"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles…" Luke 6:12-13, NIV
We often think of the 12 disciples that Jesus chose to represent Him at the foundation of the Christian Church. Jesus spent time in prayer to choose the ones whom the Father had appointed for the task. Notice; however, that He had a group to choose from. The 12 were not the only disciples Jesus had, they were simply chosen for a special mission.
What is a disciple of Jesus anyway? A disciple of Jesus is a disciplined one, a learner, a pupil. His or her goal is to become like the Master. They are not satisfied with facts and knowledge, but with applying them to imitate the Master. A true disciple wants to be like the Master and serve Him in every way possible. It is a driving passion.
Jesus never called anyone except disciples. Naturally, during times of popularity there were self-called followers and curiosity-seekers. While not ignoring them, Jesus gave Himself to the disciples. They were the ones He was going to build on.
Because the 12 Disciples were called to a full time mission, we sometimes get the impression that only full time ministry workers can be disciples of Jesus. We set them in a special class and wish we could be like them.
In actual fact, a disciple of Jesus is anyone saved by the grace of God and giving himself or herself to knowing Jesus and obeying His commands. As you can see, Jesus calls an enormous amount of people to be disciples who are never in what we call "full time ministry." From this group, some will be put into full-time ministry, but many more will not and that does not make them "second class" citizens in the Kingdom of God.
No matter what we do or how we earn an income, being a disciple of Christ is showing His likeness and values in every circumstance of life and to every person we meet. It involves, through the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, living the way of Jesus in our home, with our friends, in our workplace and nations. In fact, every sphere of life we touch should be touched by the finger of God.
We all do this imperfectly, of course. But the role of the disciple of Jesus is to learn, practice and get better every day. As we deepen our relationship with Jesus and our knowledge of His Word, we will grow. But let us get rid of the idea that discipleship and ministry is for the chosen few who go into "full time" ministry. No, every one of us is in full time ministry…we just don't all work in a church or Christian context or draw our income from ministry.
…and a true disciple never retires! They will follow hard on the heels of Jesus all of their days.