Everyone who claims to be a Christian is not a disciple. No. There basically exist three groups. The church is made up of believers, committed believers, and disciples.
A believer is one who has done the basics. They will say they are a Christian. They may even go to church more often than just Palm Sunday, Easter. and Christmas. They serve on church committees and support outside church functions. However, many may not attend. Their church membership is the place where they made their confession of faith, or the place where they got married; but the church and their faith is not vitally important to them. I have had these folks in every church I served. They are the ones who, if you called them any time, day or night, will come and help out as necessary. They do anything – except attend church regularly. Sometimes when a hardship arises, they return until the emergency in their lives is over, or they decide that church and their faith is no longer providing anything for them. There is always a good reason (excuse) not to attend. In all of my pastorates, I have passed by new homes on the way to worship. When I saw someone had moved in, I would stop and invite them to church. Many would tell me they were members of this or that other congregation, but every Sunday morning I would see them washing their car, building something at the house, or cutting the yard. This group, the believers, usually make up around 90% of a church’s membership.
Then there are the committed believers. They are committed to Christ, most of them, but I have known many who are more committed to the church than they are to Christ. Those that are more committed to the church grew up in that church and/or have strong family ties to that church. Their parents, grandparents, and extended family belong (or belonged) to that church. This group will be in attendance regularly for worship. If you have a Wednesday night, a prayer time, a Sunday night service – they will be there. The committed Christians make up most of the church leadership: Sunday School teachers, Bible Study leaders, trustees, ushering captains, etc. Depending on the size of the church, they may wear many hats. They do love Jesus. They love the church and want it to succeed. The committed Christians make up only around 9% of a church’s membership. The committed Christian has a desire to know more and be more. Following the rules and regulations is important to them. They want God to approve of them. These are what most of us would call “good people”.
The disciple is the smallest segment of a church body. They make up about 1% of a church’s membership. I will go into great detail regarding the difference in a committed Christian and a disciple in future blogs, not here. Let’s just say one can hear it in their prayers. The committed believer will ask God to be with them and go with them. The disciple will ask to go with God, to be used by God, to do God’s work where God leads. The disciple does not ask, “What would Jesus do?” The disciple asks, “Lord what are You doing? How can you use me? I want to be where you are Lord – work through me where You are doing what You are doing.” You may be tempted to point out that only a preacher has time to do that. You are wrong! In fact, today, very few preacher are disciples. Most are no more than committed Christians. Many are committed to something, but it is not necessarily Christ.
This rule of 10 applies to most organizations – not just the church. I have seen it play out in all kinds of social and community groups. To keep it simple, let’s say a club has 100 members. About 90% will be members only, and 45-55% of that group won’t even attend. Committed members will comprise 10% of the total group. They will make up most of the leadership of the club. They will be on the work crews. That club will be a priority in their life. Of the committed group, there will be what we will call the disciple – the one who lives and breathes that club, because it is their life blood. So, the club has 100 members. If it is a positive and exciting organization, they may have 65 people in attendance, 10 will be the major leaders, and for one it will be their life. This rule has also proven true in every church where I have been a pastor.
I heard a quote the other day that there are 1,000,000,000 Christians in the world. If we take the rule of ten, that would mean that there would be 100,000,000 committed Christians in the world, and 10,000,000 disciples. That sounds like a lot, but when you factor in that there are over 7,000,000,000 people in the world, the Christian population is actually shrinking…
During the recent national election, I heard that there were around 330,000,000 American citizens. The last poll I read indicated that Christianity was ’way down, with only 65% claiming to be a Christian. This would mean that the Christian population in the USA is 214,500,000. Using the rule of ten means that there are 21,450,000 committed Christians and 2,145,000 disciples. The reason there is such a discrepancy in the church in the USA is that it mirrors the church in Ephesus during John’s time. It has lost its first love. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19&20). We have settled for tallying believers and church members…
Now, taking this rule of ten and using it for a small-membership church, that group (based on just how small the membership is) may not have a disciple in the church…. Again, you say, “What about the pastor or the priest or the preacher?” Well, that church fellowship may be lucky if they are committed Christians. I believe the biggest problem in the church as a whole is that we have promoted persons into HIGH church positions who are no more than religious professionals and at best committed believers. Because of politics, we have elevated these instead of disciples. Name the denomination or the non-denomination – all are guilty.
If you want to poo-poo this rule of ten, go ahead. But did you know it is Biblical? Think about this – Jesus chose 12 disciples. While He was hanging on the cross, one had betrayed Him, one had denied Him, and nine had fled into hiding. Only one, John, was at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother. I don’t require any further proof.
We have now defined what a disciple is not. Next blog, I will begin to share my thoughts on what a disciple is..
Be sure and pray the 91st Psalm every day in the first person. If you want to feel even more empowered, pray the 23rd, 27th,, and 121st Psalms in the first person as well.
This is the second in the series “What is a Disciple.” If you missed my first one just go to my web-site, www.goadap.com and click on blogs. You will find it there.