Christian or Disciple?
The term “Christian” is a word that believers in the early church, rarely, if ever, used to refer to themselves. They were called Christians by the people in Antioch, but in almost all other instances, they called themselves disciples. This is much more then hyper-technical nitpicking. A different psychological shift takes place when you call yourself a Christian verses calling yourself a disciple. When you’re a Christian, you can just be, but when you’re a disciple, you have to do. I believe that the devil has used the word “Christian” to deceive millions throughout history about our true identity. The title Christian makes people feel comfortable without ever evangelizing or making one disciple. Now it is time to use the word disciple. Christ was always very precise in His word usage and in Matthew 28:19, He did not say “Go ye therefore and make Christians”; He said “Go ye therefore and make disciples.” The root word for disciple in the Greek is manthano which means “to learn, be appraised, to increase one’s knowledge, to be increased in knowledge to hear, be informed, to learn by use and practice, to be in the habit of, accustomed to.” Christ was intentional in conveying the proactive lifestyle He desired of such a person and the serious nature of the relationship that existed between Him and those who profess Him.
In contrast, the term “Christian” has become a socially politicized word that has caused us to backslide as disciples. The word Christian only appears in texts that speak of believers from an outsider’s point of view. Christian was never a revelation of God but a revelation of outsiders. For example, in Acts 26:28, King Agrippa responded to Paul’s eloquent discourse with, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” (descriptive term offered by the King, not by Paul). So, this revelation by those outside the faith is what we have ended up calling ourselves and is what we’ve been calling ourselves throughout history since the doors of the church were opened by Constantine the Great in 312 AD. However, the overwhelming balance of scripture does not suggest that we are “Christians.”
Because we do not grasp our true identity, it is easy for us to refer to America as a Christian nation without even blinking an eye. We are what other people say about us, but we are not what Christ has called us to be, disciples. When will we become a nation of disciples? You hear the term church in the gospel three times and the word “Christian” three times. As a result, we have something we term “the Christian church” but we forget about Kingdom disciples. Over the centuries, we have lost sight of the fact that this name is a social term –“Christian Church”– that was given great power and efficacy in the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great. To be a Roman citizen was to be a Christian and to be a Christian was to be a Roman citizen. They were synonymous. So, therefore you didn’t have to be converted. All you had to be was a Christian. In America, the same process of thought permeates our society and I am strongly convinced that this is one of the reasons many so called Christians know absolutely nothing about conversion or their purpose for existence.
Christ called us to be converted and become disciples; however, it just seems odd for someone to call himself a disciple when he is not disciplining. How can you be a disciple that’s not discipling? How can you disciple without a mentee? What if your surgeon knew nothing about surgery but was a tree farmer instead? When was the last time you bought a car from a car dealer who did not deal in cars? Or bought meat from a butcher who had no meat? This term “Christian” has us twisted all around, playing a dangerous game of make believe that has eternal consequences for us and those who rely on us. Maybe if we get rid of the word “Christian,” we would really be about our Father’s business. In Acts, believers were called Christians. But disciples are who they were. I realize that replacing the name Christian with disciple is highly unlikely; however, it is the right thing to do for believers who have picked up their keys to the Kingdom.
The Lord wants you to think and rely on Scriptures for yourself now. It’s time to pull away from all the long-standing traditions that were birthed by a mutated, perverted church. Christ said make disciples and the early church started calling each other disciples, but what happened with us? The doors of the church opened under Constantine and begin to turn the idea and definition of a “Christian” into a passive catch-all phrase that anyone could slip on as a matter of status and convenience. Being a Christian became the “in-crowd” thing to do and the idea of conversion, discipleship, and what Jesus intended was lost in the translation.
However, there exists a remnant who are a part of God’s true church, distinct from the Laodicean or popular church, that has its roots in the church of Philadelphia. There are still believers that identify with the Kingdom mission of the church. The church of Philadelphia became the foundation for the modern Kingdom-minded church that maintained their sensitivity to soul winning. This remnant will be very interested in the clarion call of the Kingdom. Seek to be a part of it.