Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.

Christian discipleship is our response to the call of God, and it focuses on actively following in the footsteps of Jesus. As Christian disciples, we are not passive spectators but energetic participants in God’s activity in the world. Because of what God has done for us, we offer our lives back to God. We order our lives in ways that embody Christ’s footprint in our families, workplaces, communities, and the world.

According to Scripture, being a Christian disciple involves personal growth, which is demonstrated in the following ways.


Christ’s disciples need to be set apart from the world. Our focus should be on our Lord and pleasing Him in everything. We must put off self-centeredness and put on Christ-centeredness.

Jesus was quite explicit about the cost of following Him. Discipleship requires a life that is fully committed: “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Sacrifice is expected: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matt. 16:24).


We must be obedient children and doers of the Word. Obedience is the supreme test of faith in God (1 Sam. 28:18), and Jesus is the perfect example of obedience because He lived a life of complete submission to the Father even to the point of death (Phil. 3:6-8).


Our job is to abide in Christ; if we do, the Holy Spirit will produce His fruits in us. As we become more obedient to the Lord and learn to walk in His ways, our lives will change. The biggest change will take place in our hearts, as evidenced through new conduct in thoughts, words, and actions. The change we seek comes from the inside out, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t something we can accomplish on our own.


John tells us that our love for other believers proves that we are members of God’s family (1 John 3:10). Love is defined and discussed in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. These verses show us that love is not an emotion; it is action. We must be doing something and be involved in the process. Furthermore, we are told to think more highly of others than of ourselves and to look out for their interests (Phil. 2:3-4). Verse 5 really sums up what we are to do when it comes to everything in life: “Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” He is our perfect example for everything we are to do in our Christian walk.


We are to share our faith and tell nonbelievers about His salvation and the wonderful changes Jesus Christ has made in our lives. No matter what our maturity level in the Christian life, we all have something to offer. Too often, we convince ourselves that we don’t really know enough or haven’t been a Christian long enough to make a difference. Yet, some of the most enthusiastic representatives of Christ are new believers who have just discovered the awesome love of God. They may not know many Bible verses or be familiar with the “accepted” way of saying things, but they have experienced the love of the living God, and that is exactly what we are to share.


The true disciple of Jesus becomes a role model to new believers. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul writes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” How would you respond if your pastor stood up on Sabbath morning and said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ”? Would that seem arrogant and out of place? During my years as a pastor, I don’t think I ever said, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ,” but I tried to live out this reality. I sought to embody what I preached, to be a living example of the truth, and to help others do the same.

Making disciples is more than a transfer of biblical knowledge; it is a commitment to spiritual parenting. It is investing our lives in others and helping them to be like Jesus.


Biblically speaking, a disciple of Jesus Christ is someone who has placed his or her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1-12) and been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (3:3). This disciple “belongs to Christ” and is daily being transformed into Christ’s likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). Also, a true disciple is someone who has counted the cost of following the Lord and has totally committed his or her life to Jesus. He or she accepts the call to sacrifice and follows wherever the Lord leads. This disciple adheres completely to the teachings of Jesus, makes Christ the number-one priority and lives accordingly, and is actively involved in making other disciples (Matt. 28:19, 20).

S. Joseph Kidder is a professor of church growth and leadership at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.