I recently had the opportunity to answer this question on a panel at the d4 Discipleship Conference in Franklin, TN. Here are some of my insights that I’m stilling gleaning from as the journey carries on.
A disciple is a follower of Christ that reproduces the character, ways and mission of Jesus in those and the environment around them. And going beyond that, doing so in a way that charges those whom are discipled to reproduce the same in those and the environment around them.
By His character, we mean “who” is He is (love, grace, truth, righteousness, mercy, kindness, faithfulness) and reproducing who He is in His followers. By His ways, we mean “how” He went and goes about doing things: loving God, loving our neighbor, being diligent, slow to speak/quick to listen, etc. And by His mission, we mean “what” He does: seeks the lost and restores them back to God, disciples the found and advances the Kingdom of God (Dave Buehring).
The terms “disciple” and “follower of Christ” are often used synonymously with being a “Christian” but unfortunately that’s not always the case. His last command is often the most overlooked. He said to go and make disciples. He didn’t say to build churches, hold worship conferences, create programs, run revivals, etc. but go make disciples. Reproduce Him the earth. That’s not to say that these things don’t have a place, they do. But they are a byproduct of making disciples first, reproducing Jesus’ character, ways and mission in all of those that follow Him. Imagine what our cities, corporations, businesses, universities, schools, governments, courts, clubs, organizations, hospitals, board rooms, sports teams, academys and so on would look like if they were populated with disciples of Christ whose aim is to reproduce Him in their industries? The world would look a lot different. This is His blueprint for changing the world!