Jesus in the great commission called on his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” This is the central purpose of the church to produce disciple-making disciples, but the most pressing issue with that purpose centers on the question of “what is a disciple?” Jesus isn’t interested in fans or crowds; he wants faith-filled disciples.
If the church is rightly going to do ministry in a way that produces these disciples it must first accurately understand what that a disciple is, or the entirety of their ministry will be aiming at a goal that is off target. In the book, Discipleshift, the writers provide two primary factors that must be considered when establishing a definition of what is a disciple: 1) It must be biblical and 2) it must be clear.
One of the most profound passages of Scripture dealing with the nature of discipleship is found in Luke 14:25-30.
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them,26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
In this passage, Jesus teaches on what a disciple must be using the negative, and in it is found three characteristics given of what a follower of Christ must be: Supremely devoted, self-sacrificing, and soberly calculated.
First, a disciple of Christ must be supremely devoted to Jesus. Jesus states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (LK. 14:26). Jesus is not commanding anyone to hate here rather what he is doing is using hyperbole to illustrate that a disciple’s supreme devotion and love must be for him. In describing this passage Rod Dempsey writes, “Our love for Christ is so great, so consuming that, in comparison, it feels like hatred for others.” A disciple must be supremely devoted to Christ, and in so doing, being supremely devoted to the commands of Christ: To love God, to love neighbor, and to make disciples.
Secondly, a disciple of Christ must be self-sacrificing. Jesus continues, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (LK. 14:27). A disciple of Christ must die to self. To bear one’s cross means to lay the entirety of your life down for Christ. The disciple is one who crucifies the flesh (pride, power, pleasure) daily through the power of the Holy Spirit in order to totally surrender to the will of God. Dempsey commenting on this writes, “You cannot serve someone without eventually surrendering your will to the person you serve.” The disciple of Christ must sacrifice the desires of self by making those desires one with the desires of Christ.
Third, a disciple of Christ must be soberly calculated. This does not mean calculated in the sense that they are schemers or plotters rather it means that they have soberly counted the cost of what it means to be a disciple. Jesus utilizes to examples in his teaching in Luke 14 to illustrate the need for the disciple to thoroughly and soberly count the cost of what it will mean to follow him. One of those is when Jesus states, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it” (LK. 14:28)? Jesus wants his disciples to know that this is not cruise line you are coming to ride on this is a battle ship, and it will cost you everything to follow him. Dempsey provides an excellent statement showing this truth. He writes, “God’s plan and God’s will cost Jesus His life; it cannot cost His followers anything less.” The disciple of Christ must have soberly calculated the cost of what it means to follow their Savior, and joyfully see it as supremely worth it.
 Jim Putman, Bobby Harrington, and Robert E. Coleman, Discipleshift: Five Steps that Help Your Church to Make Disciples who Make Disciples, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013), 45.
 All Scriptures are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
 Dave Earley and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making Is…: How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), Chapter 2, MyWordsearchBible.
 Earley, Chapter 2, MyWordsearchBible.