This past weekend, I read a headline of a K-Love.com news feed that linked to an article written by Pastor Greg Laurie. The title of that article was “Are you a Disciple?” and it immediately drew my attention because the headline read, “Greg Laurie says every disciple is a believer but it’s [not] always the other way around.” I’m not familiar with Greg Laurie other than his involvement with James MacDonald’s Elephant Room #1, but it seems he’s a well-respected, influential leader within evangelicalism. In that article, Laurie says the following: “Are you a disciple? Just because you are a Christian doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a disciple. Every disciple is a believer, but not every believer is a disciple.”
Unfortunately, this is a very common position in the evangelical church, but it is littered with problems, not the least of which is its unbiblical basis. This view creates hierarchies within Christianity and says that everyone on the “inside” is a believer, but some elevate to a higher position of disciple. This is inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture and inconsistent with the history of the Church. Every believer is a disciple of Jesus Christ’s and certainly within Christianity there are those with greater gifts and more maturity, but it is not a hierarchy. Individually, however, believers all make up parts of the same body. Nominal Christianity and half-way believers are no believers at all. The easy believism, easy path of back row Christianity that Pastor Laurie has delineated doesn’t exist, in the sense that it isn’t real Christianity. In the Bible it is black and white; you are either a sheep or a goat, in light or in darkness, a child of God or a child of Satan, you are either in fellowship with God and other believers, or you’re not. There is no gray area. The logical conclusion of the view by those who hold to the disciple/believer distinction, is that a “mere believer” does not have to take his walk seriously. He does not have to deny himself daily. He does not mortify deeds of the flesh, has no desire to commit his life to Christ. Holiness then becomes optional. Contrast that weak, watered-down Christianity with the message of Jesus from Luke 14:25-33:
“25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. 34 Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? 35 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:25-35
Pastor Laurie actually uses this same passage to prove his point, but it’s an incorrect interpretation. Jesus isn’t speaking to believers and explaining to them how to reach the next level in discipleship. He’s talking to unbelievers and explaining to them the cost of following Him, as a believer, so that they won’t be halfway, nominal Christians with false assurance who bring reproach on His name. In the video below Pastor Steve Lawson preaches on the very same passage, but has quite a different interpretation.
Jesus makes it clear in the passage from Luke that there is a cost involved in following Him. Not simply praying a prayer, walking an aisle, or signing a card, but a total commitment of your life to Him. That’s what it means to believe and that’s discipleship. The two cannot be separated. Repent. Believe. Follow.