are called the Church. [c]Jesus said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) The Church intended by Jesus is not a building. It is his Group of disciples. The original word, ἐκκλησία – … Continue reading

Church means a gathering. Modern sports and business often refer to the unity of their staff as “teams.” Christians are intended to be attached, together, unified, cooperative, collaborative. Discipleship cannot be accomplished in isolation. Jesus did it in various sizes of groups: twelve, seventy, one-hundred-twenty. The individuals in these groups were not “going to church.” They were the Church coming together. Disciples must have sincere connections with each other.

I’m not even thinking of church membership with voting privileges. I’m talking about a group of disciples bonded together for the purpose of making more disciples.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.[d]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.[e]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Disciples are fused together (συμβιβάζω) and bonded together (σύνδεσμος) in love (ἀγάπη).

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[f]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 13:35). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

A disciple must have a collective mindset, a desire for social connection to others of like precious faith. Even the Lone Ranger took off his mask and lived among the other cowboys and cowgirls. A pastor needs to place a high value upon prayer and study, but he cannot fulfill his role as a disciple-maker during his quiet time or while alone in his study. …or even from the pulpit. A pastor must connect and collaborate with those that he would make into disciples.

Modern churches know that people need to bond with each other, so we create artificial connections and small groups that were unnecessary in the early church when believers were clinging to one another for fear of their lives under severe persecution. I will not say that the modern church needs more persecution, but we do need more bonding. Back then, they had a lot in common. In fact, there is a word for holding things commonly: fellowship, κοινωνία (koinonia). [g]Koinonia could mean fellowhip, community, collective, collaborative participation, a shared thing or activity. In verb form, koinoneo could mean share, communicate, participate together.

References

References
a The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 1:1–2). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
b https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/explore/what-do-you-call-a-group-of
c Jesus said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18) The Church intended by Jesus is not a building. It is his Group of disciples. The original word, ἐκκλησία – ekklesia, means “gathering,” “assembly,” “congregation.” However, the word “church” has been so strongly attached to the Group, that we are compelled to use it in order for our listeners to comprehend who we are discussing. Many churches offer small groups. You may hear someone say, “I will see you at Group tonight.” That is what Jesus meant. Every time I use “Church,” I want you to think “Group.”
d The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:1–3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
e The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
f The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 13:35). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
g Koinonia could mean fellowhip, community, collective, collaborative participation, a shared thing or activity. In verb form, koinoneo could mean share, communicate, participate together.