When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." (John 21:15-19)
By definition, a disciple is someone who believes, follows, and helps to publicize the teachings of another. A disciple of Christ, therefore, is someone that believes in the teachings of Christ, follows those teachings in their daily activities, and helps to spread those teachings to others. Discipleship, similarly, is the process by wish a Christian grows in the knowledge and understanding of the teachings of Christ, learns to behave differently because of that understanding, and helps to spread those teachings to others. This generally involve the following activities:
- Before anything else, it is important to follow Christ first and to walk away from any teaching that is contrary to the teachings of Christ. Even if this leads to ridicule from others, the follower of Christ is to follow the teachings of Christ first, without shame or fear.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
- Change our behavior. Following the teachings of Christ, beginning with a sincere belief, leads to a spiritual change in the inner person. This inner change, in turn, causes our outward behavior to change and, as the scriptures tell us, "bear fruit of the spirit". We understand that this outward behaviour is a consequence of the Spirit of God working in our hearts, so we cannot choose on our own, nor take credit for. In other words, we know that truly following Christ is to allow our behavior to be changed by him.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)
- Spread the word. Christ makes it clear that he expects us to tell others of him. While he calls some to be preachers, and others to serve as missionaries, for many others the expectation is simply to tell others about Christ as the opportunity arises. This might be with friends, family, co-workers, our children, neighbors, or even a chance meeting with a total stranger. Regardless of the situation, a key part of discipleship is learning how to become more expert in sharing the teachings of Christ.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)