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Can you disciple someone who disagrees with you? Can you be discipled by someone who disagrees?

Posted by on Apr 18, 2011 in discipleship | 27 comments

Can you disciple someone who disagrees with you? Can you be discipled by someone who disagrees?

I’ve written a couple of posts about unity and disagreement which will be published over the next two days. But, while writing those posts, the two questions in the title of this post kept popping into my head:

Can you disciple someone who disagrees with you?

Can you be discipled by someone who disagrees with you?

I think the answers are, “Yes.” But it seems like many people define discipleship in such a way that complete agreement is necessary. Or, if complete agreement is not present, then the purpose of discipleship would be to get the less mature believer to completely agree with the more mature believer.

I’m not happy with that kind of definition of discipleship. (In fact, I would say discipleship is almost always more mutual than that, with each believer learning from and being helped by the other.

But, I thought I would ask your opinion of these questions. Do you think it’s possible to be an a discipling relationship with someone with whom you disagree (and continue to disagree)? What are the limits of that disagreement/relationship?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-18-2011

    Of course you can and should be. The whole idea of discipling somebody is to bring them into a learning relationship with Jesus. So teaching them about the greatness of the kingdom, mutually confessing sins, praying for God’s world and God’s people, reading the gospels and trying them out, and holding each other accountable to the spiritual disciplines seems to have little to do with whether or not you agree about all things related to God…because the point is both people ultimately learning from Jesus. People learned from Origen, I have, but I disagree with him. I’ve learned from Dave Black, Greg Boyd, and John Piper. Ha, I disagree with them all. But they’ve never learned from me, go figure.

  2. 4-18-2011

    I disagree

  3. 4-18-2011

    How can iron sharpen iron if we don’t disagree?

    I think the idea of uniformity in the Body of Christ has been misunderstood as unity. They are not the same thing.

    I promise you that there are plenty of people in your church family who disagree with you about all kinds of things. Do you still love them? Can they still teach you something? Can you still learn from someone who has a different opinion than you about something? I’m going to say that this is the ONLY sort of person you could EVER learn from. (There. I said it).

    I mean, if you and I already agree…then what is there to “learn”? All that’s left if we already agree on everything is collaborative progaganda.

  4. 4-18-2011

    I think if someone who is being discipled by someone agrees with them 100% about everything, that something very unhealthy is going on in their relationship and they probably need to cut each other free to go seek God and hang with some other people for a bit.

  5. 4-18-2011


    I have a feeling that would all learn from you if they had the opportunity, and if they were willing to listen. :)


    I disagree.


    It’s interesting that went to unity and uniformity with this. That’s the topic of my posts.


    So 100% agreement is a bad thing? :) Seriously, I think people usually disagree more than they are willing to or they are allowed to admit.


  6. 4-18-2011

    I think the purpose of discipleship is to help one another learn to know Jesus Christ. I believe we should not endeavor to tell our brother or sister what to do or think but rather help them to discover what JC is saying to them. JC has a unique relationship with each of His brother & sisters and what He is saying to us where we are at in our walk with Him may be different to that which He saying to others in their walk with Him. The Bible has good principles to guide us but if JC is not giving these principles life in an individual’s walk they become just Law and will lead to condemnation.

  7. 4-18-2011

    Can a discipling relationship exist between those who disagree? I sure hope so…I disagree with everybody about something. I’ve even learned from dispensational pre-millennialists! Lol.

  8. 4-18-2011

    I think it is important to not place a percentage on the amount of agreement or disagreement.

    If you are discipling someone it is natural for them to take your lead and agree with you at the beginning. But as they mature and grow and learn to get into the Word for themselves they should also begin to think for themselves even if that means disagreeing with their mentor on some levels.

    I heard a friend once say that they hope they never agree 100% with anybody. I believe their sentiment was that they would always think for themselves and let the Holy Spirit be their teacher.

    And I think that’s a good thing to do!

  9. 4-18-2011

    Discipleship is helping one another to grow and become more like Jesus. Most of the time it comes from relationship with others. That may bring about agreement in certain areas, but there will be others where disagreement will be present. I believe that as long as the disagreements are not on the core of the faith, there is no problem with disagreement.

    Of course, if discipleship is simply imparting information to bring about “right belief” (which it seems to be in many churches), then agreement is vital. :)

  10. 4-18-2011


    I love that everyone here is focusing on discipleship as helping one another come to know Jesus Christ better. Thus, discipleship is not about one person agreeing with another, but both seeking to agree with Jesus Christ. Of course, this is different than what we often hear when it comes to discipleship.


  11. 4-19-2011

    Arthur writes:

    “I disagree.”

    You’re a heretic! :)

  12. 4-19-2011

    Being a disciple describes ones relationship to Christ, not their ability to understand all things the same. That common relationship brought by true salvation changes the heart so that the disciple (one who desires to follow) will do all they know to live holy. The love that comes by grace teaches them to do so.

    “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” ~ Titus 2:11-12

    If two have this same purpose from the heart, differences in understanding cannot keep them apart because the faithful relationship to Christ compels them to work towards the same purpose. The evidence of a true disciple will be holiness in their living and in their relationships and attitudes towards other disciples, and all people.

    The question is: are they a true disciple following Christ completely, or are they just claiming to?

    “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” ~ Hebrews 12:14

  13. 4-19-2011


    If the definition of a “true disciple” is “following Christ completely,” then I don’t know if any of us are true disciples. True disciples will certainly follow Christ, and maturing disciples will follow him more and more.


  14. 4-19-2011

    Jesus said “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” ~ Luke 14:27

    He also said, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” If the foundation of a faithful love is not there, what is common to disciple? A true love for Jesus because of salvation, is the foundation that will work, even if all do not have the same understanding. Just like a husband and wife do not understanding in all things, yet if there love is faithful to one another (not flirting with another – with Christ, not flirting with sin) then the both the human marriage, and the spiritual marriage will work through different understandings. Got to have a faithful foundation in your relationship.

    “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:11

    This foundation is not just a teaching, it is a faithful relationship. I know many with a faithful relationship for their foundation in Christ Jesus.

  15. 4-19-2011


    I know many who have a faithful relationship with Jesus Christ also. But, I don’t know anyone who follows completely. All fail at some point. Of course, his grace is always sufficient even in our failures.


  16. 7-18-2011

    Do you have to be buddies?

  17. 11-11-2011

    A few thoughts.

    Paul was a great disciple maker and discipler, and he advised those in the churches to “emulate” him. Now does this mean that every Christian should be a tent-maker and should seek to be present on a shipwreck or else not be qualified? I do not believe that is what Paul meant.

    Yet he did give good guidance as to us emulating those who both hold to a good profession and a good conduct showing a good character.

    I have struggled with the concept of being in a disciple/discipling relationship (yet I am in one), and part of it is my real desire to not be conformed to certain doctrinal teachings that I do not see present in the Word.

    As a curate in my church once said, though, a person can give false teaching without being a “false teacher”. We all err to one degree or another. We need to build each other up mutually, whilst honouring those whose doctrine and life is more in tune with God’s Word than our own.

    And secondly, we are not called to be masters: “ye have one Master, and that is Christ”. As others have said, our purpose is to glorify Christ and build up ourselves and others into a deeper relationship with Christ.


    P.S. So yes, I agree that we can disagree but am in disagreement with the forced agreement that some (not here) often advocate.

  18. 11-11-2011

    Most deffinatly! I have watched this happen for about three years now. The parties involved do not agree in doctrines, but they do agree on, and believe in, Jesus. Growth and spiritual maturity has been the result. A Christian disciple is a follower of Christ, not a follower of church doctrines. My spiritual life grows and matures when surrounded by differing beliefs. It becomes stagnant when surrounded by people who believe the same and only repeat what is expected of them. Diversity makes me think, study, and pray more. It also opens my mind to other possible answers. No one has all the answers, we grow and learn from our different views.

  19. 11-11-2011

    How about we jump ship and tread the waters. :-)

  20. 3-8-2012

    Jesus worked with several during his ministry, to say that agreed with him may be a question.

    Post resurrection they were back to fishing, and once again he showered them in love, (and fish & chips on the beach).

    In the broad sense I do believe the answer is yes, the seeds may be planted, yet it may be some time before they germinate.

  21. 4-5-2013

    Alan, this is what your questions look like to me: Can you learn someone who disagrees with you? Can you be learned by someone who disagrees? I am sorry, but I have no idea what you are asking. But, on speaking about a disagreer and a disagree, I think that if we can see Christ in one another, then the things, its and dividers, fade away from sight by the glory of Christ in us. The issues of the persons that appear to be a great divide, usually is only because they know not the Christ in one another’s hearts. Without using the eyes of our hearts to see, we will think we are separated, divided, enemies, isolated and alone. So, our learning in Christ in one another first begins with the Light for sight through the eyes of Spirit, then we can hear and know the Word of God in our hearts. I may not have answered your questions, but I thought I would share the words in my heart.

  22. 4-8-2013


    The term “disciple” (as a noun or verb) includes the idea of teaching/learning, but it includes much more as well. A disciple is not someone who simply learns from someone else, but is someone who follows both the other person’s teaching and manner of life. So, there is action/change involved in being a disciple that is not necessarily involved in being a learner.


  23. 4-8-2013

    I thought we are Christ’s disciples. And that we grow together as we share His Life. Do you mean we have disciples?

  24. 4-8-2013


    Anyone can have disciples, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

    I’m talking about helping one another be disciples of Jesus Christ. For example, think of Jesus’s statement, “Make disciples of all nations…” He wasn’t telling them to create their own disciples (i.e., disciples of Peter or disciples of John), but to help others follow him. Similarly, he wasn’t just talking about the act of becoming a disciple of Jesus otherwise it would not be necessary to “teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.” In other words, the instruction “make disciples” is an ongoing thing – continue to help each other be followers of Jesus.

    The question in this post is this: Can someone help you follow Jesus (be a disciple of Jesus) if that person disagrees with you concerning some aspect of God, Jesus, etc.?


  25. 4-10-2013

    Thanks Alan,

    I think that sharing the Spirit Life in us with one another by family interaction through Love in the body of Christ, we do lift one another through the edification of the many parts, through the many parts. This also entails the more Spirit matured (not physical age) being as an example that is seen and interactive with the younger saints in Spirit (not physical age). This is called relationship, as in parts of a whole that are interconnected. We can call that helping of a saint to be in the reign of Christ as helping to be a disciple/learner/follower of Christ. But to me, it is Christ who reigns in each of His saints, and those who are looked upon as mature can be seen in the shadow of, or akin to, physical parents, so also is in Spirit Life relationships. There is a tremendous difference between physically elder and Spirit elder, however, Spirit Life experience is not age, nor intellect, but living Christ as our Life, being in his reign in us. I have been come along side saints who are elder to me in the flesh, enough to be my physical parent, but not so in Spirit. We are all interconnected as one body. We need one another because we belong to one another, we are of one Spirit, one Life, one Body. As a partial example, if I have an injury to my foot, my hands and fingers pick up crutches and carry the weight through the power of the arms and the shoulders, and my leg lifts up the weak foot, until the foot is strong enough to walk with the body. Disagreements tend to get in the way because the flesh needs to bear the cross, there are a few absolutes, such as those that deny Christ by taking his authority over the body parts and denying the Godhead of the Christ and Spirit and Father, but other than that kind of absolutes to the Faith, all else is to go to the cross.

  26. 4-11-2013


    There are different kinds of disagreements. Some are based on our flesh, some are not. Either way, we can live with and learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ as long as Jesus Christ is our head.


  27. 4-11-2013

    It sounds like we are in much agreement, brother. :-)


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