I once thought that discipleship was something for super-saints. I thought that when you made a disciple, you made a leader. So I pressed everyone to become the equivalent of a spiritual Navy SEAL.

That worked out great for those who were cut from the cloth of leadership, high drive, and type-A personality. They loved it. But it also left a lot our sheep beat up and bleeding. Those with quiet personalities, lower drive (some might call it contentment), and background gifts were left to feel inadequate and worthless. I had no plan for them. And, worse, I’d become an Accidental Pharisee, harshly judging everyone who was behind me in the following-Jesus line.

I pressed everyone to become the equivalent of a spiritual Navy SEAL. I wish I’d known that a disciple is simply a follower. It includes everyone in the following-Jesus line. Some are at the front. Some are in the middle, and some bring up the rear. But by definition, they are all disciples. The Greek word for disciple (mathétés) means “follower, learner, pupil.” It’s not for star students only.

The result was a lot more grace, a lot more patience, and a lot less Pharisee.


  1. Michelle Hartt on March 7, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for the article…. I was hoping you could add a bit further explanation? While I greatly appreciate your concern for becoming an “Accidental Pharisee”, I also fear shying away from my responsibility to lead the women He’s entrusted to me into what Jesus Himself describes discipleship as in passages like Luke 14:25-35…

    25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
    28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
    31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.
    34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

    I would hate to get to Heaven only to realize I did not properly prepare my sheep to lay down their lives for the One who laid down His for them… I think we MUST examine ourselves through the words of our Saviour Himself, and His definition of a disciple or follower is anything but wide and inclusive.

    I would love your thoughts on this!

    Thanks so much! Blessings to you.

    • Larry Osborne on March 12, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      I would simply encourage you to read all of the texts that deal with the call to discipleship, not just a selected few. While Jesus clearly raises the bar in these passages, he also waited patiently for Joseph of Arimathea (a secret disciple because he feared his fellow Jewish leaders) to be willing to step forward. And John 19:38 makes it clear that he was a disciple – not that he became one when he stepped forward. And remember that those who supposedly left everything to follow Jesus ran for the hills when he was arrested and were nowhere to be found when the previously secret disciple Joseph boldly showed up to claim Jesus’s body. As for my thoughts on how to balance these two sides of the discipleship coin – that’s why I wrote Accidental Pharisees. It’s the best answer I have.
      Larry Osborne

  2. Cheryl Kennedy on April 25, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Yes!! Yes!! Good stuff, right there.

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