Updated: Mar 31
By The Reverend Ray Wells
Are you a follower? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? If you were to ask that question to members of any Church or denomination, the most common answer to the question would be “yes.” If you were to ask those same people to define what they think a follower (disciple) of Jesus means, the majority response would be, one who has been baptized and joined the church. Now there is nothing wrong with that response; however, a lot of people have been baptized and joined the church who have no idea what being a real follower (disciple) of Jesus means.
These believers have been taught that all we need to do is believe, and nothing further is said about following or commitment. We often are more interested in baptisms and membership than we are about what it means to be a follower. Kyle Idleman, in his book Not a Fan, says this “Many have made decisions to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow Jesus.” Being baptized and joining the church is a decision being a follower is a commitment.
A follower is defined as one who is a disciple, a supporter, a servant. Being a follower (disciple) means we become participants in the ministry of Jesus. Jesus says in Luke 23,“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” In using this text, Kyle Idleman says, and I agree, “the biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t interested in following Jesus. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not close enough that it requires anything from them.” We all know people like that. They want to be a church member for the benefits, weddings, funerals, reunions and such but have no interest in being involved in the ministry of the church. The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in his book The Cost of Discipleship, “when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
After sharing those quotes and scripture, I repeat the question: Are You A Follower (disciple)? Are you willing to commit to a journey that may lead you to state your beliefs, knowing that man may not well receive them but applauded and approved by Jesus? Before you shout a resounding yes and jump on this follower (discipleship) bandwagon, I want us to look at the qualifications of a follower (disciple). In so doing, we will look at various Biblical texts that talk about the requirements to be a follower (disciple).
I want to begin with Paul’s letter to the Romans. In Romans 12, Paul gives us a list of the qualifications for a true follower (disciple). In verses 1 & 2, Paul lays for us the foundation for those qualifications. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Paul is saying that to be a follower (disciple), we must be prepared. We are to present ourselves fully to Jesus as a sacrifice. We are called to give our best to Him. Once we do that, we can no longer conform to the ways of the world; we must be focused on being and doing what Jesus calls us to be and do. That calls for a renewing our minds. We must as Paul says in I Corinthians 13:11, “…when I became a man, I put away childish things.” As a follower, we need to think differently. We need to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. We need to see people as sees them, without judgment or prejudice. This calls for a complete renewing of our minds.
Once we have prepared ourselves, we go into action as Paul outlines in verses 9–12. A faithful follower (disciple) should be genuine in their relationships with other people. There is no room for hypocrisy in a follower (disciple). There is a call for treating each other with respect and move beyond preconceived notions and prejudices. A significant part of the ministry of Jesus was teaching His followers that love for people is essential. He touched lepers, ate with sinners, called tax collectors to be disciples, and showed compassion and forgiveness to an adulteress.
A true follower (disciple) needs to be able to see people as Jesus saw them as sheep without a shepherd. As followers (disciples), we should be willing to lead people to the Great Shepherd. A true follower (disciple) needs the attitude of Andrew who said to Peter “We have found the Messiah” or the woman at the well who said to the townspeople “Come see the Man.” This is the task of a faithful follower (disciple), involvement in telling all people about Jesus. A follower is passionate about their faith and the work of the Lord. They are the light in the darkness, the salt of the earth, and the hope for those who have no hope. A follower (disciple) is a participant in the ministry of Jesus and His church and not just a bystander. Paul is saying we must be willing to make the sacrifice of self as a first step. Sacrifice is always difficult. We see that with Abraham and Isaac and with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In both biblical stories, it came down to being faithful to the call. It is Isaiah saying, “Here Am I Send Me.” Jesus makes it very plain in Luke 14:33 when He says, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple (follower).” Being a follower (disciple) will not be easy, Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Followers (disciples) are overcomers. As followers (disciples), we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
Now is the time for each of us to decide to become followers (disciples). Now is the time for us to leave the comfortable pew and go out into the world and proclaim Jesus as Savior. Now is the time for the church to become what Jesus calls her to be. We need to hear the answer to the question of Micah 6:8, “What does the Lord require.” As followers (disciples) He requires us to (a) be just, (b) be merciful, and (c) to walk humbly with God. That is the mark of a true follower (disciple).
So, the final question is not are you a follower (disciple) but rather, will you be a follower (disciple)?