In the context of Christianity, words such as “leader,” “follower,” “disciple,” and “prophet” are use frequently; some of them are seen in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and all of these words invoke string connotations for Christians. It seems to be appropriate to describe Jesus Christ as a leader, though the term “leader” can be used to describe many different types of people who fill many different roles. A similar assertion can be made about the term “prophet;” although there are numerous descriptions of Jesus Christ as a prophet of God throughout the New Testament, He was certainly more than just a prophet. The use of the term “disciple” raises yet more similar issues; does being a “follower” of Christ make one a “disciple”? While these sorts of words certainly have meanings and definitions associated with them, and are used in a number of specific ways in the Holy Bible, they also evoke certain personal meanings and definitions in terms of my understanding of Scripture and of what it means to be a Christian.
There are many examples of leaders in the Bible. From the Old Testament, one of the most significant leaders is Moses, who leads the Israelites out of captivity. Moses is just a man, but God chooses to speak to him and through him to send His commandments to the people of Israel. In this sense, then, Moses is not just a leader of his people, he is also a prophet who God speaks through to the Israelites. In the New Testament, John the Baptist is a prophet; he roamed the lands of Judea and heralded the coming Kingdom of Heaven. Although John the Baptist and Moses are both quite human, while Jesus Christ is the Son of God, it is safe to say that Jesus was both seen as a prophet by others, and also referred to himself as a prophet.
The term “disciple” has a specific meaning for Christians, and in the context of its use I Christianity it seems to have a meaning that is distinct and different from the term “follower.” Jesus Christ amassed many followers during his lifetime, but only a relatively small number became his disciples at the time. In this context, a disciple is more than just a follower; he or she is also a student, not unlike an apprentice. Examples of Christ’s disciples in His lifetime include the Twelve Apostles (among them were Peter and Judas Iscariot) as well as larger group of disciples mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. From a personal perspective, I see followers of Christ as those who believe in His message ad His divinity, while disciples are those who go beyond being believers, and actively engaging in spreading the Word and growing the Church. Perhaps one way to look at the difference between a follower of Christ and a disciple of Christ is that one leads to the other; after becoming a follower of Christ, becoming His disciple is the next step, and is the foundation of Christianity itself.