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Key Characteristics of a Disciple

Why discipleship?
Before ascending to heaven, Jesus gave instructions to his disciples to “make
disciples of all nations” in Matthew 28:18-20. That small group obeyed Jesus and today
there are followers of Jesus all over the world.
Every Christian should be a disciple and should be making disciples. In 1
Corinthians 11:1, Paul the apostle told the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow
the example of Christ.” This is the essence of Christian discipleship. We follow men and
women who are leading us to Jesus. When we become more mature Christians, we lead
others to follow Jesus, as we ourselves follow Him.
Christianity is like a long chain, and each of us are links leading to Jesus. No one
can become a Christian and grow into maturity without a more mature Christian guiding
and positively influencing them. We all have direct and indirect discipleship relationships
with more mature believers. In turn, those people learned from others. Eventually, we can
all trace our spiritual lineage back to Jesus Christ.

What are the characteristics of a good disciple?


This lesson lists four important characteristics of a good disciple. These
characteristics are important to remember for two reasons:
1. We will know how to be good disciples ourselves. If we have these
characteristics, we will receive maximum benefits from discipleship.
2. We will know how to identify people with potential for discipleship. Because
we have limited amounts of time, we should be careful to invest ourselves in
people who have the characteristics of good disciples.

Also, it is important to understand that charisma (popularity), skill, and


knowledge are not essential characteristics of disciples. Moses was not very charismatic,
and was not a good speaker. Peter was not very educated. And David was the youngest of
his family and from the smallest clan in Israel. This lesson describes what essential
characteristics are for excellent disciples.

Faithful
Faithful people make good disciples. They can be trusted with important
information and tasks. A good example of a faithful person is Timothy, who was a
disciple of Paul the Apostle.

Acts 16:1-3
He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose
mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. The brothers at
Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so
he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his
father was a Greek.
Timothy showed that he was faithful when Paul sent him to churches as a
representative. For example, see how Paul describes Timothy to the Philippians:

Philippians 2:19-24
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I
receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your
welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you
know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served
with me in the work of the gospel.3I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how
things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

From these verses, we can see that Timothy served with Paul as a son with his
father. Paul and Timothy felt such an affinity and loyalty toward one another that they
could describe each other and father and son. Timothy shared the same interests as Paul
(and with Jesus Christ) in that he cared deeply about the Philippians. Paul could trust
Timothy to faithfully represent himself and also the interests of Jesus among the
Philippians, or wherever else Paul sent Timothy.
Late in life, soon before Paul was about to be executed, he wrote a letter to
Timothy urging him to pass on the doctrine and mandate to spread the gospel. Paul
instructed Timothy to entrust the message and gospel calling to reliable (faithful) men
who were also qualified by their life example to teach others.

2 Timothy 2:1-2
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have
heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be
qualified to teach others.

Faithfulness is an essential characteristic of a disciple. Faithful, reliable, and loyal


people can be trusted with the precious gospel message.

Available
Disciples must also be available. This means they put their discipleship calling
first in life. Matthew 8 describes one man who said he would follow Jesus after he buried
his father (or, after his father grew old and passed away). Jesus answered plainly that
following Him must be a priority in a disciple’s life.

Matthew 8:18-22
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the
lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you
wherever you go."

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has
no place to lay his head."

Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
Availability is not a matter of busyness, but a matter of priorities. Busy people can
be available. God doesn’t just call people who have nothing else to do. When Jesus called
Peter and Andrew, James and John, and Matthew, they were all busy doing work, but
immediately stopped what they were doing to follow Jesus.
Available people will hear the voice of God and respond immediately. If we are
available in this way, we will not make excuses but will look for a way to accomplish
what God has called us to do.

Matthew 4:18-22
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter
and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left
their nets and followed him.

Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother
John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called
them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 9:9
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's
booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

As disciples, we should not put other things ahead of following Jesus. When
choosing people to disciple, we should look for people who are available and ready to
respond to God’s challenge.

Teachable
Disciples also need to be teachable people. If they are unwilling to learn from
others, they cannot grow. Being teachable does not mean being gullible. It means that we
receive information with eagerness, but check to see if it aligns with the Word of God.
For example, the Bereans in Acts 17 received the gospel message from Paul, but also
examined the Old Testament scriptures to see if what Paul said was true.
Disciples should listen to their leaders with an open mind and examine everything
according to the Bible. In disputable matters, where it is unclear what the Bible says,
disciples should give the benefit of the doubt to their leaders, who are accountable to God
for their spiritual growth.

Acts 17:10-11
As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving
there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character
than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined
the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Disciples should also learn from the examples of godly people. Although
everyone has sin in their lives, we should watch our leaders and imitate the good aspects
of their lives.

Hebrews 13:7
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of
their way of life and imitate their faith.

Conclusion
Discipleship is an essential aspect of Christian life. Every Christian is a disciple of
more mature Christians, either directly or indirectly. We are all disciples, or followers, of
Jesus Christ. Because Jesus gave us the command to make disciples of all nations, each
of Christian also has the responsibility to make disciples.
In order to be the best disciples possible, and to identify the right people to invest
our time in, we should understand the three key characteristics of disciples.

Discussion Questions
1. Why is faithfulness essential for a disciple? What will happen if a disciple is not
faithful? What about availability and being teachable?
2. What does it mean to be available? Can you be available even when you are very
busy?
3. If we are teachable, does it mean that we agree with everything our leaders say?
How do we know whether what our leaders say is right or not?