One of the most common words people use to designate God's people today is the word, "Christian," which in Greek is Christianos. This word did not originate with Christians, but outsiders. Christianos had a political ring to it. The ionos usually designated a political party. For instance, "Republican Party" in Greek would be Republicanos. Christianos meant something like "The Party of Christ," putting Christians on par with the various political parties. Evidently, outsiders saw Christianity as some sort of party.
However, even though the word "Christian" is what eventually stuck, from the beginning it was not so. As a group, Christians were not on par with anyone. At the beginning of the Christian movement, the word that Christians typically used to refer to themselves was mathetes, which means "disciple." It is a word rarely used of average believers today. It has an almost radical ring to it. To be called a "disciple" of someone suggests extreme devotion. This devotion means that you try to imitate and emulate your teacher. You hang on his every word and action. You may even refer to him as your "master." Nothing is as important as pleasing him. You would even die for him and his teachings. Yes, "disciple" does seem to imply extreme devotion.
It is interesting that "disciple" is a word many Christians today use to refer to Bible people, but not for average Christians. The word, "disciple" seems too extreme. But the word, "Christian" seems to be easier to handle. It appears more respectable to outsiders. It is much more tame a word. However, God has not called us to timidity, but to power, love, and discipline.
Does Jesus call believers or disciples? The answer is yes. A true believer is synonymous with a disciple. The average Christian is also to be a disciple. But doesn't discipleship have a radical ring to it? It sure does.
Take a look at what "disciple" actually means. The word itself means something like "follower, apprentice, trainee, or learner." In Luke 6.40, Jesus says that a disciple is not above his master, but when he is fully trained, he will be like his master. In other words, a disciple is not merely learning the teachings of Christ, nor is he merely learning about Christ. He is literally learning Christ. He is being trained to be like him, to think like him, to live like him, and to love like him.
This means that we are called to lay down our lives as he did. We are called to submit our will to the Father even if it means death. We are called to radical compassion, kindness and love. We are called to radical commitment to him and his redemptive purposes. We are to take up our cross daily and follow him, to be faithful in the face of death, to lay down our lives for the brethren. We are called to share the Gospel with all creation, to seek and save the lost. If something causes us to fall short, we are to pluck it from our lives. When he says, "follow me," we go immediately. We don't tarry with long goodbyes; we let the dead bury the dead. We put our hands to the plow and we do not look back.