It is clear to me that in this day and age it have never been more important to have a working and biblical definition of the word disciple. More than ever it seems this term is being redefined or used in ways it was never meant.
The biblical term μαθητης (math-ay-tes’) means learner or pupil. We see this usage in many passages in the gospels. In one instance we see Christ make the statement that a "disciple" (pupil or learner) is not above or different than his "teacher." (Luke 6:4) We also see that conditions were placed on those who considered themselves to be disciples. (Luke 9:23) What is a disciple? What is a good working definition? Without adding a burden to this term or making it out to be something it is not, how are we to understand the term disciple?
A Disciple is one who is:
CONVERTED - A disciple is one who is following Christ. A disciple has surrendered to Jesus as both Savior and Lord. A disciple is one who says, "I know the Lord and Savior and I submit to Him as my authority."
CHANGED - A disciple is one who is imitating Christ. Jesus said that we would know a tree by its fruit. (Matt 7:17-20) Jesus did not imply disciples would be known by perfect fruit; He meant by those who are growing and exhibiting the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As a disciple spends time following and imitating Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ changes us internally. Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, changes who a disciple is.
COMMITTED - A disciple is one who is serving Christ. Jesus saves disciples for a purpose. God's mission becomes the mission of each and every disciple. Disciples recognize that they are now responsible for be a part of the fulfillment of the great Commission. Disciples become those who make disciples who in turn make disciples. Disciples who make disciples who make disciples.
As a result, growing disciples experience real learning, experience real loving, and experience real living. A disciple learns to follow Christ, learns to imitate Christ, and learns to serve Christ
Jim Putman, real-life discipleship (Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS), 2010
Leroy Eims, The Lost Art of Disciple Making, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,) 1978
Robert E. Coleman, (The Master Plan of Discipleship, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), 1987