Posted by: everynation | October 21, 2009

Q&A: What is Discipleship?

steve murrellby Steve Murrell

Got the following questions from someone I do not know who is writing a paper for a class about whether discipleship “has value in today’s context.”

Here are my quick answers to his questions:

Q: What is a disciple?
A: A disciple is someone who follows Jesus, “fishes” for people and does this in fellowship with other disciples, while carrying a cross.
(Discipleship is not complicated. Difficult, yes. Complicated, no. It is so simple that a carpenter described it to uneducated fishermen 2000 years ago in one sentence – Matthew 4:19.)

Q: Do you have to be saved to be a disciple?
A: Yes. But since evangelism is the starting point of making disciples, the discipleship process starts long before one is saved.

Q: Are all Christians disciples? If not, what are the differences?
A: All should be, but unfortunately not all are following Jesus, fishing for people or fellowshipping with others. And not all are carrying a cross.

Q: Does church membership make one a disciple?
A: No. Most churches spend a lot of time and energy developing a membership process, but no time developing a discipleship process. Therefore they are good at making members, but weak when it comes to making disciples.

Q: What does a disciple’s life look like?
A: Following Jesus (devotion). Fishing for people (evangelism). Fellowship with other believers (community). Carrying a cross (self-denial).

Q: Is being a disciple important in today’s culture or to one’s life?
A: If the Bible is important, then discipleship is important. Of course, if the Bible is no longer valid, then discipleship is an outdated concept and a waste of time – so we might as well do whatever it takes to build a crowd and call it a church.

Q: Who is responsible for making disciples?
A: Every person who is a follower of Jesus – no matter how old, no matter how long they have been saved, no matter where they work. Every believer should be a disciple and every believer should make disciples – EVERY believer.

Those are my quick, knee-jerk answers. If I had time to edit, I might change some of these answers, but I’m out of time and gotta go pack for my Manila-HK-Paris-Innsbruck flight to participate in the Every Nation Europe Cross Culture Conference. Let me know what you think and how you would answer my friend’s questions.

Steve Murrell is a missionary, pastor, and the author of “The Reluctant Leader” and “The Accidental Missionary.”



  1. Steve,

    I’m a year late to your post but I do think I would nuance some of these answers a bit differently. Firs, I would say that the word disciple is used in the gospels to refer to both believers and unbelievers. True, most of the unbelievers were soon to become believers, but the term was used of them before they believed. I think this opens the door a bit on your second answer.

    I love your first answer. crisp, inclusive and challenging.

    On, “Are all Christians disciples?” you answered, “they should be (disciples).” I think I would have to say, if they are disciples, they have to be in the process of learning how to do all the things that you mentioned in your first answer. It is inescapable. “Follow me and I will make you to become, fishers of men.” The verse indicts me as a non-follower (i.e. non-disciple) if I am not willing to become a fisher of men. Jesus always keeps his promises and he promises to make me a fisher of men if I follow him.

    Your last three answers seem to me to be spot on. It encouraged me to read your blog and to see the seriousness with which you treat discipleship. May the nations be impacted by your ministry brother.

    A co-laborer in the harvest,


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