The term "Follower of Jesus" has become popular in the last number of years. At the highpoint thousands of people followed Jesus to hear his words, receive healing or other forms of blessing. Hillsides were filled with people to see and hear this "prophet" or "rabbi" who was unlike all the others before him.
Yet, by the time we arrive at the beginning of Acts following the death and resurrection of Christ, this mass of people had dwindled to 120. So, what changed? I see the answer in the difference between followers and disciples. Followers, whether of a football team or popular statesman, tend to determine their level of engagement based upon what they are receiving from being followers. So long as Christ was meeting their basic need for food, healing their illnesses, and responding to their desires, follower-ship was high. But, when that reduced and the need for life transformation increased, the decision to become a true disciple was often a step deemed too costly.
After 15 years back in America, I find a lot of Jesus Followers in our churches. The criteria for attendance or engagement is often the benefit that can come to us, our children or the family. I find the number of true disciples to often be in the same ratio that Christ experience. So, who or what is a disciple. The origin of the word in Greek education and culture is one who engaged in the life and purposes of the 'master' to whom they were engaged. In the case of the disciples of Christ the model and the charge was pretty clear - to have a living, daily relationship with the Father-God that resulted in seeing, treating and caring for those around us from the eyes of His heart and soul.
Disciples knew, lived and were passionate about the Great Commandment long before it got that label. They wanted to like Christ, to multiply that into the lives of other so they could share in the same loving relationship. The natural outcome of this passion for multiplication where communities of believers who shared this deep, intimate relationship with the Living God. Today, we calls these communities churches.
Christ however invited a few into yet a deeper relationship. In John 15, surrounded by those 12 men who had become so close, Christ announces that He no longer calls them slaves, but friends. Friends know what the master is doing.
As I begin this journey, I have realized that God is asking me to make this last transformation from that of a passionate, committed disciple to that of a friend of Jesus who knows on a daily basis what He is doing. The image that burns within my heart hangs on the wall above my computer in my office. It is the painting of the two disciples of Christ walking with Him on the road to Emmaus. Today, I commit myself publicly to be a friend with Jesus - to talk with Him daily and to learn to do no more or no less than He is asking for that day.