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Synergy: Riverside's Definition of Disciple


“Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Discipleship at Riverside is central to our goal to impact our communities with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But before we get into how we go about making disciples, we must agree to what a disciple is!  We have adopted the definition of disciple from Jim Putman's book, “Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples."  Read this short excerpt to understand why this is so important:

"Even though many agree that the mission of the church is to make disciples, they don't agree on what a disciple is and they don’t use the same language. To understand why this is a problem, think about how this might work in other areas of our lives. For example, let's say a football coach calls a play, but no one on the team has the same idea of what the team is trying to accomplish. What would happen? Chaos, right?  If a home-building crew agreed that they were trying to build a house but didn't have the same idea of what the house was to look like, could they effectively do the job? Hardly. The same is true for churches not in agreement about their definition of what a disciple is. At Real Life, we believe it is important to have a unified view of the goal or our church—what we are trying to accomplish—so we do everything we can to teach our people what the Bible says about discipleship. We don't want the definition to be any more complex than it has to be; at the same time, we don't want to make it any simpler than Jesus expects it to be. We want it to be in simple language so the whole church is able to remember it. We point our People to the definition of a disciple found in the familiar passage of Matthew 4:19. In this verse, Jesus gives an invitation to His future disciples, who were fishing at the time. He says to them. “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” We believe that this invitation describes the definition of a disciple and that to follow Jesus will mean a life change at the head, heart, and hands level of our beings.

1. "Come, follow me..."

Following Jesus (involves head knowledge of who Jesus is). A disciple recognizes that Jesus is extraordinary - that he is divine.  A disciple has surrendered to Jesus as savior and Lord of his or her life. A disciple is one who says, I know He is Lord and Savior and I accept Him as my authority.”

2. "... and I will make you..."

Being changed by Jesus (this is the heart transformation that Jesus brings). Jesus said we would know a tree by its fruit (see Matthew 7:17-20). He did not mean perfect fruit; He meant growing fruit. As we spend time following Jesus, He changes us internally—He changes who we are.

3. "... fishers of men."

Disciples are committed to Jesus’ mission to save people from their sin (this is the hands part of being a disciple - it is our actions). Jesus saved us for a purpose. Some believe we are given a “get out of jail free” card and are free to do what we want with our lives.  Not true. God’s mission is now our mission. and we recognize that we are responsible for our own slice of history. Our hands are for His service.

(adapted from Jim Putman's book, “Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples.")

For those engaging in discipleship at Riverside, we want you to memorize Matthew 4:19, and understand it as the definition of disciple.  Simply stated, a disciple is following Jesus (head), being changed by Jesus (heart), and is serving Jesus (hands).  "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  (Matthew 4:19)

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