The 7 Marks of a Healthy Disciple
What does a disciple look like? It isn't really about how often you come to a worship service or anything like that (although those things are important). What it is really about is what we call the 7 Marks of a Healthy Disciple.
These are 7 core competencies that become more and more evident in our lives as a result of being in the Sweet Spot of Spiritual Growth. A competency is something that we can do successfully, or the effective performance of a normal function. For followers of Jesus Christ, the 7 marks (as a whole) are core and normal functions of a biblical, loving, Spirit-filled disciple. Why? The 3 elements feed into and open us up to the Holy Spirit's work in our heads, hearts, and lives.
Why do we believe these 7 marks become more and more evident in the life of a disciple? Because these core competencies are impossible for us to develop, maintain, and do over the long haul apart from the Holy Spirit at work in our life. But the more we grow, the more like Christ we become, and the more the 7 Marks of a Healthy Disciple “mark” our daily way of living.
Representing and proclaiming Christ in practical and real ways to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and others in our sphere of influence. Looking to BLESS people with the good news of Jesus Christ because of being deeply concerned about people who are missing the fullness of life in Christ. (Luke 19:10, John 20:21, John 3:18, Eph 2:12, Rom 6:17)
Engaging in daily conversations with God that include praise, repentance, asking, and yielding and are a continual part of life. This includes listening and intercession individually, in community, and as a corporate body. Prayer is a transparent dialogue. It is a conversation with God in which we address Him and in quiet are addressed by Him. (John 15:5, Philippians 4:6-7)
Using and managing well what God has given the individual and the church. This includes time, skills, gifts, and resources. It is recognizing that everything the disciple possesses actually belongs to God, whether little or much, so we are generous with these things out of gratefulness for His generosity toward us. Our giving is also joyful because our priority is to advance the Kingdom of God. (Luke 21:1-4)
Knowing & Obeying God's Word
The Word is the rule of life for the disciple. It is our foundation of knowing and understanding God and living the life we've been created to live. It is recognizing that the essence of Scripture is Jesus Christ Himself, our Savior and Lord. We worship Christ for who He is and what He has done, and thus choose to live in loving obedience. (James 1:22, Matt 28:20)
For resources to help you know and obey God's Word, visit the Toolbox.
Completing the Great Commission
The primary heartbeat of the disciple is the Great Commission. It involves praying, giving, and going - serving together to make disciples - both in our own backyard and to the ends of the earth. Nothing is more central to the purpose of the Church than this command of Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Dependence on the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the life and power of the effective, growing disciple. While requiring our active participation, the call of discipleship cannot be accomplished in our own strength. As we fully surrender, the Holy Spirit imparts everything necessary for an abundant and holy life in Christ. (Matt. 5:6, John 15:5, 1 Cor. 2:4-5, 1 Chron. 29:14)
Discipleship is not a spectator sport or a knowledge game. It is engaging in active living - our whole life directed by the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father - out of obedience and love to Jesus Chris. It means following even when we don't understand or it doesn't make sense because we believe God is all-wise, in control, and always keeps His promises. (Hebrews 11:6a)
But, what do these 7 Marks really look like in the life of a disciple?
It's easy to read about these concepts, but how do we know they are actually for real in our lives?
To help you understand what your life will look like, we offer 3-4 "practical expressions" for each of the 7 marks. With both the core competencies and their practical expressions, our desire is that you use these guidelines to reflect upon and evaluate the spiritual growth you are experiencing both personally and in your Discipling Community on a regular basis.
Click to open (and download) a pdf brochure listing each of the 7 Marks of a Healthy Disciple and the related practical expressions.
Remember, this isn’t about achieving a standard or checking off a list. The life of a disciple is an ongoing journey throughout all of life. It takes time. There will be progress and setbacks. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:12-14,
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
How are you doing?
Since we believe that the 7 Marks of a Healthy Disciple are the evidence of spiritual growth, it makes sense to, every so often, assess. No matter our age, Jesus says to us, “Follow me.” How do we know if we are following well? How can we see if we’re living as Jesus wants us to live and discover our next step?
Click to open a resource designed to help you evaluate your spiritual growth and maturity and to determine next steps. Spend some time in prayer, and then respond to each question honestly. Will you allow the Spirit to speak to you through this Personal Assessment & Review by preparing, praying, pondering, and pursuing obedience?
What's your next step?